United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY REVIEWING THE COMMISSIONER'S
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
Plaintiff Daniel H. filed for disability benefits with the
Social Security Administration on February 25, 2010, alleging
a disability onset date of March 9, 2009. [Filing No. 7-2
at 14.] His application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, and a hearing was held before Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) Blanca B. de la Torre.
[Filing No. 7-2 at 14.] ALJ de la Torre issued a
decision denying Daniel H. benefits, and the Social Security
Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision and denied
Daniel H.'s request for review. [Filing No. 7-2 at
25; Filing No. 7-2 at 2.] This Court affirmed
ALJ de la Torre's decision, but the Seventh Circuit
subsequently remanded the case for a rehearing. Daniel H.
v. Colvin, 778 F.3d 688, 691 (7th Cir. 2015).
H. then appeared for another hearing with ALJ de la Torre and
was again denied benefits. [Filing No. 7-11 at 29;
Filing No. 7-11 at 42.] The Appeals Council again
upheld ALJ de la Torre's decision and denied Daniel
H.'s request for review. [Filing No. 7-11 at 2.]
However, on March 30, 2018, the Honorable William T. Lawrence
remanded the case for a rehearing.
[1:16-cv-02898-WTL-DLP, Filing No. 23.]
time, the hearing was before ALJ Albert J. Velasquez on
January 8, 2019. [Filing No. 7-32 at 29.] Daniel H.
was once again denied benefits. [Filing No. 7-32 at
6.] Daniel H. then filed suit, asking this Court to
review his denial of benefits. [Filing No. 1.]
Social Security Act authorizes payment of disability
insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income to
individuals with disabilities.” Barnhart v.
Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002). As explained by the
The statutory definition of ‘disability' has two
parts. First, it requires a certain kind of inability,
namely, an inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity. Second it requires an impairment, namely, a
physical or mental impairment, which provides reason
for the inability. The statute adds that the impairment must
be one that has lasted or can be expected to last . . . not
less than 12 months.
Id. at 217 (quotations omitted).
applicant appeals an adverse benefits decision, this
Court's role is limited to ensuring that the ALJ applied
the correct legal standards and that substantial evidence
exists to support the ALJ's decision. Barnett v.
Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004) (citation
omitted). For the purpose of judicial review,
“[s]ubstantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (quotation omitted).
the ALJ “is in the best position to determine the
credibility of witnesses, ” Craft v. Astrue,
539 F.3d 668, 678 (7th Cir. 2008), this Court must afford the
ALJ's credibility determination “considerable
deference, ” overturning it only if it is
“patently wrong, ” Prochaska v.
Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 2006) (quotations
must apply the five-step inquiry set forth in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), evaluating the following, in
(1) whether the claimant is currently [un]employed; (2)
whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the
claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the
impairments listed by the [Commissioner]; (4) whether the
claimant can perform [his] past work; and (5) whether the
claimant is capable of performing work in the national
v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000) (citations
omitted) (alterations in original). “If a claimant
satisfies steps one, two, and three, [he] will automatically
be found disabled.” Knight v. Chater, 55 F.3d
309, 313 (7th Cir. 1995). However, “[i]f a
claimant satisfies steps one and two, but not three, then
[he] must satisfy step four. Once step four is satisfied, the
burden shifts to the [Social Security Administration] to
establish that the claimant is capable of performing work in
the national economy.” Id.
Step Three, but before Step Four, the ALJ must determine a
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) by evaluating “all
limitations that arise from medically determinable
impairments, even those that are not severe.”
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir.
2009). In doing so, the ALJ “may not dismiss a line of
evidence contrary to the ruling.” Id. The ALJ
uses the RFC at Step Four to determine whether the claimant
can perform his own past relevant work and, if not, at Step
Five to determine whether the claimant can perform other
work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e), (g). The
burden of proof is on the claimant for Steps One through
Four; only at Step Five does the burden shift to the
Commissioner. Clifford, 227 F.3d at 868.
ALJ committed no legal error and substantial evidence exists
to support the ALJ's decision, the Court must affirm the
denial of benefits. Barnett, 381 F.3d at 668. When
an ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial
evidence, a remand for further proceedings is typically the
appropriate remedy. Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v.
Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 355 (7th Cir. 2005). An award of
benefits “is appropriate only where all factual issues
have been resolved and the record can yield but one
supportable conclusion.” Id. (citation
H. filed for disability benefits on February 25, 2010,
originally alleging a disability onset date of January 1,
2005. [Filing No. 7-2 at 14.] He later amended his
alleged onset of disability date to March 9, 2009.
[Filing No. 7-2 at 14.] His alleged disability
involves obesity, a tear of the medial meniscus in the right
knee, partial tearing of ligaments in the right ankle, disc
degeneration in the thoracic region, back pain and numbness
due to spinal stenosis, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia,
tinnitus, and muscle spasms. [Filing No. 9 at 3.]
Daniel H.'s date last insured was June 30, 2010.
[Filing No. 7-32 at 6.]
time of the onset date, Daniel H. was 33 years old and had
recently moved to Indiana. [Filing No. 9 at 5.]
Daniel H. has a high school education and has past relevant
work as an aircraft mechanic, electrician, and fast-food
lead. [Filing No. 9 at 5.] He had one eight-month
old child when he moved to Indiana. [Filing No. 9 at
5.] Daniel H. and his wife lived with his parents for a
few months until they bought a house in July 2009.
[Filing No. 9 at 5.] After turning one-year old,
Daniel H.'s child began going to daycare three times per
week, while Daniel H.'s father would come over to help
with childcare about six days per month. [Filing No. 9 at
Velasquez followed the five-step sequential evaluation set
forth by the Social Security Administration in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4) and ultimately concluded that Daniel H.
was not under a disability at any time between the alleged
onset date of March 9, 2009 through the date last insured of