United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
ALAN E. OURY, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Alan E. Oury seeks review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI). Plaintiff alleges that he has been disabled since
September 2014 due to physical and mental impairments.
Standard of Review
claimant who is found to be “not disabled” may
challenge the Commissioner's final decision in federal
court. This Court must affirm the ALJ's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Steele v. Barnhart, 290
F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is
“more than a mere scintilla of proof.” Kepple
v. Massanari, 268 F.3d 513, 516 (7th Cir. 2001). It
means “evidence a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support the decision.” Murphy v.
Astrue, 496 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2007); see also
Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 305 (7th Cir. 1995)
(substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.”) (citation and quotations omitted).
determining whether there is substantial evidence, the Court
reviews the entire record. Kepple, 268 F.3d at 516.
However, review is deferential. Skinner v. Astrue,
478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). A reviewing court will not
“reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions
of credibility, or substitute [its] own judgment for that of
the Commissioner.” Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d
535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Clifford v. Apfel,
227 F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000)).
if, after a “critical review of the evidence, ”
the ALJ's decision “lacks evidentiary support or an
adequate discussion of the issues, ” this Court will
not affirm it. Lopez, 336 F.3d at 539 (citations
omitted). While the ALJ need not discuss every piece of
evidence in the record, he “must build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to [the] conclusion.”
Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir.
2001). Further, the ALJ “may not select and discuss
only that evidence that favors his ultimate conclusion,
” Diaz, 55 F.3d at 308, but “must
confront the evidence that does not support his conclusion
and explain why it was rejected, ” Indoranto v.
Barnhart, 374 F.3d 470, 474 (7th Cir. 2004). Ultimately,
the ALJ must “sufficiently articulate his assessment of
the evidence to assure” the court that he
“considered the important evidence” and to enable
the court “to trace the path of [his] reasoning.”
Carlson v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir.
1993) (quoting Stephens v. Heckler, 766 F.2d 284,
287 (7th Cir. 1985) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
The ALJ's Decision
person suffering from a disability that renders him unable to
work may apply to the Social Security Administration for
disability benefits. See 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A) (defining disability 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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). To be
found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that his physical
or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only his
previous work, but also any other kind of gainful employment
that exists in the national economy, considering his age,
education, and work experience. § 423(d)(2)(A); §
claimant's application is denied initially and on
reconsideration, he may request a hearing before an ALJ.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(b)(1). An ALJ conducts a
five-step inquiry in deciding whether to grant or deny
benefits: (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 has
the residual functional capacity to perform his past relevant
work, and, if not (5) whether the claimant is capable of
performing any work in the national economy. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a); 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a); Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 885 (7th Cir. 2001).
at step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity (SGA) since the alleged onset
date. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine with radiculopathy of the right leg, coronary artery
disease status post stenting, carotid stenosis, atrial
fibrillation, cardiomegaly, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity,
diabetes mellitus, bilateral mixed hearing loss, bilateral
tinnitus, dysthymia, and intellectual disorder.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments.” (R. 34.) Before moving to step four, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that he
could only occasionally climb ramps and stairs. The ALJ also
assessed other postural limitations related to balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling. Additionally, the
RFC included the following:
[The claimant] is limited to hearing and understanding simple
oral instructions. The claimant can occasionally communicate
by phone, and is limited to performing simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks. He is also limited to simple work-related
decisions, and is ...