The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coar, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Johnnie Willis is currently 41 years old. He has completed high
school and four years of college. His work history is somewhat
sporadic. He has a history of problems with his knees for which
he has claimed a disability and sought social security benefits.
He has appealed the denial of his request for benefits to this
court. Both Willis and the Commissioner have moved for summary
judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES the
Commissioner's motion, GRANTS Willis' motion and REMANDS the case
for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
After a December 31, 1995, auto accident, in which Willis
bumped his knees into the dashboard, Willis went to West Suburban
Hospital. Prior to the accident, Willis had had his left knee
"scoped" (i.e., had arthroscopic knee surgery). When he went to
West Suburban, he reported his knee pain to the doctors, but also
stated that the accident caused a different kind of pain.
On August 29, 1996, Dr. Edward Ference evaluated Willis'
residual functional capacity ("RFC"). Dr. Ference, who was not
Willis' treating physician, concluded that Willis was capable of
medium work.*fn1 About a month later, Dr. J. Michael
Morgenstern, a specialist in orthopedic surgery who had seen
Willis before and continued to see Willis after this evaluation,
concluded that as a result of Willis' knee problems and
associated pain, that he would only be able to sedentary
work.*fn2 On March 6, 1997,*fn3 Dr. Morgenstern again evaluated
Willis' RFC. In this report, Dr. Morgenstern found that Willis'
condition had worsened and now concluded that Willis could only
occasionally lift five pounds and carry it a distance of five
feet, that he could not bend, push, or pull, that he could not
stand for six hours in an eight-hour-work day, that he could sit
for six hours in an eight-hour-work day, but that he would need
to stand and lie down intermittently.
In April 1996, Willis applied for Social Security disability
benefits. Initially and on reconsideration, Willis' claim was
denied. On March 5, 1997, with the assistance of his attorney,
Willis presented evidence in support of his claim to an
administrative law judge. The ALJ also rejected his appeal in a
September 9, 1997, written opinion. One year and one week later,
the appeals council denied his request for review.
In the period between receiving the ALJ's decision and the
appeals council's decision, Willis again had his knees scoped. He
also consulted with a chiropractor. Evidence of the chiropractor
visit and his knee surgeries was presented to the appeals council
but was rejected as immaterial. Willis appealed to this court.
Standard of Reviewing the Commissioner's Final Decision
Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision is
limited. This Court determines whether substantial evidence in
the record as a whole supports the decision to deny benefits.
See Pope, 998 F.2d at 480; See Wolfe v. Shalala,
997 F.2d 321, 322 (7th Cir. 1993). "Substantial evidence," in this context
means evidence that "a reasonable mind might accept as adequate
to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971). The Court does not
"reevaluate the facts, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its
own judgment." Luna v. Shalala, 22 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir.
1994) (citation omitted). The Court will affirm the
Commissioner's decision if it is reasonably drawn from the record
and is supported by substantial evidence, even if some evidence
may also support the claimant's position. See 42 U.S.C. § 405
(g), 1383(c)(3). Nevertheless, in making his decision, the ALJ
must articulate some minimal basis for the conclusions that he
reaches so that the reviewing court may "trace the path" of the
ALJ's reasoning. See Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 307-08 (7th
Cir. 1995). And, although the ALJ may credit certain evidence and
discredit other evidence, he may not simply ignore evidence
favorable to the claimant in articulating the basis for his
decision. See Groves v. Apfel, 148 F.3d 809, 811 (7th Cir.
The Statutory and Regulatory Framework
To establish a disability under the Social Security Act,
plaintiffs must satisfy two conditions. First they must have a
physical or mental impairment that is expected to be fatal or
that has lasted for a continuous period of at least twelve
months. Second, they must show that the impairment or impairments
prevent them from engaging in substantial, gainful, employment.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3). It is the claimants' burden to
show a disability. See, e.g., Steward v. Bowen, 858 F.2d 1295,
1297 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1988).
The Social Security regulations require the fact finder to
follow a five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. S 404.1520. The sequential five-step
inquiry requires the Commissioner to determine whether a
claimant: (1) is not doing substantial gainful activity; (2) has
a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment that meets or equals
one listed by the Commissioner; (4) can perform her past work;
and, (5) is capable of performing any work in the national
economy. See id. A claimant who does not have a listed
impairment (step three) but cannot perform his past work (step
four), shifts the burden of showing that he can perform some
other job (the fifth step) to the government. Pope v. Shalala,
998 F.2d 473, 477-78 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing Schroeter v.
Sullivan, 977 F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 1992)). At the fifth step,
the claimant's physical and mental impairments, age, physical and
mental impairments, age, education, and work experience are all
relevant. See Paige v. Bowen, 695 F. Supp. 975, 977-78 (N.D.Ill.