United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
Han, Social Security Administration, Charles D. Hankey.
Julian Clifford Wierenga, United States Attorney's Office
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
PATRICK HANLON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Charles K. (the “Plaintiff”) seeks judicial
review of the Social Security Administration's decision
denying his petition for certain benefits. For the reasons
that follow, the decision is AFFIRMED.
Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) from the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) on March 10, 2015, alleging an onset date
of September 13, 2011. [Dkt. 8-2 at 20.] His
application was initially denied on May 27, 2015, [Dkt.
8-5 at 6], and again upon reconsideration on August 10,
2015, [Dkt. 8-5 at 18]. Administrative Law Judge
David Welch (the “ALJ”) conducted a hearing on
May 3, 2017. [Dkt. 8-2 at 38-78.] The day of the
hearing, the Plaintiff moved to amend his alleged onset date
to March 20, 2015. [Dkt. 8-6 at 26.] The ALJ issued
a decision on July 28, 2017, concluding that the Plaintiff
was not entitled to receive SSI. [Dkt. 8-2 at 17.]
The Appeals Council denied review on May 7, 2018. [Dkt.
8-2 at 2.] On July 2, 2018, the Plaintiff timely filed
this civil action asking the Court to review the denial of
benefits according to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1383(c). [Dkt. 1.]
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
217. “The standard for disability claims under the
Social Security Act is stringent.”
Williams-Overstreet v. Astrue, 364 Fed.Appx. 271,
274 (7th Cir. 2010). “Even claimants with substantial
impairments are not necessarily entitled to benefits, which
are paid for by taxes, including taxes paid by those who work
despite serious physical or mental impairments and for whom
working is difficult and painful.” Id. at 274.
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.
§ 416.920(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.
§ 416.920(e), (g). 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 only where all factual issues
have been resolved and the record can yield but one
supportable conclusion.” Id. (citation
Plaintiff was 37 years of age at the time he applied for SSI.
[Dkt. 8-6 at 2.] He has completed the ninth grade
and did not attain the level of education necessary to get a
GED. [Dkt. 8-2 at 43.] He has not had a regular job
but has admitted to drug dealing. [Dkt. 8-2 at
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
Social Security Administration in 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4) and ultimately concluded that the Plaintiff was
not disabled. [Dkt. 8-2 at 31.] Specifically, the
ALJ found as follows:
• At Step One, the Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activitysince March 20, 2015, the amended
onset date. [Dkt. 8-2 at 22.]
• At Step Two, he had the following severe impairments:
diabetes mellitus, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine, gastroesophageal reflux disease, degenerative joint
disease of the shoulders, osteoarthritis of the right index