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Priddy v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 8, 2013

KATHY A. PRIDDY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Carolyn W. Colvin, [1] Defendant.


DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.


Before the Court is a Report and Recommendation (R&R) (Doc. 16) of United States Magistrate Judge Clifford J. Proud, issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), recommending that the Commissioner's final decision denying plaintiff Kathy A. Priddy's application for social security benefits be affirmed. The R&R was sent to the parties, with a notice informing them of their right to file "objections" within fourteen days of service of the R&R. In accordance with the notice, plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R (Doc. 17), to which the Commissioner responded (Doc. 18).

Because plaintiff filed objections, this Court must undertake de novo review of the objected-to portions of the R&R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS LOCAL RULE 73.1(b); Willis v. Caterpillar, Inc., 199 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1999); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision." Willis, 199 F.3d at 904. In making this determination, the Court must look at all the evidence contained in the record and give fresh consideration to those issues for which specific objection has been made. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review of the findings of the R&R for which no objections have been made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-52 (1985). Plaintiff specifically objects to portions of the R&R's analysis. Plaintiff's brief argues the administrative law judge (ALJ) failed to consider all of plaintiff's severe impairments, specifically her headaches, in her decision and gave insufficient weight to the opinion of Dr. Gilbert-Johnson (Doc. 12). For the reasons discussed herein, the Court ADOPTS the findings and recommendation of the R&R.


Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final agency decision denying her Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB). Plaintiff applied for DIB in November 2009, alleging disability beginning on August 31, 2009 (Tr. 104). The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Counsel represented plaintiff during the administrative proceedings. After a video hearing held on July 11, 2011, ALJ Rebecca LaRiccia denied her application on August 20, 2011 (Tr. 8-22). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on February 21, 2012 and thus the August 20, 2011 decision became the final agency decision (Tr. 1).

Plaintiff specifically objects to the R&R's analysis of plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 16, pp. 13-17). Thus, as plaintiff does not object to the R&R's recitation of the applicable legal standards, the decision of the ALJ, the evidentiary record, evidentiary hearing, medical records, and state agency consultant assessment, the Court adopts these portions of the R&R as its own and will not summarize them fully here.

In brief, plaintiff was born in 1957, and was 52 years old on the alleged date of disability (Tr. 104). From 1990 to 2009, plaintiff worked as medical biller. She was laid off in June 2009. In a disability report, plaintiff stated that she was unable to work due to bi-polar disease with chronic depression and headaches as of August 31, 2009. (Tr. 124-25). The ALJ concluded that considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity (RFC), jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform and that she has thus not been under a disability from August 31, 2009 through the date of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 21-22).


The Court has reviewed the legal standard Magistrate Judge Proud employed de novo and agrees with the standard as discussed in the R&R. Thus, the Court will only summarize the proper standard it will use to determine the correctness of the ALJ's findings below.

a. Legal Standards

This Court's scope of review is limited in a social security appeal to ensuring that substantial evidence supports the decision and that it is free from mistakes of law. See Books v. Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 977-78 (7th Cir. 1996). The Supreme Court definition of "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 takes the entire administrative record into account but 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) ( overruled on other grounds by Johnson v. Apfel, 189 F.3d 561 (7th Cir. 1997)). However, despite this deferential review, the Court does not act as a rubber stamp for the Commissioner. See Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010).

To qualify for DIB, a claimant must be disabled within the meaning of the applicable statutes. In order to determine whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ must consider (1) whether the claimant is presently employed; (2) whether the claimant has an impairment or combination of impairments that is severe; (3) whether the impairments meet or equal one of the listed impairments acknowledged to be conclusively disabling; (4) whether the claimant can perform relevant work; and (5) whether the claimant is capable of performing any work within the economy given his age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b-f); see Schroeter v. Sullivan, 977 F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 1992). If the Commissioner finds the claimant has a severe impairment which renders him ...

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