United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Gilbert Magistrate Judge
Norma Quinones ("Claimant") seeks review of the
final decision of Respondent Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (the
"Commissioner"), denying Claimant's application
for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act. The parties consented to the
jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge for all
proceedings, including entry of final judgment pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1. [ECF No. 8.] The
parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment
pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
[ECF Nos. 15, 22.] For the reasons discussed below,
Claimant's motion for summary judgment is granted, and
the Commissioner's is denied. The decision of the
Commissioner is reversed, and the case is remanded for
further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
November 16, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of
September 1, 2010. (R. 12.) After an initial denial and a
denial on reconsideration, Claimant filed a request for an
administrative hearing. (R. 12, 83.) Claimant appeared and
testified before an Administrative Law Judge (the
"ALJ") on December 11, 2013. (R. 12, 25.) A
vocational expert, Stephen Sprauer, also testified at the
January 9, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying
Claimant's application for benefits based on a finding
that she was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R.
12-19.) The opinion followed the five-step sequential
evaluation process required by Social Security Regulations.
20 § C.F.R. 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ found that
Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date of November 16, 2011.
(Id. at 14.) At step two, the ALJ found that
Claimant had the severe impairments of a history of hepatitis
C, a history of alcohol and drug abuse, obesity, diabetes,
depression, and panic disorder. (Id.) At step three,
the ALJ found that Claimant did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R., Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 § C.F.R. 404.1520.)
step four, the ALJ found that Claimant had the residual
functional capacity ("RFC") to work at the light
level with the following limitations: lifting no more than 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, standing or
walking 6 hours in an 8 hour work day; and sitting 6 hours in
an 8 hour work day. (R. 15.) Claimant could not climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; could occasionally climb ramps
and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; could
not tolerate contact with the public; could tolerate
incidental contact with coworkers; could not tolerate close
supervision; and could perform one, two and three-step jobs.
on this RFC, the ALJ determined at step four that Claimant
could not perform any past relevant work. (Id. at
17-18.) Then, at step five, the ALJ found that there were
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Claimant could perform, (R. 19.) Specifically,
the ALJ found Claimant could work as a housekeeper,
advertising material distributor, and shipping/ receiving
routing clerk. (Id.) Because of this determination,
the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled under the Social
Security Act. (Id.)
February 7, 2014, Claimant sought review of the ALJ's
decision. (R. 8.) On May 8, 2015, the Social Security Appeals
Council denied the request for review. (R. 1.) The ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner.
(Id.) See also Nelms v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097
(7th Cir. 2009). Claimant now seeks review in this Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v.
Baumhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the Commissioner's decision, a court may not
"displace [an] ALJ's judgment by reconsidering facts
or evidence, or by making independent credibility
determinations." Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408,
413 (7th Cir. 2008). A court "will reverse the findings
of the Commissioner only if they are not supported by
substantial evidence or if they are the result of an error of
law." Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d
535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). Substantial evidence means relevant
evidence that a reasonable person would accept as adequate to
support an ALJ's conclusion. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Under this standard,
a mere scintilla of evidence is not enough. Scott v.
Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002). In
reviewing the Commissioner's decision, a court cannot
reconsider the evidence or make independent credibility
determinations. Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413
(7th Cir. 2008).
when there is adequate evidence in the record to support an
ALJ's decision, the findings will not be upheld if the
ALJ failed to build an accurate and logical bridge from the
evidence to the conclusion. Berger v. Astrue, 516
F.3d 539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008). While an ALJ is not required
to address every piece of evidence in the record, his
analysis must be thorough enough for the reviewing court to
understand his reasoning. Zurawski v. Halter, 245
F.3d 881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001). At a minimum, an ALJ must
provide enough detail and clarity to allow meaningful
appellate review. Boiles v. Barnhart, 395 F, 3d 421,
425 (7th Cir. 2005). If the Commissioner's decision lacks
evidentiary support or adequate discussion of the issues, it
cannot stand. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562
(7th Cir. 2009).
presents two issues for review. First, Claimant argues that
the ALJ erred in assessing the credibility of Claimant's
testimony and allegations. (PI. Mot. at 6.) Second, Claimant
contends that the ALJ erred at step five in his assessment of
the jobs Claimant could perform in light of her RFC. (PI.
Mot. at 13.)
The ALJ Erred in Evaluating Claimant's Subjective ...