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Durham v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

March 27, 2019

DAVID E. DURHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff David E. Durham seeks judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's decision denying him disability benefits, and asks this Court to remand the case. For the reasons below, this Court remands the ALJ's decision.

         A. Overview of the Case

          Plaintiff alleges that he became disabled November 1, 2012. (R. at 10.) Plaintiff's date last insured (“DLI”) was December 31, 2013. (R. at 12.) Plaintiff worked as a shipping and receiving clerk prior to his plant closing in 2012. (R. at 10, 40.) After a video hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ) in 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of late effects of a remote myocardial infarction and ventricular tachycardia status post an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) placement, cervical degenerative disc disease, and right glenohumeral degenerative joint disease. (R. at 12.) The ALJ did, however, find that a number of jobs existed which Plaintiff could perform. (R. at 20.) Therefore, the ALJ found him to be not disabled at any time from November 1, 2012, the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2013, the date last insured, and denied him benefits. (R. at 20.) This decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1.)

         B. Standard of Review

          This Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court will ensure that the ALJ built an “accurate and logical bridge” from evidence to conclusion. Thomas v. Colvin, 745 F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). This requires the ALJ to “confront the [plaintiff's] evidence” and “explain why it was rejected.” Thomas v. Colvin, 826 F.3d 953, 961 (7th Cir. 2016). The Court will uphold decisions that apply the correct legal standard and are supported by substantial evidence. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005). Evidence is substantial if “a reasonable mind might accept [it] as adequate to support [the ALJ's] conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971).

         C. Disability Standard

         The Commissioner follows a five-step inquiry in evaluating claims for disability benefits under the Social Security Act:

(1) Whether the claimant is currently employed; (2) zwhether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's impairment is one that the Commissioner considers conclusively disabling; (4) if the claimant does not have a conclusively disabling impairment, whether he can perform his past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work in the national economy.

Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012). The claimant bears the burden of proof at every step except step five. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).

         D. Analysis

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ committed four reversible errors: that the ALJ played doctor in interpreting medical evidence; that the ALJ improperly evaluated Plaintiff's subjective symptoms; the ALJ erred in failing to include manipulative limitations in Plaintiff's RFC; and the ALJ failed to properly weigh a treating physician's opinion.

         (1) Playing Doctor

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ played doctor in a number of ways. The Seventh Circuit has cautioned ALJs not to succumb to the temptation to play doctor. Murphy v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 630, 634 (7th Cir. 2012). The ALJs are said to have impermissibly played doctor when they either reject a doctor's medical conclusion without other evidence, or when they draw medical conclusions themselves ...


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