Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 94 C 1085 John D. Tinder, Judge.
Before BAUER, KANNE, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.
Helen Rucker wants to use the doctrine of collateral estoppel offensively in her second application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security disability (collectively "disability") benefits. According to Rucker, collateral estoppel should have precluded the second Administrative Law Judge from making certain findings that differed from the results of her first administrative hearing. The district court disagreed and upheld the denial of Rucker's second benefits application. Rucker v. Shalala, 894 F.Supp. 1209 (S.D.Ind. 1995). Rucker now challenges the district court's failure to apply collateral estoppel, as well as its evaluation of her second application for benefits. We affirm.
Helen Rucker was born in 1940, and in 1966 became a licensed practical nurse. Unfortunately, Rucker suffers from a variety of medical conditions, including obesity, bilateral patello-femoral disease, and possible tendinitis in her right arm. Because of these ailments, Rucker has not worked as a nurse since April 7, 1988. Three months later, Rucker filed her first application for disability benefits. After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge issued a decision that Rucker was not "disabled," and that while she was unable to return to her past work, she had a residual functional capacity ("RFC") for sedentary work. Rucker sought judicial review of this decision in the district court, and the district court affirmed the denial of benefits. Rucker v. Shalala, IP 90-1372-C (S.D.Ind. July 2, 1993). *fn1
Pending the outcome of Rucker I in the district court, Rucker filed a second application for disability benefits on April 10, 1992, alleging disability due to obesity, musculoskeletal pain, and hypertension. The Social Security Administration denied her claim and Rucker requested a hearing, at which she testified that she was unable to work because of a variety of impairments, primarily pain in her back, leg, and hands. After reviewing all of the evidence, the second ALJ found Rucker's testimony not credible and denied her claim for benefits. Rucker filed a timely request for judicial review in the district court, which similarly affirmed the denial of her claim. Rucker v. Shalala, 894 F.Supp. 1209 (S.D.Ind. 1995). Rucker now appeals 1) the district court's failure to estop the ALJ from making contradictory findings with respect to her second application; 2) the ALJ's evaluation of Rucker's subjective complaints of pain; and 3) the district court's credibility determinations in denying her benefits.
Our jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's denial of benefits arises under 42 U.S.C. sec. 405. Like the district court, we review whether the record as a whole supports the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. sec. 405(g); Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 305 (7th Cir. 1995). Federal regulations establish a five-step inquiry for determinations of disability:
(1) whether the claimant is currently 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 Social Security ...