United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
TARI L. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
IAIN D. JOHNSTON, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Tari L. Young brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking remand of the decision denying her social security disability benefits. For the reasons set forth below, the decision is affirmed.
On December 28, 2009, plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. R. 10. She alleges that she has been unable to work since June 25, 2008 because of her fibromyalgia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and depression, among other things. Dkt. # 14 at 1.
On July 21, 2011, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). R. 30. Plaintiff testified that she was 56 years old, weighed 240 pounds, and has three adult children. R. 37, 42. She graduated from high school with a GED and went to college four years part time but did not graduate: "I almost finished but I didn't make it." R. 37.
Her last job was as a claims verifier at Rockford Mutual Insurance Company where she did various jobs such as faxing, running claims program, pulling files, running errands, and typing letters and memos. R. 39. After working in this job for approximately 14 years, plaintiff quit on June 25, 2008. R. 39-40. Plaintiff testified that she quit because of health problems, but then added that she "had a co-worker [who] was bullying [her] too." R. 40.
Plaintiff testified that she gets out of breath very easily and uses her inhaler quite a bit. R. 43. She can walk a half a block before she is out of breath. She had seen a counselor, Kathleen Freeburg, about a half a dozen times. R. 45, 315. She was taking the generic form of Paxil for her depression. The Paxil helped her, although she sometimes wonders whether she needs "a little bit more." R. 46. When she is depressed, she cries uncontrollably for quite a while and then works through it. She socializes with her sister and a girlfriend and goes to church when she is able to get a car. R. 46-47.
Plaintiff testified that she has an albuterol inhaler and was given samples from the doctor because she did not have the money to get any. She never used a nebulizer, but wonders whether she needs one. When asked whether she has ever had to gone to the hospital in the last two or three years because of breathing issues, she stated: "No, I've kept it pretty good under control with the Advair." R. 51.
The ALJ called a medical expert, Dr. Laura Rosch, to testify. She is a board-certified internist. R. 51-52. Her testimony is discussed further in Section II below.
On September 20, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff not disabled. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from several severe impairments, including fibromyalgia, obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. R. 12. However, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff's depression did not qualify as a severe impairment because it did not cause "more than minimal limitation in [plaintiff's] ability to perform basic mental work activities." R. 13. The ALJ also concluded that plaintiff's depression would not meet the Section 12 listings for mental impairments. The ALJ found that plaintiff had only mild limitations in activities of daily living, social functioning, and concentration, persistence or pace. R. 13-14. This issue is discussed further in Section I below. The ALJ found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work, subject to certain limitations. R.15.
A reviewing court may enter judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the [Commissioner], with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's factual findings are conclusive. Id. Substantial evidence exists if there is enough evidence that would allow a reasonable mind to determine that the decision's conclusion is supportable. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 399-401 (1971). Accordingly, the reviewing court cannot displace the decision by reconsidering facts or evidence, or by making independent credibility determinations. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008). However, the Seventh Circuit has emphasized that review is not merely a rubber stamp. Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002) (a "mere scintilla" is not substantial evidence). If the Commissioner's decision lacks evidentiary support or adequate discussion, then the court must remand the matter. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2009). Moreover, a reviewing court must conduct a critical review of the evidence before affirming the Commissioner's decision. Eichstadt v. Astrue, 534 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2008). Indeed, even when adequate record evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the decision will not be affirmed if the Commissioner does not build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to the conclusion. Berger v. Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008).
In this appeal, plaintiff only raises two arguments, the first focusing on her depression and the second on her chronic obstructive ...