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Mark F. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 6, 2019

MARK F.,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [2] Defendant.

          ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION

          Mark J. Dinsmore United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Mark F. applied for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) from the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) on January 2, 2015, alleging an onset date of May 10, 2014. [Filing No. 6-2 at 13.] His application was initially denied on February 3, 2015, [Filing No. 6-4 at 2], and upon reconsideration on April 14, 2015, [Filing No. 6-4 at 7]. Administrative Law Judge Gladys Whitfield (the “ALJ”) conducted a hearing on May 4, 2017. [Filing No. 6-2 at 33-67.] The ALJ issued a “Partially Favorable” decision on June 22, 2017, [Filing No. 6-2 at 9], concluding that Mark F. “was not disabled prior to November 28, 2015, but became disabled on that date and has continued to be disabled through the date of this decision, ” [Filing No. 6-2 at 25 (internal citation omitted).] The Appeals Council denied review on May 18, 2018. [Filing No. 6-2 at 2.] On July 3, 2018, Mark F. timely filed this civil action asking the Court to review the final decision of the Commissioner according to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). [Filing No. 1.]

         I.

         Standard of Review

          “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 217.

         When an 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).

         The ALJ must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in sequence:

(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 economy.

Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). “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).

         After 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.

         If the 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 omitted).

         II.

         Background

          Mark F. was 54 years of age at the time he applied for DIB. [Filing No. 6-5 at 2.] He has completed the tenth grade and previously worked as a ...


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