United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Jennifer F. requests judicial review of the final
decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (the “SSA”), denying her
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act. For the
following reasons, the Court REMANDS the
decision of the Commissioner.
August 29, 2014, Jennifer F. filed an application for SSI,
alleging a disability onset date of April 1, 2004.
(Filing No. 7-2 at 11.) Her application was
initially denied on April 9, 2015, (Filing No. 7-4 at
2), and upon reconsideration on June 29, 2015,
(Filing No. 7-4 at 11). Administrative Law Judge
David L. Welch (the “ALJ”) conducted a hearing on
March 17, 2017, at which Jennifer F., represented by counsel,
a vocational expert (“VE”), Dr. George Parsons,
and two medical experts, Dr. Lee Fisher and Dr. Don Olive,
appeared and testified. (Filing No. 7-2 at 34-65.)
The ALJ issued a decision on August 4, 2017, concluding that
Jennifer F. was not entitled to receive SSI. (Filing No.
7-2 at 8.) The Appeals Council denied review on January
25, 2018. (Filing No. 7-2 at 2.) On March 13, 2018,
Jennifer F. timely filed this civil action, asking the Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) to
review the final decision of the Commissioner denying her
benefits. (Filing No. 1.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Social Security Act, a claimant may be entitled to
benefits only after she establishes that she is disabled.
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 any other kind of gainful employment which
exists in the national economy, considering her age,
education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. §
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis to
determine whether a claimant is disabled. At step one, if the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, she is
not disabled despite her medical condition and other factors.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, if the
claimant does not have a “severe” impairment that
also meets the durational requirement, she is not disabled.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). A severe impairment is
one that “significantly limits [a claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). At step
three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically
equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of
Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and
whether the impairment meets the twelve-month duration
requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
claimant's impairments do not meet or medically equal one
of the impairments on the Listing of Impairments, then her
residual functional capacity will be assessed and used for
the fourth and fifth steps. Residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) is the “maximum that a claimant can
still do despite [her] mental and physical
limitations.” Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668,
675-76 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1); Social Security Ruling (“SSR”)
96-8p). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform her
past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(iv). At the fifth and final step, it must be
determined whether the claimant can perform any other work,
given her RFC and considering her age, education, and past
work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). The
claimant is not disabled if she can perform any other work in
the relevant economy.
combined effect of all the impairments of the claimant shall
be considered throughout the disability determination
process. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B). The burden of proof
is on the claimant for the first four steps; it then shifts
to the Commissioner for the fifth step. Young v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386,
389 (7th Cir. 1992).
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, 539 F.3d at
678, 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).
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
F. was 35 years of age at the time she applied for benefits,
alleging she could no longer work due to a back injury,
hepatitis C, a left arm injury with necrotizing fasciitis,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, irritable bowel
syndrome, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety,
post-traumatic stress disorder, spinal stenosis, and
fibromyalgia. (Filing No. 7-6 at 18.) She has
completed high school, (Filing No. 7-6 at 19), and
previously worked as a cashier, cook, and assembly line
worker, (Filing No. 7-6 at 20).
followed the five-step sequential evaluation set forth by the
SSA in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4) and ultimately
concluded that Jennifer F. was not disabled. (Filing No.
7-2 at 21.) At step one, the ALJ found that Jennifer F.
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August
29, 2014, the application date. (Filing No. 7-2 at 13.)
At step two, the ALJ found that she had the following severe
impairments: “lumbar degenerative disc disease with
radiation to the left lower extremity, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease “COPD”, fibromyalgia, hepatitis
C, irritable bowel syndrome, left upper extremity necrotizing
fasciitis, affective disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline
personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder
“PTSD” (20 CFR 416.920(c)).” (Filing
No. 7-2 at 13.) At step three, the ALJ ...