United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
DAVID L. KEESLER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, sued as Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of SSA, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
David L. Keesler appeals to the district court from a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application under
the Social Security Act (the “Act”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). (DE 1). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision will be REVERSED, and the case
will be REMANDED to the Commissioner for further proceedings
in accordance with this Opinion and Order.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
applied for DIB and SSI in August 2014, alleging disability
as of December 15, 2012. (DE 10 Administrative Record
(“AR”) 265-75). Keesler was last insured for DIB
on March 31, 2015 (AR 13, 305), and therefore, he must
establish that he was disabled as of that date with respect
to his DIB claim. See Stevenson v. Chater, 105 F.3d
1151, 1154 (7th Cir. 1997) (explaining that a claimant must
establish that he was disabled as of his date last insured in
order to recover DIB benefits). Keesler's application was
denied on initial consideration and on reconsideration. (AR
hearing was held on November 10, 2016, before Administrative
Law Judge Terry Miller (the “ALJ”), at which
Keesler, who was represented by counsel; Keesler's
mother; and a vocational expert testified. (AR 30-88). On
April 13, 2017, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision to
Keesler, concluding that he was not disabled because despite
the limitations caused by his impairments he could perform a
significant number of unskilled, light exertional jobs in the
economy. (AR 10-22). The Appeals Council denied Keesler's
request for review (AR 1-5), at which point the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
filed a complaint with this Court on June 8, 2018, seeking
relief from the Commissioner's final decision. (DE 1). In
this appeal, Keesler argues that the ALJ: (1) failed to
evaluate at step three whether Keesler medically equaled
Listing 11.03, non-convulsive seizures; (2) improperly
evaluated the opinion of Dr. Shivam Dubey, Keesler's
treating psychiatrist; and (3) failed to adequately account
for Keesler's moderate limitations in concentration,
persistence, or pace in the hypothetical posed to the
vocational expert at step five. (DE 18 at 5-17).
time of the ALJ's decision, Keesler was 41 years old (AR
22, 90); had a seventh grade education without special
education classes (AR 296); and had past work experience as a
stocker at a large retail store work and as a bus person in a
restaurant (AR 296, 386-87). Keesler alleges disability due
to the following impairments: syncopal
episodes/dizziness/pseudoseizures, hypertension, sinus
tachycardia, obesity, hypothyroidism, obstructive sleep
apnea, depressive disorder, and anxiety. (DE 18 at 2).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
405(g) of the Act grants this Court “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 cause for a
rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court's
task is limited to determining whether the ALJ's factual
findings are supported by substantial evidence, which means
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir.
2005) (citation omitted). The decision will be reversed only
if it is not supported by substantial evidence or if the ALJ
applied an erroneous legal standard. Clifford v.
Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000) (citation
determine if substantial evidence exists, the Court reviews
the entire administrative record but does not reweigh the
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's.
Id. Rather, if the findings of the Commissioner are
supported by substantial evidence, they are conclusive.
Jens v. Barnhart, 347 F.3d 209, 212 (7th Cir. 2003)
(citation omitted). “In other words, so long as, in
light of all the evidence, reasonable minds could differ
concerning whether [the claimant] is disabled, we must affirm
the ALJ's decision denying benefits.” Books v.
Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 978 (7th Cir. 1996).
the Act, a claimant is entitled to DIB or SSI if he
establishes 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 not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1),
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(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. §§
Commissioner evaluates disability claims pursuant to a
five-step evaluation process, requiring consideration of the
following issues, in sequence: (1) whether the claimant is
currently unemployed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments meets or equals one of the
impairments listed by the Commissioner, see 20
C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1; (4) whether the
claimant is unable to perform his past work; and (5) whether
the claimant is incapable of performing work in the national
economy.See Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d
1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. An affirmative answer leads
either to the next step or, on steps three and five, to a
finding that the claimant is disabled. Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation
omitted). A negative answer at any point other than step
three stops ...