United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Jamie Rae
Stanley seeks judicial review of the final agency decision
denying her Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 423.
applied for benefits in August 2011, alleging disability
beginning on August 12, 2011 (Tr. 13). After holding an
evidentiary hearing, ALJ Roxanne L. Kelsey denied the
application for benefits in a decision dated January 24, 2014
(Tr. 13-22). 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 failed to build a logical bridge between the
evidence and her conclusions regarding plaintiff's
2. The ALJ failed to build a logical bridge between the
evidence and her conclusions regarding plaintiff's asthma
3. The ALJ failed to build a logical bridge between the
evidence and her conclusions regarding plaintiff's
depression and anxiety.
4. The ALJ failed to properly evaluate plaintiff's
5. The ALJ violated SSR 96-8p by failing to explain how she
concluded that plaintiff could perform “the full range
of light work.”
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. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. Under this procedure, 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. Simila v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 503,
512-13 (7th Cir. 2009); Schroeter v. Sullivan, 977
F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir. 1992).
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has explained this process
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.
Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 674 (7th Cir. 2008);
accord Weatherbee v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 565, 569 (7th
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 Ms. Stanley 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. Murphy v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 811, 815 (7th Cir.
2014). 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) (collecting cases).
Decision of the ALJ
Kelsey followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. She found that plaintiff was insured for DIB through
June 30, 2013. She determined that plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset of disability.
application for benefits had been denied as of August 11,
2011, the day before the current alleged date of disability.
found that plaintiff had severe impairments of depression,
panic disorder without agoraphobia, COPD, asthma and
degenerative disc disease. She further determined that those
impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment.
found that Ms. Stanley's allegations about her
impairments and limitations were not “entirely
credible.” She determined that plaintiff had the RFC to
perform work at the light exertional level with physical and
mental limitations. She was unable to do her past relevant
work. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ
found that plaintiff was not ...