United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter is before the court for judicial review of a final
decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security
Administration denying Plaintiff's application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) as provided for in the Social Security Act. 42
U.S.C. § 423(a), § 1382c(a)(3). Section 405(g) of
the Act provides, inter alia, "[a]s part of his answer,
the [Commissioner] shall file a certified copy of the
transcript of the record including the evidence upon which
the findings and decision complained of are based. The court
shall have 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 case for a rehearing." It also provides,
"[t]he findings of the [Commissioner] as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . .
." 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
provides that an applicant for disability insurance benefits
must establish 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); 42 U.S.C.
§423(d)(1)(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. §423(d)(3). It is
not enough for a plaintiff to establish that an impairment
exists. It must be shown that the impairment is severe enough
to preclude the plaintiff from engaging in substantial
gainful activity. Gotshaw v. Ribicoff, 307 F.2d 840
(7th Cir. 1962), cert. denied, 372 U.S. 945 (1963);
Garcia v. Califano, 463 F.Supp. 1098 (N.D.Ill.
1979). It is well established that the burden of proving
entitlement to disability insurance benefits is on the
plaintiff. See Jeralds v. Richardson, 445 F.2d 36
(7th Cir. 1971); Kutchman v. Cohen, 425 F.2d 20 (7th
the foregoing framework, "[t]he question before [this
court] is whether the record as a whole contains substantial
evidence to support the [Commissioner's] findings."
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 607 (7th Cir.
1984) citing Whitney v. Schweiker, 695 F.2d 784, 786
(7th Cir. 1982); 42 U.S.C. §405(g). "Substantial
evidence is defined as 'more than a mere scintilla. It
means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'"
Rhoderick v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir.
1984) quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401, 91 S.Ct. 1410, 1427 (1971); see Allen v.
Weinberger, 552 F.2d 781, 784 (7th Cir. 1977). "If
the record contains such support [it] must [be] affirmed, 42
U.S.C. §405(g), unless there has been an error of
law." Garfield, supra at 607; see
also Schnoll v. Harris, 636 F.2d 1146, 1150 (7th Cir.
present matter, after consideration of the entire record, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) made the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since February 1, 2017, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine,
obesity, chronic pain syndrome, COPD/restrictive lung
disease, depressed bipolar II disorder, generalized anxiety
disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, alcohol
use disorder, and cannabis use disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR404.1567 and 416.967(b) except that the claimant can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, he can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, he can frequently balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, he should avoid concentrated
exposure to wetness and vibration, he should avoid
concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases and other
similar respiratory irritants, and he should avoid all
exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights, wet,
slippery or uneven surfaces, and unguarded moving machinery.
In addition, he can make judgments on simple work related
decisions, he can respond appropriately to usual work
situations, he can respond appropriately to brief
interactions with coworkers, supervisors and the general
public, and he can deal with routine changes in a routine
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on October 12, 1974 and was 42 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
16.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from February 1, 2017, through
the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and
(Tr. 12 - 22).
upon these findings, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not entitled to disability benefits. The ALJ's decision
became the final agency decision when the Appeals Council
denied review. This appeal followed.
filed his opening brief on May 5, 2019. On June 21, 2019, the
defendant filed a memorandum in support of the
Commissioner's decision, to which Plaintiff replied on
July 3, 2019. Upon full review of the record in this cause,
this court is of the view that the ALJ's decision must be
five-step test has been established to determine whether a
claimant is disabled. See Singleton v. Bowen, 841
F.2d 710, 711 (7th Cir. 1988); Bowen v. Yuckert, 107
S.Ct. 2287, 2290-91 (1987). The United States Court of
Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has summarized that test as
The following steps are addressed in order: (1) Is the
claimant presently unemployed? (2) Is the claimant's
impairment "severe"? (3) Does the impairment meet
or exceed one of a list of specific impairments? (4) Is the
claimant unable to perform his or her former occupation? (5)
Is the claimant unable to perform any other work within the
economy? An affirmative answer leads either to the next step
or, on steps 3 and 5, to a finding that the claimant is
disabled. A negative answer at any point, other than step 3,
stops the inquiry and leads to a determination that the
claimant is not disabled.
Nelson v. Bowen, 855 F.2d 503, 504 n.2 (7th Cir.
1988); Zalewski v. Heckler, 760 F.2d 160, 162 n.2
(7th Cir. 1985); accord Halvorsen v. Heckler, 743
F.2d 1221 (7th Cir. 1984). From the nature of the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits, it is ...