The opinion of the court was delivered by: Proud, Magistrate Judge:
In accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Roger E. Martin is before the Court, represented by counsel, seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying him Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).*fn1
Mr. Martin filed an application for benefits in November, 2006, alleging disability beginning on July 14, 2003. (Tr. 130). His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. After holding a hearing, ALJ Lawrence D. Wheeler denied the application for benefits in a decision dated October 22, 2009. (Tr. 10-21). Plaintiff's request for review was denied by the Appeals Council in November, 2010, and the decision of the ALJ became the final agency decision. (Tr. 1). Administrative remedies have been exhausted and a timely complaint was filed in this Court.
Issues Raised by Plaintiff
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in the following respects:
1. He erred in his consideration of the opinions of the state agency consultants.
2. He should have given greater weight to the opinions of plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, Dr. Qureshi.
3. He failed to perform a proper analysis of plaintiff's credibility.
4. He did not consider the effects of obesity. Applicable Legal Standards
To qualify for DIB or SSI, a claimant must be disabled within the meaning of the applicable statutes.*fn2 For these purposes, "disabled" means the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(A). A "physical or mental impairment" is an impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3) and 1382c(a)(3)(C). "Substantial gainful activity" is work activity that involves doing significant physical or mental activities, and that is done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572.
Social Security regulations set forth a sequential five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. It must be determined: (1) whether the claimant is presently unemployed; (2) whether the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that is serious; (3) whether the impairments meet or equal one of the listed impairments acknowledged to be conclusively disabling; (4) whether the claimant can perform past relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work within the economy, given his or her age, education and work experience. Schroeter v. Sullivan, 977 F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 1992); see also, 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b-f).
This Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to ensure that the decision is supported by substantial evidence and that no mistakes of law were made. The scope of review is limited. "The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Thus, this Court must determine not whether Mr. Martin is, in fact, disabled, but whether the ALJ's findings were supported by substantial evidence and whether any errors of law were made. See, Books v. Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 977-78 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 306 (7th Cir. 1995)). This Court uses the Supreme Court's definition of substantial evidence, i.e, "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richard v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
In reviewing for "substantial evidence," the entire administrative record is taken into consideration, but this Court does not reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility, or substitute its own judgment for that of the ALJ. Brewer v. Chater, 103 F.3d 1384, 1390 (7th Cir. 1997). However, while judicial review is deferential, it is not abject; this Court does not act as a rubber stamp for the Commissioner. See, Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010), and cases cited therein.
ALJ Wheeler followed the five-step analytical framework described above. He determined that Mr. Martin had not been engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. He noted that a prior application for benefits was denied on February 18, 2006. The ALJ found that plaintiff has severe impairments of degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic kidney disease, obesity, adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features, and cannabis abuse by history. He further determined that these impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment. The ALJ found that Mr. Martin has the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of work at the light exertional level. The VE testified that he could perform jobs which exist in significant numbers in the national and local economy. The ALJ accepted this testimony, and found that he is not disabled. (Tr. 10-21).
The Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The following summary of the record is directed to the points raised by plaintiff.
Mr. Martin was born in 1969, and was 34 years old when he allegedly became disabled. (Tr. 142). He was insured for DIB through December 31, 2008. (Tr. 143). A prior application for benefits was denied on February 18, 2006. (Tr. 143).
In a Work History Report, Mr. Martin indicated that he was a service operator for heavy equipment from 1999 through July, 2003. Before that, he drove a delivery truck for various employers. (Tr. 168).
Plaintiff was represented by an attorney at the evidentiary hearing on September 21, 2009. (Tr. 24). He was 40 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 35). He was six feet ...