United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE
Candy Jackson seeks review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income. The Plaintiff claims that the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) failed to incorporate her
limitations in her concentration, persistence, and pace into
the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). The Plaintiff
additionally argues that the ALJ erred in not considering the
combined impact of her severe and non-severe impairments.
December 13, 2014, the Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security
(R. 21, ECF No. 14.) She alleged disability beginning on July
21, 2013. (Id.) Her claims were denied initially on
April 22, 2015, and upon reconsideration on May 19, 2015.
(Id.) On July 14, 2016, the Plaintiff appeared with
counsel and testified at a hearing before an ALJ.
(Id.) Amy Kutschbach, a vocational expert (VE), also
testified at the hearing, by telephone. (Id.) On
October 28, 2016, the ALJ denied the Plaintiff's
application, finding she was not disabled from her alleged
onset date. (R. 20-37.) On October 4, 2017, the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for
review of the ALJ's decision. (R. 1-3.)
December 2, 2017, the Plaintiff filed this claim [ECF No. 1]
in federal court against the Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration.
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),
1382c(a)(3)(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 also any other
kind of gainful employment that exists in the national
economy, considering her age, education, and work experience.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
conducts a five-step inquiry in deciding whether to grant or
deny benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920.
The first step is to determine whether the claimant no longer
engages in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Id.
In the case at hand, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity (SGA) since September
30, 2012, her date last insured. (R. 24.) In step two, the
ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment
limiting the ability to do basic work activities pursuant to
§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c). Here, the ALJ determined
that beginning October 25, 2015, the Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: obesity, a history of arthritis
in her left knee, left leg lipoma, left knee prepatellar
bursitis, major depressive disorder, and borderline
personality disorder. (R. 33) The ALJ did not find that the
Plaintiff's headaches were severe impairments that
significantly limited her physical ability to do basic work
activities. (R. 40-41.)
three requires the ALJ to “consider the medical
severity of [the] impairment” to determine whether the
impairment “meets or equals one of [the] listings in
appendix 1 . . . .” § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii); §
416.920(a)(4)(iii). If a claimant's impairment(s),
considered singly or in combination with other impairments,
rises to this level, she earns a presumption of disability
“without considering her age, education, and work
experience.” § 404.1520(d); § 416.920(d).
But, if the impairment(s), either singly or in combination,
falls short, an ALJ must move to step four and examine the
claimant's “residual functional capacity”
(RFC)-the types of things she can still do physically,
despite her limitations-to determine whether she can perform
this “past relevant work, ” §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv) and § 416.920(a)(4)(iv), or whether
the claimant can “make an adjustment to other
work” given the claimant's “age, education,
and work experience, ” § 404.1520(a)(4)(v) and
§ 416.920(a)(4)(v). In the instant case, upon review of
the medical evidence, the ALJ concluded that the
Plaintiff's impairments, either singly or in combination,
do not meet or equal any of the listings in Appendix 1 (R.
35), and that the Plaintiff has the RFC to perform light
work, as defined by § 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with
certain physical restrictions, and:
[T]he claimant is limited to work which involves only simple,
routine and repetitive tasks that can be learned through
short demonstration and in up to thirty days; she has been
able to maintain the concentration required to perform simple
tasks; she can remember simple work-like procedures; she can
make simple work-related decisions; and she can maintain the
concentration and attention, as well as the persistence to
perform such duties on a day-in and day-out basis, for eight
hours per day, five days per week or within some other form
of full time competitive work schedule.
final step of the evaluation, relying in part on the VE's
testimony as based on the provided RFC, the ALJ determined
that the Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 42-43.)
Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision by the
Appeals Council. (R. 1-3.) The Appeals Council subsequently
denied review (id), making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. See Liskowitz v.
Astrue, 559 F.3d 736, 739 (7th Cir. 2009). The Plaintiff
now seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).