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Worley v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division

February 13, 2014

Shawn Worley, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.

ORDER

IAIN D. JOHNSTON, Magistrate Judge.

The Claimant, Shawn Worley, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. ยง405(g), seeking reversal or remand of the decision by Respondent, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), [1] denying the Claimant's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act ("SSA"). This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment.

The Claimant argues that the Commissioner's decision denying her application for benefits should be reversed or remanded for further proceedings because the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred at step five of the sequential process. The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed because the ALJ did not err. For the reasons set forth more fully below, the Claimant's motion for summary judgment is denied, and the Commissioner's motion is granted.

I. ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION

The Claimant filed an application for both disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income. He was denied through every administrative step, including at his administrative hearing, where the Claimant was represented by counsel. At the hearing, the Claimant and Tyra Watts, a vocational expert ("VE") testified. At the very outset of the VE's testimony, the following exchange occurred between the ALJ and the VE:

Q: You understand that your testimony has to be pursuant to the DOT? If you deviate from the DOT, please explain the reasons for your deviation?

A: Yes, our honor. R. 47.

The ALJ then provided a series of hypotheticals to the VE, per standard practice. The hypotheticals incorporated the ALJ's residual functional capacity ("RFC") that the ALJ determined was applicable for the Claimant. As part of the RFC, the ALJ found that the Claimant "could lift about 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds more frequently." R. 49. Moreover, the ALJ restricted the Claimant's possible jobs so as to limit him to meet, greet, make change, and give simple instructions and directions. R. 50. The hypotheticals also provide that the person could "understand, follow and remember concrete instructions." R. 50.

Although the VE found that the Claimant could perform his past work, the ALJ found that the Claimant could not perform his past relevant work. R. 50-51. Specifically, the ALJ further restricted the possible jobs the Claimant could perform because of the Claimant's anti-social behavior and the stress involved in his past relevant work. Even after incorporating this restriction, the VE found that there will still other jobs the Claimant could perform. R. 51. The VE specifically identified two jobs and their respective DOT code numbers: information clerk (237.367-018) and route delivery clerk (222.587-034). R. 51.

Importantly, in determining the RFC, the ALJ did not make any credibility findings and simply accepted the Claimant's testimony at the hearing.

The Claimant's attorney did not object to the VE's qualifications or any questions asked of her by the ALJ. Moreover, the Claimant's counsel did not question the VE.

After the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. The ALJ's decision stated the following as the Claimant's RFC: the Claimant could perform light work, with limitations, including that the Claimant was limited to occasional climbing, stooping and crawling due to back pain and occasional knee pain; could lift twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds more frequently; that the Claimant have a sit or stand option; that the Claimant not be required to engage in assembly work and could only occasionally reach and grasp because of mild carpal tunnel syndrome; that the Claimant's work be restricted to simple unskilled or low semi-skilled functions; and further that the Claimant's work be limited to superficial interpersonal contact with supervisors, co-workers, and the public, "which includes meeting, greeting, making change, and giving simple instructions and directions." R. 13.

The ALJ's decision also found that the Claimant could perform the job functions of information clerk and route delivery clerk. R. 19-20. Consequently, the ALJ ...


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