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Vera v. Berryhill

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

May 28, 2019

GILBERT H. VERA JR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Gilbert H. Vera Jr. seeks judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's decision denying his 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 on October 1, 2013. (R. at 252.) His date last insured is June 30, 2015. (R. at 258.) He also applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits. (R. at 252.) Plaintiff most recently worked at a grocery store. (R. at 266.) This may have counted as substantial gainful activity, which would disqualify Plaintiff, but the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) gave Plaintiff the benefit of the doubt and found that it did not. (R. at 17.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from severe impairments. (R. at 17.) However, the ALJ concluded that he could perform jobs that existed in significant numbers. (R. at 26.) Therefore, the ALJ denied benefits. (R. at 21.) 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 (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) whether 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 argues the ALJ ignored evidence of his hand limitations and failed to account for his moderate concentration limitations. While the record might support the ALJ's decision, the ALJ did not adequately explain his conclusions; this Court must therefore remand.

         (1) The ALJ Must Address Evidence of ...


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