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LOGAN v. SHALALA

March 30, 1995

WILLIAM H. LOGAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DONNA E. SHALALA, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Evans, United States Magistrate Judge:

  ORDER

This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff's motion, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), for review of a final decision rendered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") finding him not disabled and consequently not entitled to supplemental security income. Plaintiff requests a reversal of the Secretary's decision or, in the alternative, a remand for another hearing. For the reasons stated hereafter, Plaintiff's motion is denied.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE AND PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Plaintiff applied for SSI on June 15, 1990, November 6, 1990, and February 26, 1992. Each application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). On January 13, 1994, a hearing was held in Springfield, Illinois. Plaintiff, represented by an attorney, testified along with a vocational expert. On February 19, 1994, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled and consequently, not entitled to supplemental security income. On June 20, 1994, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Secretary when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.

LAW AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

In order to be entitled to disability insurance benefits, Plaintiff must show that his inability to work is medical in nature and that he is totally disabled. Disability benefits are meant only for "sick" persons and are not intended to be a surrogate unemployment insurance or a welfare program. Thus, economic conditions, personal factors, financial considerations, and attitudes of employers are irrelevant in determining whether Plaintiff is eligible for disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1566.

Establishing disability under the Social Security Act is a two-step process. First, Plaintiff must be suffering from a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments, which can be expected to result in death or which have lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 423 (d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A) (Supp. 1994); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a). Second, there must be a factual determination that the impairment renders the Plaintiff unable to engage in any substantial gainful employment. McNeil v. Califano, 614 F.2d 142, 143 (7th Cir. 1980). That factual determination is made using a five-step test. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The steps are examined in order as follows:

1. Is the Plaintiff presently unemployed?

2. Is the Plaintiff's impairment "severe?"

  3. Does the impairment meet or exceed one of a list
  of specified impairments?
  4. Is the Plaintiff unable to perform his former
  occupation?
  5. Is the Plaintiff unable to perform any other work
  within the national economy?

An affirmative answer at any step leads either to the next step, or on steps 3 and 5 to a finding that the Plaintiff is disabled. A negative answer at any point, other than step 3, stops the inquiry and leads to a determination that the Plaintiff is not disabled. Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605, 607 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1984). Plaintiff has the burden of production and persuasion on steps 1-4. Once the Plaintiff shows inability to perform past work, however, the burden shifts to the Secretary to show ability to engage in some other type of substantial gainful employment. Tom v. Heckler, 779 F.2d 1250, 1253 (7th Cir. 1985); Halvorsen v. Heckler, 743 F.2d 1221, 1225 (7th Cir. 1984).

The Court's function on review is not to try the case de novo or to supplant the ALJ's findings with the Court's own assessment of the evidence. Pugh v. Bowen, 870 F.2d 1271, 1274 (7th Cir. 1989). The Court must only determine whether the ALJ's findings were supported by substantial evidence and whether the proper legal standards were applied. Delgado v. Bowen, 782 F.2d 79, 82 (7th Cir. 1986). In determining whether the ALJ's findings were supported by substantial evidence, the Court must consider whether the record, as a whole, contains "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971). Credibility determinations made by the ALJ will not be disturbed unless such findings are "patently wrong." Luna v. Shalala, 22 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 1994).

DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

Plaintiff was thirty-six years of age at the time of the ALJ's decision. He alleged disability due to drug and alcohol dependence and a fractured right ankle. In arriving at her conclusion that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of receiving supplemental security income, the ALJ determined, among other things, that Plaintiff was presently unemployed, his impairments did not meet or exceed one of the listed impairments, he had no prior relevant work experience, and there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy which he could perform.

Plaintiff offers two arguments in support of his motion. Although it is difficult to ascertain from Plaintiff's memorandum, it appears Plaintiff first attacks the ALJ's determination that his impairments did not meet or exceed one of the listed specified impairments (step 3 of the five-part test). Next, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by relying on the vocational ...


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