United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Vickie H. requests judicial review of the denial by the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) of her application for Social
Security Disability Insurance (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”).
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d), 405(g). For the
reasons set forth below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that
this Court REVERSE the ALJ's decision
denying the Plaintiff benefits and REMAND
this matter for further consideration.
12, 2014, Vickie W. filed for disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Act, alleging her disability began on
June 3, 2014. The claim was denied initially on September 11,
2014, and upon reconsideration on October 1, 2014. The
Plaintiff then filed a written request for a hearing on
October 17, 2014, which was granted.
September 9, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Steven Collins
conducted the hearing, where Vickie and a vocational expert
testified. On December 27, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision finding that the Plaintiff was not
disabled as defined in the Act. The Appeals Council denied
Vickie's request for review of this decision on August
31, 2017, making the ALJ's decision final. The Plaintiff
now seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).
was born on February 18, 1955, and was 59 years old at the
time of the alleged onset date in 2014. [Dkt. 16-3 at 2 (R.
83).] She completed the eleventh grade of high school [Dkt.
16-6 at 16 (R. 208).]. She has past relevant work history as
a classroom aide, cafeteria cook, and office helper. [Dkt.
16-2 at 74-75 (R. 73-74).]
testified at the administrative hearing on September 9, 2016
that she had past relevant work history as a classroom aide
for Parksville Middle School from 1999 to 2003, wherein she
worked 8.5 hour days in a special needs classroom. [Dkt. 16-2
at 53-54 (R. 52-53).] That particular job was performed as
heavy work, but is classified as light work in the Dictionary
of Occupational Titles (“DOT”). [Dkt. 16-2 at 74
(R. 73).] Vickie next worked as a cafeteria cook for Floyd
County Schools from August 2003 to January 2014. [Dkt. 16-2
at 48 (R. 47).] The cafeteria work is classified as medium
work in the DOT and she performed it as medium work. [Dkt.
16-2 at 74-75 (R. 73-74).] Vickie noted that she had to stand
for approximately 6 hours of the 6.5 hour work day as a
cafeteria cook. [Dkt. 16-2 at 49 (R. 48).] She further
testified that she fell at work in January 2014, which
resulting in her receiving Worker's Compensation benefits
for a short time. [Dkt. 16-2 at 46-47 (R. 45-46); Dkt. 16-2
at 26 (R. 25).] In March 2014, Vickie was transferred to a
different position at a different school, where she did
paperwork and copying for the main office but would be sent
into the classrooms to assist teachers after she had
completed her busywork. [Dkt. 16-2 at 51 (R. 50).] The
vocational expert, Sharon Lane, testified that this most
recent job that started in March 2014 was a
“combination” of an office helper and a
teacher's aide. [Dkt. 16-2 at 74 (R. 73).]
Standard of Review
prove disability, a claimant must show she is unable 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). To meet this definition, a claimant's
impairments must be of such severity that she is not able to
perform the work she previously engaged in and, based on her
age, education, and work experience, she cannot engage in any
other kind of substantial gainful work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(2)(A). The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) has implemented these statutory standards
by, in part, prescribing a five-step sequential evaluation
process for determining disability. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. The ALJ must consider whether:
(1) the claimant is presently [un]employed; (2) the claimant
has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3)
the claimant's impairment meets or equals any impairment
listed in the regulations as being so severe as to preclude
substantial gainful activity; (4) the claimant's residual
functional capacity leaves [her] unable to perform [her] past
relevant work; and (5) the claimant is unable to perform any
other work existing in significant numbers in the national
Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345,
351-52 (7th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). An affirmative
answer to each step leads either to the next step or, at
steps three and five, to a finding that the claimant is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Briscoe, 425
F.3d at 352. A negative answer at any point, other than step
three, terminates the inquiry and leads to a determination
that the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
The claimant bears the burden of proof through step four.
Briscoe, 425 F.3d at 352. If the first four steps
are met, the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five.
Id. The Commissioner must then establish that the
claimant-in light of her age, education, job experience and
residual functional capacity to work-is capable of performing
other work and that such work exists in the national economy.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
Court reviews the Commissioner's denial of benefits to
determine whether it was supported by substantial evidence or
is the result of an error of law. Dixon v.
Massanari,270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). Evidence
is substantial when it is sufficient for a reasonable person
to conclude that the evidence supports the decision. Rice
v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 369 (7th Cir. 2004). The
standard demands more than a scintilla of evidentiary
support, but does not demand a preponderance of the evidence.
Wood v. Thompson,246 F.3d 1026, 1029 (7th Cir.
2001). Thus, the issue before the Court is not ...