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VINEYARD v. CHATER

November 1, 1996

EZRA VINEYARD, Petitioner,
v.
SHIRLEY S. CHATER, Commissioner, Social Security, Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO

 Plaintiff, Ezra Vineyard, applied in April, 1984 for Disability Insurance Benefits for a period from March 6, 1975 to December 31, 1980. After his claim was denied both initially and upon reconsideration, he sought no further review. *fn1" Tr. at 422-431. In 1992, Mr. Vineyard re-opened his claim, which again was denied. *fn2" After his claim was denied, Mr. Vineyard requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). At the hearing on June 24, 1994, Mr. Vineyard was represented by counsel. ALJ Greene denied Mr. Vineyard's request for benefits, Tr. at 21, and the Appeals Council denied Mr. Vineyard's request for review. On August 7, 1995, Mr. Vineyard brought the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the defendant, the Commissioner of Health and Human Services ("Commissioner"). Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion is granted, and Mr. Vineyard's motion is denied.

 Standard of Review

 The Social Security Act ("the Act") provides for limited judicial review of final decisions of the Commissioner. The role of this Court is only to determine whether the decision of the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Wolfe v. Shalala, 997 F.2d 321, 322 (7th Cir. 1993). In determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the district court may not "reevaluate the facts, re-weigh the evidence, or substitute its own judgment for that of the [Commissioner]." Edwards v. Sullivan, 985 F.2d 334, 336-37 (7th Cir. 1993). Rather, the court must affirm a decision supported by substantial evidence in the absence of an error of law. Id. at 336-37.

 Sequential Evaluation

 In order to qualify for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits, a claimant must be disabled. Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 477 (7th Cir. 1993). The Act defines a "disabled" individual as one who is unable

 
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 twelve months.

 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) (1994); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505 (1996). To satisfy this definition, an individual must have a severe impairment which makes her unable to perform her previous work or any other substantial gainful activity which exists in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505 (1996).

 The Social Security regulations require the fact finder to follow a five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. The Seventh Circuit has summarized the test as follows:

 
The [Commissioner] must determine in sequence:

 Pope, 998 F.2d at 477-78 (citation omitted).

 In the present case, the ALJ applied this evaluation method and decided the case at step five. The ALJ found that Mr. Vineyard has a history of asthma, hypertension, arthritis, and hidradenitis, but that he did not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in or medically equal to one listed in the applicable regulations. Concerning Mr. Vineyard's alleged mental impairment, the ALJ found the testimony regarding its existence before 1980 to be lacking in credibility. The ALJ also found that Mr. Vineyard's testimony with respect to his pain and functional limitations during the time period at issue was not fully credible; that he was classified as a younger individual at 33 years of age; and that he had the Residual Functional ...


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