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Nicholas D. v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 26, 2019

NICHOLAS D., [1] Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Nicholas D. requests judicial review of the final decision of the Defendant, Andrew M. Saul, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act. The Court, having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, rules as follows.


         Disability is defined as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). To be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that his physical or mental limitations prevent his from doing not only his previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering his age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).

         In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled, despite his medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).[2] At step two, if the claimant does not have a “severe” impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work activities), he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(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. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelvemonth duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g).

         In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this court “so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred.” Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ” id., and this Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462 (7th Cir. 2008). To be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate her analysis of the evidence in her decision; while she “is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented, ” she must “provide an accurate and logical bridge between the evidence and her conclusion that a claimant is not disabled.” Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642, 646 (7th Cir. 2012). “If a decision lacks evidentiary support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful review, a remand is required.” Id. (citation omitted).


         The Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI on November 10, 2015, alleging that he became disabled on October 15, 2015. After denials at the initial and reconsideration levels, the Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an ALJ. A video hearing was held on March 12, 2018, before ALJ Genevieve Adamo. An impartial vocational expert appeared and testified. The ALJ issued her decision denying the Plaintiff's claim on April 26, 2018. After the Appeals Council denied her request for review, the Plaintiff filed this timely appeal.


         At step one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the SSA through December 31, 2020, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date. At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, history of degloved left foot, gout, left hip degenerative findings with prior history of acetabular fixation, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. At step four, the ALJ determined that, prior to that date, the Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)

to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climbing ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; no exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery; sit/stand option after 30 minutes; can carry out simple instructions and routine and repetitive tasks; cannot perform work requiring a specific production rate such as assembly line work; can maintain attention and concentration for two-hour intervals; can respond appropriately to occasional changes in the workplace; and can have frequent interactions with supervisors, coworkers, and the general public.

R. at 16. The ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work but that there were other jobs in the national economy that the Plaintiff could perform. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined by the Act.


         The medical evidence of record is aptly set forth in the parties' briefs and need not be recited here. Specific facts are set forth in ...

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