United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
J. Dinsmore, Judge
Johnnie M. applied for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and/or supplemental security income
(“SSI”) from the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) on July 24, 2014, alleging an onset date
of July 10, 2014. [Filing No. 9-2 at 21.] His
applications were initially denied on March 27, 2015,
[Filing No. 9-4 at 2; Filing No. 9-4 at 6],
and upon reconsideration on July 31, 2015, [Filing No.
9-4 at 16; Filing No. 9-4 at 23].
Administrative Law Judge Robert Long (the “ALJ”)
held a hearing on May 8, 2017. [Filing No. 9-2 at
43-81.] The ALJ issued a decision on July 5, 2017,
concluding that Johnnie M. was not entitled to receive DIB or
SSI. [Filing No. 9-2 at 18.] The Appeals Council
denied review on November 15, 2017. [Filing No. 9-2 at
7.] On February 12, 2018, Johnnie M. timely filed this
civil action asking the Court to review the denial of
benefits according to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). [Filing No.
“The Social Security Act authorizes payment of
disability insurance benefits … to individuals with
disabilities.” Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S.
212, 214 (2002). “The statutory definition of
‘disability' has two parts. First, it requires a
certain kind of inability, namely, an inability to engage in
any substantial gainful activity. Second, it requires an
impairment, namely, a physical or mental impairment, which
provides reason for the inability. The statute adds that the
impairment must be one that has lasted or can be expected to
last … not less than 12 months.” Id. at
applicant appeals an adverse benefits decision, this
Court's role is limited to ensuring that the ALJ applied
the correct legal standards and that substantial evidence
exists for the ALJ's decision. Barnett v.
Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation
omitted). For the purpose of judicial review,
“[s]ubstantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted). Because
the ALJ “is in the best position to determine the
credibility of witnesses, ” Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 678 (7th Cir. 2008), this Court must accord the
ALJ's credibility determination “considerable
deference, ” overturning it only if it is
“patently wrong.” Prochaska v. Barnhart,
454 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 2006) (quotations omitted).
must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in
(1) whether the claimant is currently [un]employed; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the
claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the
impairments listed by the [Commissioner]; (4) whether the
claimant can perform his past work; and (5) whether the
claimant is capable of performing work in the national
Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000)
(citations omitted) (alterations in original).“If a
claimant satisfies steps one, two, and three, [he] will
automatically be found disabled. If a claimant satisfies
steps one and two, but not three, then [he] must satisfy step
four. Once step four is satisfied, the burden shifts to the
SSA to establish that the claimant is capable of performing
work in the national economy.” Knight v.
Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995).
Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must determine a
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) by evaluating “all limitations that
arise from medically determinable impairments, even those
that are not severe.” Villano v. Astrue, 556
F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir. 2009). In doing so, the ALJ
“may not dismiss a line of evidence contrary to the
ruling.” Id. The ALJ uses the RFC at Step Four
to determine whether the claimant can perform his own past
relevant work and if not, at Step Five to determine whether
the claimant can perform other work. See20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(iv), (v). The burden of proof is on the
claimant for Steps One through Four; only at Step Five does
the burden shift to the Commissioner. See
Clifford, 227 F.3d at 868.
ALJ committed no legal error and substantial evidence exists
to support the ALJ's decision, the Court must affirm the
denial of benefits. Barnett, 381 F.3d at 668. When
an ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, a remand for further proceedings is typically the
appropriate remedy. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v.
Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 355 (7th Cir. 2005). An award of
benefits “is appropriate where all factual issues have
been resolved and the record can yield but one supportable
conclusion.” Id. (citation omitted).
Johnnie M. was 38 years of age at the time he applied for DIB
and/or SSI. [Filing No. 9-5 at 2.] He completed a
high school education and was previously self-employed doing
lawn care and snow removal. [Filing No. 9-6 at
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
Social Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4) and ultimately concluded that Johnnie M. was
not disabled. [Filing No. 9-2 at 34.] Specifically,
the ALJ found as follows:
• At Step One, Johnnie M. had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 10, 2014, the alleged onset