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Summers v. Berryhill

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 19, 2017

Gotoimoana Summers, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued May 17, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 3:15-cv-00118 - Philip P. Simon, Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Manion and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Manion, Circuit Judge.

         Gotoimoana Summers appeals from the judgment of the district court affirming the Social Security Commissioner's denial other application for disability insurance benefits. We affirm.

         I.

         On February 24, 2012, Gotoimoana Summers was fired from her job as a production-line worker in Elkhart, Indiana. She applied for disability insurance benefits shortly afterwards, alleging that she became disabled on the date she was fired. The Social Security Administration denied the application and scheduled a hearing before an administrative law judge at Summers's request. Summers attended the hearing with counsel and testified that she was unable to work because of headaches, difficulty breathing, atrial fibrillation, and dizziness with blackouts. She also submitted medical evidence indicating that she suffered from depression, anxiety, obesity, and sleep apnea. She testified that before her most recent job, she worked for an RV supply company assembling lightweight parts in an assembly line. Asked to describe a typical day, Summers replied, "Sometimes, I have bad days. Sometimes, I don't think. Sometimes, I get depressed."

         Summers also made several inconsistent statements during the hearing, mostly about her work history and her use of drugs and alcohol. For instance, she initially testified that she left work for health reasons but then later admitted that she was fired. And she retracted her testimony that she had never used marijuana when the ALJ confronted her with records documenting her own previous admission to the contrary.

         Toward the end of the hearing, the ALJ asked a Vocational Expert whether a hypothetical individual who was limited to a restricted range of light work[1] could perform any of Sum-mers's past jobs. The VE responded that such an individual could perform Summers's past job as an assembler, as well as other jobs (such as inspector and hand packager, photocopy machine operator, and palletizer) that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

         In November 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision concluding that despite her medical impairments, Summers retained the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to perform a substantially limited range of light work, [2] including her past work as an assembler and the other work identified by the VE. The ALJ also found that Summers was "not entirely credible" in light of her repeated inconsistent statements. Ultimately, the ALJ determined that Summers was not disabled from the time of her alleged onset date through the date of the ALJ's decision.

         The ALJ's decision was upheld by the Social Security Appeals Council and became the final decision of the Commissioner. Summers appealed the Commissioner's decision to the district court, and the district court affirmed the Commissioner's denial of benefits. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II.

         We review the ALJ's decision to determine whether it applies the correct legal standard and is supported by substantial evidence. Castile v. Astrue, 617 F.3d 923, 926 (7th Cir. 2010). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. Our review is deferential; we will not reweigh the evidence or substitute our judgment for that of the ALJ. Shideler v. Astrue, 688 F.3d 306, 310 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Summers raises five issues on appeal. She raised the same issues below, and the district court very ably handled them in a thorough and lucid opinion. Because Summers has chosen to ignore the reasoning of the district court's opinion and instead focus exclusively on the merits of the ALJ's decision, we'll keep our remarks short. See Castile, 617 F.3d at 926 (noting that an appellant who fails to address the district court's analysis of the ALJ's decision engages in a "'risky tactic, ' especially ... where the ...


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