United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JUNE R. LALONE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GILBERT
PHIL GILBERT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff June R.
Lalone seeks judicial review of the final agency decision
denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for benefits in July 2013 alleging disability
beginning on February 1, 2013. After holding an evidentiary
hearing, ALJ Stewart T. Janney denied the application in a
written decision dated April 10, 2015. (Tr. 19-32.) 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 point:
1. The ALJ erred in giving too little weight to the opinion
of her treating physician, Dr. Todd Smith, and in giving too
much weight to the opinions of the reviewing state agency
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.
Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 674 (7th Cir. 2008);
accord Weatherbee v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 565, 568-69
(7th Cir. 2011).
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, 512-13 (7th Cir. 2009).
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 judicial 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. Lalone 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 Cir. 1995)). This Court
uses the Supreme Court's definition of substantial
evidence, i.e., “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971).
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); Moore v. Colvin,
743 F.3d 1118, 1121 (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), and cases
Decision of the ALJ
Janney followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. He determined that plaintiff had not worked at the
level of substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset
date, and that she was insured for DIB through December 31,
2014. He found that plaintiff had severe
impairments of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
sinus disease, nasal septal deviation, and right carpal
tunnel syndrome, none of which meet or equal a listed
found that Ms. Lalone had the RFC to perform work at the
light exertional level, limited to only occasional handling
of objects and fingering with both upper extremities, and she
should avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dust,
gasses, and areas of poor ventilation. She had no past
relevant work. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert,
the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled because she was
able to do jobs which exist in significant numbers in the
local and national economies.
Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary
record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The
following summary of the record is directed to the point