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Dunkleberger v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

November 5, 2019

MIRACLEFAITH DUNKLEBERGER, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM E. DUFFIN, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Miraclefaith Dunkleberger alleges she has been disabled since April 14, 2014, due to asthma, migraine headaches, dyslexia, arthritis, fatigue, and depression. (Tr. 78, 232.) In 2014 she applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (Tr. 200-10.) After her applications were denied initially (Tr. 76-99) and upon reconsideration (Tr. 100-25), a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on April 20, 2017 (Tr. 30-75). On June 6, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision, concluding that Dunkleberger was not disabled. (Tr. 13-24.) The Appeals Council denied Dunkleberger's request for review on June 8, 2018. (Tr. 1-6.) This action followed. All parties have consented to the full jurisdiction of a magistrate judge (ECF Nos. 18, 19), and the matter is now ready for resolution.

         ALJ'S DECISION

         In determining whether a person is disabled an ALJ applies a five-step sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). At step one, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571-1576, 416.971-976. The ALJ found that Dunkleberger “has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 14, 2014, the alleged onset date.” (Tr. 15.)

         The analysis then proceeds to the second step, which is a consideration of whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that is “severe.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c). “In order for an impairment to be considered severe at this step of the process, the impairment must significantly limit an individual's ability to perform basic work activities.” Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1121 (7th Cir. 2014). The ALJ concluded that Dunkleberger “has the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, type 2; asthma; history of bronchitis; spondylosis of the lumbar spine; status post bilateral foot surgery; obesity; osteoarthritis; history of migraines; gout; and degenerative arthritis.” (Tr. 15.)

         At step three, the ALJ is to determine whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments is of a severity to meet or medically equal the criteria of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 4, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926) (called “The Listings”). If the impairment or impairments meets or medically equals the criteria of a listing, and meets the twelvemonth duration requirement, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509, 416.909, the claimant is disabled. If the claimant's impairment or impairments is not of a severity to meet or medically equal the criteria set forth in a listing, the analysis proceeds to the next step. The ALJ found that Dunkleberger “does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments.” (Tr. 17.)

         Between steps three and four, the ALJ must determine the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), “which is [the claimant's] ‘ability to do physical and mental work activities on a regular basis despite limitations from her impairments.'” Ghiselli v. Colvin, 837 F.3d 771, 774 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Moore, 743 F.3d at 1121). In making the RFC finding, the ALJ must consider all of the claimant's impairments, including impairments that are not severe. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529, 416.929; SSR 96-8p. In other words, the RFC determination is a function by function assessment of the claimant's “maximum work capability.” Elder v. Asture, 529 F.3d 408, 412 (7th Cir. 2008). The ALJ concluded that Dunkleberger has the RFC

to perform light work . . . except [she] can stand and walk for 4 hours in an 8-hour workday, for 30 minutes at a time; sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, for one hour at a time, can get up and move about for 2 to 3 minutes after sitting for 30 minutes, while remaining on task; can frequently handle, finger, and feel, bilaterally; no concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, or poorly ventilated areas; no uneven, slippery, or rough terrain or flooring; job should not require math; can occasionally climb ramps and stairs with handrail; no ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; no hazards such as unprotected heights or operation/control of dangerous moving machinery; can occasionally operate foot controls; limited to moderate noise level (light industrial to office setting); would be off task 8%; must be able to elevate legs, alternating feet, 12 inches from floor/ground while sitting.

(Tr. 18.)

         After determining the claimant's RFC, the ALJ at step four must determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the requirements of her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1565, 416.965. The ALJ concluded that Dunkleberger “is unable to perform any past relevant work.” (Tr. 22.)

         The last step of the sequential evaluation process requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant can do any other work, considering her age, education, work experience, and RFC. At this step, the ALJ concluded that, “considering [Dunkleberger's] age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [Dunkleberger] can perform.” (Tr. 23.) In reaching that conclusion, the ALJ relied on testimony from a vocational expert (VE) who testified that a hypothetical individual of Dunkleberger's age, education, work experience, and RFC could perform the requirements of a bench assembler, sorter/inspector, and packer. (Tr. 22-23.)

         After finding that Dunkleberger could perform work in the national economy, the ALJ concluded that Dunkleberger “has not been under a disability . . . from April 14, 2014, through the date of this decision.” (Tr. 23.)

         STANDARD ...


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