United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. Schenkier Magistrate Judge
Sheila Bond ("Ms. Bond" or "claimant")
has filed this action seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) of a final decision of the Defendant,
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("SSA"), denying her application for Supplemental
Security Income benefits ("SSI") and Disability
Income benefits ("DIB"). Ms. Bond filed for SSI and
DIB on June 19, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of
August 3, 2010 (R. 249). In her application for benefits, Ms.
Bond stated that she was unable to work because of
depression, anxiety, HIV, arthritis, thyroid disease, and
high blood pressure (R. 296). Her claim was denied initially
on October 16, 2013 and on appeal on June 9, 2014 (R. 77-78,
Bond, represented by counsel, participated in a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on June
29, 2015; a vocational expert ("VE") also testified
(R. 38). Ms. Bond was born on January 16, 1964 and was 49
year old at her hearing, subsequently turning 50 years old,
which is defined as an individual closely approaching
advanced age. 20 CFR 404.1563 and 436.963. At the hearing,
Ms. Bond amended her alleged onset date to April 17, 2013 (R.
19). On July 9, 2015, the ALJ issued an opinion finding that
claimant was not disabled (R.16). The Appeals Council upheld
the ALJ's determination, making it the final opinion of
the Commissioner (R. 1-3). See 20 C.F.R. §
404.981; Shauger v. Astrue, 675 F.3d 690, 695 (7th
presently consider Ms. Bond's motion to reverse or remand
the Commissioner's decision (doc. #11), and the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment (doc. # 18).
For the reasons that follow, Ms. Bond's motion for remand
is denied, and the Commissioner's motion for summary
judgment is granted.
opinion, the ALJ went through the familiar five step process.
20 CFR 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a). At Step One, the ALJ
determined that Ms. Bond had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her amended onset date (R. 21). At
Step Two, the ALJ found that Ms. Bond had the severe
impairments of HIV status, obesity, hypertension, depression,
and anxiety (Id.). The ALJ determined that although
Ms. Bond's degenerative joint disease in her knee was a
medically determinable impairment, it was not severe (R. 22).
In explaining her decision that Ms. Bond's knee
impairment was not severe, the ALJ noted that although Ms.
Bond testified that she had right knee pain that got
"really bad" on some days, Ms. Bond had reported to
one doctor that she took daily walks, and she treated the
pain with Ibuprofen and creams (Id.). At a
consultative examination in September 2013 with Norbert
DeBiase, M.D., Ms. Bond did not use a cane or walker, and had
only mild difficulty getting on the exam table, normal to
mildly decreased range of motion in her knees, and 5/5 joint
strength in all limbs (Id.). The ALJ also referred
to a CT scan taken in October 2014 that revealed only mild
degenerative joint disease (Id.).
Three, the ALJ found that Ms. Bond's impairments did not
meet or medically equal a Listing (R. 22). Before reaching
Step Four, the ALJ assigned Ms. Bond a Residual Functional
Capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with certain
postural limitations: never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolding and occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ramps and stairs (R. 24). In analyzing Ms.
Bond's physical impairments, the ALJ gave great weight to
the opinions of non-examining agency doctors, David Mack and
Ernst Bone, who reviewed the medical record in September 2013
and June 2014 and reviewed the report of consultative
examiner, Dr. DeBiase (R. 94, 110, 473-477). Both doctors
opined that Ms. Bond could perform light work with additional
postural limitations; these opinions matched the RFC that the
ALJ ultimately assigned Ms. Bond (R. 85-86, 113-114). In
giving great weight to their opinions, the ALJ noted that
Drs. Mack and Bone were disability experts, their opinions
were consistent with the minimal treatment described in the
medical record, and there were no contradictory opinions by
acceptable medical sources (R. 27).
address Ms. Bond's mental impairments, the ALJ limited
her to work that avoided detailed or complex tasks and that
involved only simple instructions, routine, repetitive tasks,
occasional changes in the work setting, simple decision
making and limited social demands (Id.). The ALJ
rejected the opinion of a nurse practitioner who provided Ms.
Bond with therapy because she was not an acceptable medical
source (R. 27). The ALJ also explained that the nurse's
opinion that Ms. Bond had marked restrictions in activities
of daily living and in social functioning was not supported
by Ms. Bond's treatment history showing that she had a
positive response to medication (Zoloft) and evidence that
she was able to engage in a large number of activities of
daily living and social interactions, including attending
church and group therapy, participating in family activities,
cooking, driving, eating out, shopping, and attending
appointments (Id.), The ALJ also rejected the
opinion of agency psychological consultant, Lionel Hudspeth,
Psy.D, because he inconsistently opined both that Ms. Bond
had moderate limitations in concentration, persistence and
pace, and that her mental health impairment was not severe
the ALJ gave great weight to the opinion of a later
psychological consultant, David Voss, Ph.D., who opined that
Ms. Bond had no restrictions in her activities of daily
living, mild restrictions in social functioning, and moderate
limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace, but that
her limitations in this area would still permit her to
complete "routine, repetitive, unskilled tasks at a
consistent pace over a regular 40-hour workweek" (R, 28
and 110-12). Dr. Voss also opined that Ms. Bond could not
perform complex tasks or carry out detailed instructions but
could carry out the sustained performance of routine, simple
work tasks throughout a normal workday (R. 28). As a whole,
the ALJ found Dr. Voss' opinion well supported by and
consistent with the medical record (Id.).
will review the ALJ's decision deferentially, and will
affirm if it is supported by substantial evidence."
Decker v. Colvin, No. 13 C 1732, 2014 WL 6612886 at
*9 (N.D. 111. Nov. 18, 2014). Substantial evidence is
"relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Alevras v.
Colvin, No. 13 C 8409, 2015 WL 2149480 at *4 (N.D. 111.
May 6, 2015) (Schenkier, J.). The court will not
reweigh evidence or substitute its own judgment for that of
the ALJ. Decker, 2014 WL 6612886 at *9. In rendering
a decision, the ALJ "must build a logical bridge from
the evidence to his conclusion, but he need not provide a
complete written evaluation of every piece of testimony and
evidence." Id., quoting Schmidt v. Barnhart,
395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 2005).
motion for reversal or remand, Ms. Bond contends that the ALJ
made four errors. Specifically, she argues that that ALJ: (1)
wrongly determined that her degenerative joint disease was
not a severe impairment; (2) failed to submit a CT scan
report to the state agency doctors; (3) failed to discuss
relevant medical evidence which resulted in a faulty RFC; and
(4) wrongly discounted the opinion of a nurse practitioner.
We will discuss each issue in turn.
Bond's argument that the ALJ erred at Step Two by finding
her right knee joint disease to be non-severe can be quickly
resolved. The determination of whether a claimant has a
severe impairment at Step Two is a threshold requirement.
Curvin v. Colvin,778 F.3d 645, 648 (7th Cir. 2015).
If the ALJ finds that the claimant has even a single severe
impairment, the analysis proceeds to Step Three, to analyze
if any of the severe impairments meet or equal a Listing.
Id. "As long as the ALJ proceeds beyond Step
Two, as in this case, no error could result solely from his
failure to label an impairment as 'severe.'"
Muzzarelli v. Astrue, No. 10 C ...