United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND United States Magistrate Judge
Humberto Trevino filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of
the Social Security Act (Act). 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
423 et seq., 1381 et seq. The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and filed cross motions for
summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the case is
remanded for further proceedings consistent with this
THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
recover DIB or SSI,  a claimant must establish that he or she
is disabled within the meaning of the Act. York v.
Massanari, 155 F.Supp.2d 973, 977 (N.D. Ill. 2001). A
person is disabled if he or she is unable to perform
“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.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a),
416.905(a). In determining whether a claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner conducts a standard five-step
1. Is the claimant presently unemployed?
2. Does the claimant have a severe medically determinable
physical or mental impairment that interferes with basic
work-related activities and is expected to last at least 12
3. Does the impairment meet or equal one of a list of
specific impairments enumerated in the regulations?
4. Is the claimant unable to perform his or her former
5. Is the claimant unable to perform any other work?
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509, 404.1520, 416.909, 416.920;
see Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir.
2000). “An affirmative answer leads either to the next
step, or, on Steps 3 and 5, to a finding that the claimant is
disabled. A negative answer at any point, other than Step 3,
ends the inquiry and leads to a determination that a claimant
is not disabled.” Zalewski v. Heckler, 760
F.2d 160, 162 n.2 (7th Cir. 1985). “The burden of proof
is on the claimant through step four; only at step five does
the burden shift to the Commissioner.”
Clifford, 227 F.3d at 868.
applied for DIB and SSI on November 22, 2011, alleging that
he became disabled on February 1, 2011, because of broken
neck and back due to car accident, migraines, and high blood
pressure. (R. at 22, 147, 269). The application was denied
initially and on reconsideration, after which Plaintiff filed
a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 22, 139-47,
150-52, 162). On January 21, 2014, Plaintiff, represented by
counsel, testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 22, 51-138). The ALJ also heard
testimony from Leigh Ann Bluhm, a vocational expert (VE), and
Chukwuemeka Ezike, a medical expert (ME). (Id. at
22, 102-38, 187-89).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on February 5,
2014. (R. at 22- 34). Applying the five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since February 1, 2011, the alleged onset date. (Id.
at 24). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, cervical spine
facet arthro-sis/spondylosis, history of fracture of the
vertebra of the cervical spine, and arthritis of the
bilateral knees are severe impairments. (Id.). At
step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff does not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equal the severity of any of the listings
enumerated in the regulations. (Id. at 25-26).
then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determined that he has the capacity to
perform light work, except that Plaintiff
is never to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, but he is able
to occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, kneel, stoop,
crawl, crouch or bend; he is to avoid concentrated exposure
to temperature extremes.
(R. at 26). Based on Plaintiff's RFC and the VE's
testimony, the ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff is
unable to perform any past relevant work. (Id. at
32). At step five, based on Plaintiff's RFC, age,
education, and the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined
that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform such as
assembler, inspector, and hand packager. (Id. at
32-33). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is not
suffering from a disability, as defined by the Act.
(Id. at 33-34).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
July 8, 2015. (R. at 1-5). Plaintiff now seeks judicial
review of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner. Villano v. Astrue, 556
F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).