United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
SHAWN E. LAPPIN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CLIFFORD J. PROUD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Shawn
Lappin is before the Court, represented by counsel, seeking
judicial review of the final agency decision denying him
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for benefits on May 14, 2012, alleging disability
beginning on January 11, 2012. (Tr. 20). After holding an
evidentiary hearing, ALJ Lee Lewin denied the application in
a written decision dated December 23, 2013. (Tr. 20-30). The
Appeals Council denied review, and the decision of the ALJ
became the final agency decision. (Tr. 1). Administrative
remedies have been exhausted and a timely complaint was filed
in this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following points:
1. The ALJ improperly assessed plaintiff's RFC.
2. The ALJ erred in analyzing the opinion from the examining
3. The ALJ improperly assessed plaintiff's credibility.
4. The ALJ erred in failing to question the vocational expert
about the source of components of her testimony.
qualify for DIB or SSI, a claimant must be disabled within
the meaning of the applicable statutes. For these
purposes, “disabled” means the “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A).
“physical or mental impairment” is an impairment
resulting from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C.
§423(d)(3). “Substantial gainful activity”
is work activity that involves doing significant physical or
mental activities, and that is done for pay or profit. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1572.
Security regulations set forth a sequential five-step inquiry
to determine whether a claimant is disabled. The Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals has explained this process as
The first step considers whether the applicant is engaging in
substantial gainful activity. The second step evaluates
whether an alleged physical or mental impairment is severe,
medically determinable, and meets a durational requirement.
The third step compares the impairment to a list of
impairments that are considered conclusively disabling. If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
then the applicant is considered disabled; if the impairment
does not meet or equal a listed impairment, then the
evaluation continues. The fourth step assesses an
applicant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
ability to engage in past relevant work. If an applicant can
engage in past relevant work, he is not disabled. The fifth
step assesses the applicant's RFC, as well as his age,
education, and work experience to determine whether the
applicant can engage in other work. If the applicant can
engage in other work, he is not disabled.
Weatherbee v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 565, 568-569 (7th
another way, it must be determined: (1) whether the claimant
is presently unemployed; (2) whether the claimant has an
impairment or combination of impairments that is serious; (3)
whether the impairments meet or equal one of the listed
impairments acknowledged to be conclusively disabling; (4)
whether the claimant can perform past relevant work; and (5)
whether the claimant is capable of performing any work within
the economy, given his or her age, education and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520; Simila v.
Astrue, 573 F.3d 503, 512-513 (7th Cir. 2009);
Schroeter v. Sullivan, 977 F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir.
answer at steps one and two is “yes, ” the
claimant will automatically be found disabled if he or she
suffers from a listed impairment, determined at step three.
If the claimant does not have a listed impairment at step
three, and cannot perform his or her past work (step four),
the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show
that the claimant can perform some other job. Rhoderick
v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir. 1984). See also,
Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir.
2001) (Under the five-step evaluation, an “affirmative
answer leads either to the next step, or, on Steps 3 and 5,
to a finding that the claimant is disabled…. If a
claimant reaches step 5, the burden shifts to the ALJ to
establish that the claimant is capable of performing work in
the national economy.”).
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to ensure that
the decision is supported by substantial evidence and that no
mistakes of law were made. It is important to recognize that
the scope of review is limited. “The findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . . .” 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Thus, this Court must determine not
whether plaintiff was, in fact, disabled at the relevant
time, but whether the ALJ's findings were supported by
substantial evidence and whether any errors of law were made.
See, Books v. Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 977-78 (7th Cir.
1996) (citing Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 306 (7th
Supreme Court has defined substantial evidence as “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). In reviewing for
“substantial evidence, ” the entire
administrative record is taken into consideration, but this
Court 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). However, while judicial
review is deferential, it is not abject; this Court does not
act as a rubber stamp for the Commissioner. See, Parker
v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010), and cases
Decision of the ALJ
Lewin followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. She determined plaintiff had not been engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date.
(Tr. 22). She found plaintiff had severe impairments of
bilateral hip necrosis, bilateral hip osteoarthritis, status
post left hip arthroscopy, bilateral shoulder vascular
necrosis, and mild obesity. (Tr. 23). The ALJ determined
these impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment.
found plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to
perform work at the sedentary level, with physical
limitations. (Tr. 23). Based on the testimony of a vocational
expert, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not able to perform
his past work. However, he was not disabled because he was
able to perform other work that exists in significant numbers
in the regional and national economies. (Tr. 28-29).