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Moore v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 27, 2014

JENNIFER LEE MOORE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee

Argued January 15, 2014.

Page 1119

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 11 C 6153 -- Susan E. Cox, Magistrate Judge.

For JENNIFER LEE MOORE, Plaintiff - Appellant: Joseph S. Sellers, Attorney, SPECTOR & LENZ, Chicago, IL.

For CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee: Cynthia A. Freburg, Attorney, Andrew Neltner, Attorney, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Office of the General Counsel, Region V, Chicago, IL.

Before FLAUM, EASTERBROOK, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1120

Rovner, Circuit Judge.

Jennifer Lee Moore filed an application for disability benefits under the Social Security Act, alleging that she became disabled on September 6, 2007. After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) concluded that Moore suffered from a number of severe impairments, but that she was capable of performing her past work and therefore was not entitled to disability benefits. The district court affirmed, and Moore appeals that determination to this court.

When the Appeals Council denies review as it did in this case, the ALJ's decision constitutes the final decision of the Commissioner. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009). Because our review of the district court's affirmance is de novo, we review the ALJ's decision directly. Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351, 361 (7th Cir. 2013). We will uphold the ALJs decision if it is supported by substantial evidence, that is, " such relevant

Page 1121

evidence as 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); McKinzey v. Astrue, 641 F.3d 884, 889 (7th Cir. 2011); Scott v. Astrue, 647 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 2011); Pepper, 712 F.3d at 361-62. Although we will not reweigh the evidence or substitute our own judgment for that of the ALJ, we will examine the ALJ's decision to determine whether it reflects a logical bridge from the evidence to the conclusions sufficient to allow us, as a reviewing court, to assess the validity of the agency's ultimate findings and afford Moore meaningful judicial review. Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1002 (7th Cir. 2004); Roddy v. Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013); Pepper, 712 F.3d at 362; Villano, 556 F.3d at 562. A decision that lacks adequate discussion of the issues will be remanded. Id.

In determining whether a person is disabled, an ALJ applies a five-step sequential evaluation process. At step one, the ALJ considers whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b). Moore was not so engaged, and therefore the analysis proceeds to the second step, which is a consideration of whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment, or combination of impairments, that is " severe." 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c).

In order for an impairment to be considered severe at this step of the process, the impairment must significantly limit an individual's ability to perform basic work activities. If the evidence indicates that an impairment is a slight abnormality that has no more than a minimal effect on an individual's ability to work, then it is not considered severe for Step 2 purposes. Here, the ALJ determined that Moore had the following severe impairments: migraine headaches; asthma; morbid obesity; and rheumatoid arthritis. The ALJ concluded that those impairments imposed more than minimal limitations on Moore's ability to perform basic work-related activities. The ALJ concluded that a number of other impairments impacting Moore were not severe, ...


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