United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE
matter is before the court for judicial review of a final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
Administration denying Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), as provided for in the
Social Security Act. Section 205(g) of the Act provides,
inter alia, "[a]s part of his answer, the [Commissioner]
shall file a certified copy of the transcript of the record
including the evidence upon which the findings and decision
complained of are based. The court shall have the power to
enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of
the [Commissioner], with or without remanding the case for a
rehearing." It also provides, "[t]he findings of
the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . . ." 42
provides that an applicant for DIB must establish an
"inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity
by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous
period of no less than 12 months. . . ." 42 U.S.C.
§416(i)(1); 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A). A physical or
mental impairment is "an impairment that results from
anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities
which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C.
§423(d)(3). It is not enough for a plaintiff to
establish that an impairment exists. It must be shown that
the impairment is severe enough to preclude the plaintiff
from engaging in substantial gainful activity. Gotshaw v.
Ribicoff, 307 F.2d 840 (7th Cir. 1962), cert. denied,
372 U.S. 945 (1963); Garcia v. Califano, 463 F.Supp.
1098 (N.D.Ill. 1979). It is well established that the burden
of proving entitlement to disability insurance benefits is on
the plaintiff. See Jeralds v. Richardson, 445 F.2d
36 (7th Cir. 1971); Kutchman v. Cohen, 425 F.2d 20
(7th Cir. 1970).
the foregoing framework, "[t]he question before [this
court] is whether the record as a whole contains substantial
evidence to support the [Commissioner's] findings."
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 607 (7th Cir.
1984) citing Whitney v. Schweiker, 695 F.2d 784, 786
(7th Cir. 1982); 42 U.S.C. §405(g). "Substantial
evidence is defined as 'more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'"
Rhoderick v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir.
1984) quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401, 91 S.Ct. 1410, 1427 (1971); see Allen v.
Weinberger, 552 F.2d 781, 784 (7th Cir. 1977). "If
the record contains such support [it] must [be] affirmed, 42
U.S.C. §405(g), unless there has been an error of
law." Garfield, supra at 607; see
also Schnoll v. Harris, 636 F.2d 1146, 1150 (7th Cir.
present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 1, 2014 (20 CFR 404.1571 et
seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic
low back pain due to lumbar spondylosis/lumbar radiculitis,
status post history of discectomy surgery in 1999 and most
recently fusion surgery in 2013, as well as subsequent spinal
cord stimulator placement in March 2015 (Exhibits 1F, 2F, 3F,
5F, 9F, 10F, 11F, 13F, 14F and 15F); emphysema/chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (Exhibits 4F and 7F); and,
obesity (Exhibit 12F)(20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the physical residual
functional capacity to perform “light” work, as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) (i.e. lifting, carrying,
pushing, and pulling up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently sitting at least up to six hours if not
more in an eight hour workday; and, standing/walking, in
combination, at least up to six hours if not more in an eight
hour workday), except the claimant has the additional
limitations as follows: she needs a sit/stand option (which
allows for alternating between sitting and standing up to
every 30 minutes, if needed, but positional change will not
render the individual off task); only occasional climbing of
ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching,
and crawling; never climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
needs to avoid concentrated exposure to humidity, wetness,
vibration, pulmonary irritants (i.e. fumes, odors, dust,
gases, poorly ventilated areas and chemicals); and hazards
(i.e. operational control of dangerous moving machinery,
unprotected heights, slippery/uneven/ moving surfaces).
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was born on June 12, 1969 and was 42 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job ...