April 1, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Central
District of Illinois. No. l:14-cv-01090 - James E. Shadid,
Posner, Easterbrook, and Williams, Circuit Judges.
WILLIAMS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
1993, Eric Alvarado was granted disability benefits due to
his impairments, which included a severe learning disorder.
In 2004, the Social Security Administration stopped paying
those benefits after determining that, despite his severe
learning disorder, Alvarado could do certain relatively
simple jobs. Because that determination was supported by
substantial evidence, we affirm.
was born in 1967. He was first awarded disability benefits in
1993, when it was determined that he had suffered from severe
impairments since birth. He was granted childhood disability
benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The Social
Security Act requires the Social Security Administration to
periodically review whether a recipient remains disabled.
Alvarado's eligibility was reviewed and affirmed in 1999.
But in a 2004 review, the Administration determined that his
disability had ended, so his benefits were discontinued.
challenged that determination, but a hearing officer upheld
it. After a hearing that included testimony from Alvarado,
his family and friends, and experts, an Administrative Law
Judge also upheld the decision. The Appeals Council denied
review and Alvarado sought review in federal court. But based
on the parties' agreement, the district court ordered the
case remanded for further fact finding. On remand, the same
ALJ made the same determination-that Alvarado's
disability had ended.
wrote a 39-page opinion explaining her decision. In short,
she assumed the correctness of the prior determinations that
Alvarado was disabled, but found that the evidence showed his
disability had ended. She found that he continued to suffer
from a severe learning disorder, which prevented him from
performing many jobs, but which did not prevent him from
doing simple jobs that did not require interaction with the
public. Because a significant number of such jobs exist in
Illinois, she concluded that Alvarado was not disabled. The
Appeals Council denied review, a federal magistrate judge
recommended affirmance, the district judge affirmed, and this
Did Not Violate Remand Order
we address the merits, we note that many of Alvarado's
arguments proceed from a faulty premise: that the ALJ
violated the remand order. Alvarado suggests that the order
barred the ALJ from evaluating any evidence dating from
before 1999 (when Alvarado's eligibility was last
affirmed). But that is not what the order says. To the
contrary, by directing the ALJ to compare evidence from
before 1999 with evidence from after 1999, the order
required the ALJ to evaluate the earlier evidence.
sure, the order limited the scope of the remand, but the
limit was not exceeded. In the typical case, the
Administration cannot terminate a recipient's benefits
without finding that he experienced some "medical
improvement" that allows him to work even though he
previously could not. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1594(c). There are exceptions to the medical improvement
requirement, under which a recipient can be found newly
ineligible even if he did not improve medically. The most
relevant exception is where "substantial evidence
demonstrates that any prior disability decision was in
error." Id. § 404.1594(d)(4). The remand
order limited the ALJ's ability to terminate
Alvarado's benefits on the basis of an exception to the
medical improvement requirement. The ALJ did not violate the
order because she did not apply any exception-she explicitly
found that Alvarado had improved.
Substantial Evidence Supports ALJ's Decision
the Appeals Council denied review, we review the ALJ's
decision directly. Tumminaro v. Astrue, 671 F.3d
629, 632 (7th Cir. 2011). We will affirm as long as the
ALJ's findings were supported by "substantial
evidence/' 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which 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). We will not decide
the facts anew, reweigh ...