The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morton Denlow, United States Magistrate Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This case comes before the Court for a review of the final decision of
Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying
Plaintiff Georgia Robinson ("Claimant" or "Robinson") supplementary
security income benefits ("SSI"). Claimant seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision. The matter comes before the Court on
cross-motions for summary judgment. The principle issue raised by
Claimant is whether the Administrative Law Judge made a sufficient
credibility determination in accordance with Social Security Ruling 96-7p
and Zurawski v. Halter,
245 F.3d 881, 887-88 (7th Cir. 2001). For the
reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.
II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Claimant filed her application for SSI benefits on February 17, 1998.
R. 118-21. Her application was denied on May 7, 1998, and on May 13, 1998
she filed a timely request for reconsideration. R. 72-77. On June 24,
1998, her claim was denied at the reconsideration level. R. 78-80.
On July 14, 1998, Claimant filed a timely request for hearing. R.
81-83. A hearing was held before ALJ Richard J. Boyle on June 6, 1999 at
which Claimant, her aunt, Beula Smith, Medical Expert Dr. William
Buckingham and Vocational Expert William Schweitz testified. R. 26-69. On
August 27, 1999, the ALJ issued his decision finding Claimant not
disabled because she could perform a significant number of light jobs.
R. 11-19. The Claimant seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g). The Court conducted oral argument on
the cross-motions for summary judgment on December 3, 2002.
Judicial review of a Commissioner's final decision is governed by
42 U.S.C. § 405 (g), which provides that the "findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." An ALJ's decision becomes the
Commissioner's final decision if the Appeals Council denies a request for
review. Wolfe v. Shalala, 997 F.2d 321, 322 (7th Cir. 1993). Under such
circumstances, the decision reviewed by the district court is the
decision of the ALJ. Eads v. Secretary of the Dept. of Health & Human
Serv., 983 F.2d 815, 816 (7th Cir. 1993). A reviewing court may not
decide facts anew, reweigh the evidence, or substitute its own judgment
for that of the Commissioner. Knight v. Chater, 55 F.3d 309, 313 (7th
Judicial review is limited to determining whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards in reaching his decision and whether there is
substantial evidence in the record to support his findings. Schoenfeld
v. Apfel, 237 F.3d 788, 792 (7th Cir. 2001); 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).
Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The court may reverse the
Commissioner's decision only if the evidence "compels" reversal, not
merely because the evidence supports a contrary decision. INS v.
Zacarias, 502 U.S. 478, 481, n. 1 (1992). The Act gives a court the power
to enter a judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause
for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).
A. CLAIMANT'S HEARING TESTIMONY AND REPORTS
Claimant was fifty years old on the date of the ALJ's decision. R. 31.
She has a high school diploma and past work experience as a packer. R
31-33. She last worked in late 1985 when she was laid off. R. 34. She
claims a disability onset date of August, 1989, four years after she was
laid off. R. 131.
B. TESTIMONY OF BEULA SMITH
Claimant's aunt, Beula Smith, testified she saw Claimant each week at
church. R. 53. She observed swelling in Claimant's hands, ankles and
elbows, a shortness of breath and ...