United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
ORDER AND OPINION 
JONATHAN E. HAWLEY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff, Deborah Montalta, filed an application for Social
Security Disability benefits (“SSD”) on April 2,
2013, alleging disability since March 31, 2005. (Tr. 66,
149-1552). Her application was denied (Tr. 78-81,
94-96) and Montalta requested a hearing by an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) on December 12, 2013. (Tr.
100-101). In a letter dated August 25, 2014, Ms. Montalta
amended her onset of disability to November 1, 2006. (Tr.
173). A hearing was held before ALJ Karen Sayon on October 6,
2014. (Tr. 32-60). By decision dated December 5, 2014, ALJ
Sayon found Ms. Montalta not disabled. (Tr. 15-31). The
Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision by the
Appeals Council. However, the Appeals Council denied the
request for review on March 13, 2015. (Tr. 1-7). This was the
final act of the Defendant, Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”). The Plaintiff argues
in this Court that the ALJ erred when finding that her
alleged cervical spine impairment was non-severe at step two
of the sequential process, described below. The Court
disagrees and, accordingly, as set forth, infra, the
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (D. 9) is DENIED
and the Defendant's Motion for Summary Affirmance (D. 14)
Court's function on review of a denial of social security
benefits is not to try the case de novo or to
supplant the ALJ's findings with the Court's own
assessment of the evidence. See Schmidt v. Apfel,
201 F.3d 970, 972 (7th Cir. 2000); Pugh v. Bowen,
870 F.2d 1271 (7th Cir. 1989). Indeed, "[t]he 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). Although great deference is afforded
to the determination made by the ALJ, the Court does not
"merely rubber stamp the ALJ's decision."
Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir.
2002). The Court's function is to determine whether the
ALJ's findings were supported by substantial evidence and
whether the proper legal standards were applied. Delgado
v. Bowen, 782 F.2d 79, 82 (7th Cir. 1986). Substantial
evidence is defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support the decision.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971);
Henderson v. Apfel, 179 F.3d 507, 512 (7th Cir.
order to qualify for disability insurance benefits, an
individual must show that her inability to work is medical in
nature and that she is totally disabled. Economic conditions,
personal factors, financial considerations, and attitudes of
the employer are irrelevant in determining whether a
plaintiff is eligible for disability. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1566, 416.966 (1986). The establishment of
disability under the Act is a two-step process.
the plaintiff must be suffering from a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment, or combination of impairments,
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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). Second,
there must be a factual determination that the impairment
renders the plaintiff unable to engage in any substantial
gainful employment. McNeil v. Califano, 614 F.2d
142, 143 (7th Cir. 1980). The factual determination is made
by using a five- step test. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920. In the following order, the
ALJ must evaluate whether the claimant:
1) currently performs or, during the relevant time period,
did perform any substantial gainful activity;
2) suffers from an impairment that is severe or whether a
combination of her impairments is severe;
3) suffers from an impairment which meets or equals any
impairment listed in the appendix and which meets the
4) is unable to perform her past relevant work which includes
an assessment of the claimant's residual functional
5) is unable to perform any other work existing in
significant numbers in the national economy.
Id. An affirmative answer at any step leads either
to the next step of the test, or at steps three and five, to
a finding that the plaintiff is disabled. A negative answer
at any point, other than at step three, stops the inquiry and
leads to a determination that the plaintiff is not disabled.
Garfield v. Schweiker, 732 F.2d 605 (7th Cir. 1984).
plaintiff has the burdens of production and persuasion on
steps one through four. However, once the plaintiff shows an
inability to perform past work, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to show ability to engage in some other type of
substantial gainful employment. Tom v. Heckler, ...