Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Juzysta v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

February 21, 2019

JACKI NICOLE JUZYSTA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jacki Nicole Juzysta seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (Commissioner) denying her application for disability insurance benefits. The Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner wrongfully denied her Social Security benefits and erred by: (1) failing to incorporate limitations from all the medically determinable impairments, both severe and non-severe, into the RFC and not considering the combined impact; and (2) overemphasizing the Plaintiff's daily activities.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 8, 2014, the Plaintiff filed her initial claim for disability, asserting that she was disabled and had been so since March 31, 2003. (R. 18.) On July 26, 2016, the Plaintiff appeared with her counsel and testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 39.) On September 19, 2016, the Plaintiff received an unfavorable decision from the ALJ. (Id. at 15- 29.) The Plaintiff challenged the ALJ's decision, and on November 7, 2017, the Appeals Council rendered its decision and issued a Notice of Appeals Council Action, denying the Plaintiff's Request for Review. (Id. at 1.) Thereafter, on July 5, 2018, the Plaintiff timely filed her Complaint in this Court against the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration [ECF No. 1].

         THE ALJ'S FINDINGS

         Disability is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but also any other kind of gainful employment that exists in the national economy, considering her age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C § 423(d)(2)(A).

         An ALJ conducts a five-step inquiry in deciding whether to grant or deny benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The first step is to determine whether the claimant no longer engages in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Id. In the case at hand, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has not engaged in SGA since 2003, the year in which the Plaintiff alleged she became disabled and when she was last insured for disability benefits. (R. 22.)

         The ALJ also discussed the four rules pursuant to 20 CFR § 404.130 to determine when the Plaintiff was insured for purposes of establishing a period of disability or becoming entitled to disability insurance benefits. (Id.) These four rules require that the Plaintiff must also be “fully insured” pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.132. (Id.) The Plaintiff failed to meet the criteria under any of the rules: (1) the Plaintiff did not have at least 20 quarters of coverage in a 40-quarter period of time; (2) the Plaintiff did not have sufficient quarters of coverage in at least one-half of the quarters during the period ending with the quarter she became disabled and beginning with the quarter after the quarter in which she turned 21 years old; (3) the Plaintiff was never found to be disabled by the Social Security Administration; and (4) the Plaintiff did not meet the criteria of statutory blindness. (R. 21-22.) Thus, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on March 31, 2003. (Id. at 20.)

         In step two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment limiting her ability to do basic work activities under § 404.1520(c). In this case, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: learning disorder and “residuals from a motor vehicle accident” that occurred in February 2003 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c)). (Id. at 22.) The ALJ determined that the Plaintiff's alleged asthma, recurrent bronchitis, thyroid problems, high cholesterol, GERD, migraines, psychosis, bipolar disorder, PTSD, depression, and anxiety were not medically determinable impairments on or before the last day insured. (Id. at 23.) The ALJ stated that these impairments were not mentioned in the medical evidence of record until 2012, almost ten years after the date the Plaintiff was last insured. (Id.) The ALJ stated that, furthermore, there was nothing in the record to indicate that the Plaintiff took medications or received mental health treatment in or around 2003. (Id.) The ALJ also noted that there was no evidence in the record that, on or before the date last insured, the claimant had disorders of the spine with muscle atrophy or motor loss plus reflex or sensory deficits; that she had spina arachnoiditis, or that she was unable to ambulate effectively. (Id. at 24.)

         Step three requires the ALJ to “consider the medical severity of [the] impairment” to determine whether the impairment “meets or equals one of the [the] listings in appendix 1 . . . .” § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If a claimant's impairment(s), considered singly or in combination with other impairments, rise to this level, there is a presumption of disability “without considering [the claimant's] age, education, and work experience.” § 404.1520(d). But, if the impairment(s), either singly or in combination, fall short, the ALJ must proceed to step four and examine the claimant's “residual functional capacity” (RFC)-the types of things she can still do physically, despite her limitations-to determine whether she can perform “past relevant work, ” § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv) or whether the claimant can “make an adjustment to other work” given the claimant's “age, education, and work experience.” § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).

         The ALJ determined that the Plaintiff had only a mild limitation in her ability to perform activities of daily living, no limitation in her ability to maintain social functioning, and moderate limitation in her ability to sustain concentration. (R. 24.) The ALJ stated that the Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal any of the listings in Appendix 1 and that the Plaintiff had the RFC to perform a limited range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), except: “[t]he claimant could not climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds and she was only occasionally able to kneel, crouch, crawl, use ramps and stairs, and balance, as well as occasionally bend and stoop in addition to what was required to sit.” (Id. at 25.)

         The ALJ then assessed the Plaintiff's RFC by evaluating the objective medical evidence and the Plaintiff's subjective symptoms. After analyzing the record, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff was not disabled as of her last-insured date. The ALJ found that the Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments could reasonably have been expected to cause some of the alleged symptoms on and before the last date insured. (Id. at 26.) The ALJ, however, found that the Plaintiff's and her mother's testimony were not “entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record for the period on or before the date last insured. (Id.) The ALJ stated that the Plaintiff had engaged in SGA from 1999 - 2001, cared for her two children when they were young, cared for her paralyzed husband, did not lose custody of her children until well after her car accident in 2003, was independent in various daily activities, and worked after the date last insured. (Id. at 26-27.) The ALJ noted that “[a]lthough her earnings in these years did not exceed the substantial gainful activity limit, they still suggest that she was not as limited as she and her mother alleged on or before the date last insured. Although she alleged that she was given special help at some of these jobs, this was not verified by any of her former employers.” (Id.) The ALJ also stated that the Plaintiff's current husband's comments were of little value as he did not know the Plaintiff on or before her date last insured. (Id. at 26.) The ALJ concluded that objective medical evidence or treatment records did not support the Plaintiff's subjective testimony, and thus, the ALJ discounted the Plaintiff's subjective symptoms, finding the Plaintiff not credible. (Id. at 26-27.)

         The Plaintiff had past relevant work as a kitchen helper, stocker, small parts assembler, cashier II, fast food worker, and dietary aid. (Id. at 28.) The ALJ determined that, in comparing the Plaintiff's residual functional capacity with the physical and mental demands of the Plaintiff's past work, the Plaintiff was able to perform her job as a small parts assembler. (Id.) The ALJ found that “[c]onsidering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were other jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant also could have performed (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569 and 404.1569(a)).” (Id.) The ALJ stated: “Based on the testimony of the vocational expert, the undersigned concludes that, through the date last insured, considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the claimant was capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that existed in significant numbers in the national economy.” (Id.) Thus, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act as of her alleged onset date. (Id. at 28.)

         The Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. (Id. at 1.) The Appeals Council subsequently denied review (id), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Liskowitz v. Astrue, 559 F.3d 736, 739 (7th Cir. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.