United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
JOSEPH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Leonidovich Vaserman seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying his claim for supplemental security
income (“SSI”) aged benefits under the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons below,
the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
filed an application for SSI aged benefits on April 13, 2017.
(Tr. 10.) Vaserman was seventy-one years old at the time of
filing. (Tr. 111.) The claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 10.) Vaserman filed a request for a
hearing and a hearing was held before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on January 30, 2018. (Tr. 180.)
Vaserman appeared at the hearing pro se, waiving his
right to representation by either an attorney or a
non-attorney representative. (Tr. 185-87.)
written decision issued April 9, 2018, the ALJ found that
Vaserman was ineligible for SSI under sections 1602 and 1611
of the Social Security Act because his resources exceeded the
amount set by the regulations as the maximum allowed for
eligibility. (Tr. 10- 12.) The ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council
denied the plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 3-6.)
Applicable Legal Standards
Commissioner's final decision will be upheld if the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and supported his
decision with substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Jelinek v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 805, 811 (7th Cir.
2011). Substantial evidence is not conclusive evidence; it is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Schaaf
v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 869, 874 (7th Cir. 2010) (internal
quotation and citation omitted). The ALJ must provide a
“logical bridge” between the evidence and
conclusions. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872
(7th Cir. 2000).
is also expected to follow the SSA's rulings and
regulations in making a determination. Failure to do so,
unless the error is harmless, requires reversal.
Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 736-37 (7th
Cir. 2006). In reviewing the entire record, the court does
not substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner by
reconsidering facts, reweighing evidence, resolving conflicts
in evidence, or deciding questions of credibility. Estok
v. Apfel, 152 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir. 1998). Finally,
judicial review is limited to the rationales offered by the
ALJ. Shauger v. Astrue, 675 F.3d 690, 697 (7th Cir.
2012) (citing SEC v. Chenery Corp., 318 U.S. 80,
93-95 (1943); Campbell v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 299, 307
(7th Cir. 2010)).
Application to this Case
1972, Congress created the SSI program to guarantee a minimum
subsistence income level for aged, blind, and disabled
persons. Inman v. Shalala, 30 F.3d 840, 841 (7th
Cir. 1994). To obtain SSI based on age, one must have
attained the age of sixty-five. 42 U.S.C. § 1381.
However, “[a]s the name (Supplemental Security Income)
implies, SSI benefits are meant to supplement other sources
of income. Congress designates a minimum subsistence income
level, and a qualifying person whose income falls below that
level can receive checks from the federal government to make
up the difference.” Inman, 30 F.3d at 841.
Thus, one's income “is the essential variable in
determining whether he is entitled to SSI benefits, and if
so, how much.” Id.
married individual not residing with his or her spouse is not
eligible for SSI if the individual's resources exceed $2,
000.00. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1202(a); 20 C.F.R. § 1205.
An individual living with an ineligible spouse can have
non-excludable resources, including those of the spouse, of
up to $3, 000.00 in value. 20 C.F.R. § 1205. Resources
are cash or other liquid assets or any real or personal
property that an individual (or spouse, if any) owns and
could convert to cash to be used for his or her support and
maintenance. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1201. If the claimant has
the right, authority, or power to liquidate the property or
his or her share of the property, it is considered a
resource. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1201(a)(1). Resources are
considered “liquid” if they are cash or other
property which can be converted to cash within twenty days.
20 C.F.R. § 416.1201(b). The regulation specifically
lists as an example of liquid resources financial institution
accounts, including checking and savings accounts.
however, an individual disposes of his resources by giving
them away or selling them for less than their fair market
value in the thirty-six months prior to the date of his
application of benefits, he is ineligible to receive SSI for
up to thirty-six months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382b(c); 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.1246. If it is determined that the resources were
given away for less than fair market value, then there is a
presumption that it was for the purpose of establishing SSI
eligibility, and the burden is on the individual to produce
convincing evidence that the resource was transferred
exclusively for some other reason. 20 C.F.R. §
initial matter, Vaserman takes issue with two dates
established by the ALJ in his decision. First, Vaserman
argues the ALJ erred regarding his application date. Vaserman
states that he applied for benefits on March 23, 2017, not
April 13, 2017. (Pl.'s Br. at 9, Docket # 15.) Vaserman
points to Exhibit E, attached to his brief, as support.
(Docket # 15-1 at 17.) But this document is a letter dated
March 23, 2017 confirming his April 13, 2017 appointment at
the Social Security office to complete his SSI application.
(Id. at 17-18.) Thus, it appears his application
date of April 13, 2017 is correct. Second, Vaserman correctly
faults the ALJ for stating that Vaserman's wife moved out
of their apartment on April 13, 2017. (Pl.'s Br. at 9;
Tr. 11.) The record contains a letter from Vaserman's
wife to the property manager of their apartment stating that
she was moving out of the apartment on March 24, 2017 (Tr.
140) and Vaserman testified that his wife moved out of their
apartment on March 11, ...