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Marvious P. v. Saul

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

September 30, 2019

MARVIOUS P., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF APPEAL

          Tim A. Baker United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff appeals the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits. The arguments Plaintiff raises on appeal essentially all relate to one underlying issue: the ALJ's treatment of Plaintiff's alleged symptoms. Plaintiff broadly claims the ALJ failed to properly address SSR 16-3p, ignored evidence supporting Plaintiff's subjective symptoms, used unlawful reasoning, and misstated Plaintiff's limitations. Plaintiff's cursory arguments ultimately fall short. As explained in more detail below, the ALJ's analysis satisfied SSR 16-3p. The ALJ's decision was detailed, well-reasoned, and supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, Plaintiff's request for remand should be denied.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration denied her claims initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         The ALJ considered Plaintiff's claim for benefits according to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a). First, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018. Subsequently, at step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the right hand, degenerative joint disease of the right shoulder, degenerative disc disease of the lumber spine with a herniated disc, and diabetes mellitus. The ALJ noted that these impairments significantly limit the ability to perform basic work activities as required by SSR 85-28.

         At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Before reaching step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c), except:

[Plaintiff] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can never work around hazards. She can occasionally climb ramps or stairs. She can frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. She should avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, humidity, and pulmonary irritants. She can occasionally reach overhead with the right arm.

[Filing No. 5-2, at ECF p. 15.]

         Next, at step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform past relevant work as a daycare center worker. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff broadly argues that the ALJ ignored evidence supporting Plaintiff's subjective symptoms and used unlawful reasoning in finding Plaintiff's statements inconsistent with the objective evidence. Plaintiff also claims that the ALJ misstated Plaintiff's limitations and daily activities. The Court reviews the ALJ's decision to determine whether the ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial evidence. See, e.g., Biestek v. Berryhill, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1153 (2019) (“On judicial review, an ALJ's factual findings. . . shall be conclusive if supported by substantial evidence.” (Internal quotation marks omitted)). “The court is not to reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. Where substantial evidence supports the ALJ's disability determination, we must affirm the decision even if reasonable minds could differ concerning whether the claimant is disabled.” Burmester v. Berryhill, 920 F.3d 507, 510 (7th Cir. 2019) (internal citations, quotation marks, and brackets omitted).

         Plaintiff specifically contends that the ALJ failed to properly address SSR 16-3p, which describes the two-step process an ALJ should complete when evaluating an individual's alleged symptoms. First, the ALJ must determine whether the individual has an underlying medically determinable impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce the alleged symptoms. Second, the ALJ must evaluate the intensity and persistence of the alleged symptoms to determine to what extent those symptoms limit the individual's ability to perform work-related activities. See SSR 16-3p.

         In this case, the ALJ reasonably considered the factors under SSR 16-3p and applied them to the record evidence in assessing Plaintiff's alleged symptoms. After reviewing the evidence on record, the ALJ found, in line with the first step, that Plaintiff's “medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms[.]” [Filing No. 5-2, at ECF p. 16.] The ALJ concluded at the second step, however, that Plaintiff's ‚Äústatements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely ...


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