United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
ZACHARY WINTERS, on behalf of the Estate of Howard Winters, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER
BILLY McDADE United States Senior District Judge.
matter is before the Court on the Motion for Counsel (Doc.
10) filed by the Plaintiff, Zachary Winters. In assessing
whether the Court should reach out to potential counsel, the
Court has reviewed the Social Security Administration
transcript provided by the Defendant in this case. The Court
is of the opinion that appointing counsel in this case is
unnecessary as the Plaintiff has no viable grounds for
successful appeal, so that motion (Doc. 10) is DENIED. For
the reasons discussed below, the decision of the
Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”), David W.
Thompson, is AFFIRMED.
January 9, 2013, the claimant, Howard Winters, applied for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act, claiming that he had
become disabled as of February 15, 2013. (R.
He claimed that he suffers learning disabilities,
hypertension and diabetes. (R. 43). The Social Security
Administration initially denied his applications on August
19, 2013. (R. 53, 65, 94). Plaintiff filed for
reconsideration and was again denied on October 25, 2013. (R.
80, 92, 101). On November 19, 2013, Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an ALJ. (R. 106). Unfortunately, Mr. Winters
passed away before the hearing. (R. 117). His son, Zachary
Winters, filed the necessary paperwork to substitute into the
matter (R. 123-24) and attended a hearing on January 16,
2015, in which he testified. (R. 27-37).
February 10, 2015, the ALJ, David W. Thompson, issued an
opinion finding that the claimant was not disabled and thus
not eligible for DIB or SSI. (R. 16-19). On March 31, 2015,
Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the
ALJ's decision. (R. 11). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on July 14, 2016, thereby
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security. (R. 8). Plaintiff then filed
this action with this Court on September 26, 2016. The
Defendant waived any statute of limitations argument when it
retroactively granted Plaintiff's request for an
extension of time in which to file this civil action. (R. 1).
qualify for DIB and/or SSI under the Social Security Act,
claimants must prove that they are unable to “engage in
any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment.” 42 U.S.C.
§§ 416(i)(1), 1382c(a)(3)(A). Additionally, the
impairment must be of a sort “which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1),
1382c(a)(3)(A). With respect to a claim for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits, claimants must
also show that their earnings record has acquired sufficient
quarters of coverage to accrue disability insurance benefits
and that their disability began on or before the date that
insurance coverage ended. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(3),
Commissioner engages in a factual determination to assess
claimants' abilities to engage in substantial gainful
activity. McNeil v. Califano, 614 F.2d 142, 145 (7th
Cir. 1980). To do this, the Commissioner uses a five-step
sequential analysis to determine whether claimants are
entitled to benefits by virtue of being disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(1), 416.920(a)(1); Maggard v.
Apfel, 167 F.3d 376, 378 (7th Cir. 1999).
first step, a threshold determination is made as to whether
the claimant is presently involved in any substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is not engaged in such
activity, the Commissioner then considers the medical
severity of the claimant's impairments. Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the
impairments meet the twelve-month duration requirement, the
Commissioner next compares the claimant's impairments to
a list of impairments contained in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of
Part 404 of the Code of Federal Regulations and deems the
claimant disabled if the impairment matches the list.
Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii),
416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairments do not
match the list, then the Commissioner considers the
claimant's Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) and past relevant work. Id.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If
claimants are still able to perform their past relevant work,
then they are not disabled and the inquiry ends. Id.
If they are unable to perform their past relevant work, then
the Commissioner considers the claimants' RFC, age,
education, and work experience to see if they can transition
to other work. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If a transition is not possible, then the
claimant is deemed disabled. Id.
plaintiff has the burden of production and persuasion on the
first four steps of the Commissioner's analysis.
McNeil, 614 F.2d at 145. However, once the plaintiff
shows an inability to perform any past relevant work, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show an ability to
engage in some other type of substantial gainful employment.
Id. (citing Smith v. Sec'y of Health, Educ.
& Welfare, 587 F.2d 857, 861 (7th Cir. 1978)).
Standard of Review
Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). “The standard of review that governs
decisions in disability-benefit cases is deferential.”
Eichstadt v. Astrue, 534 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir.
2008). When a claimant seeks judicial review of an ALJ's
decision to deny benefits, this Court must only
“determine whether [the ALJ's decision] was
supported by substantial evidence or is the result of an
error of law.” Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363,
369 (7th Cir. 2004). “The findings of the
[Commissioner] as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). “Substantial evidence, ‘although more
than a mere scintilla of proof, is no more than such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Kepple v.
Massanari, 268 F.3d 513, 516 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations
determine whether the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, this Court will review the entire
administrative record, but will not “reweigh the
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute [its] own judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d
863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000). While this Court must ensure that
the ALJ “build[s] an accurate and logical bridge from
the evidence to his conclusion, ” he need not address
every piece of evidence. Clifford, 227 F.3d at 872.
The Court will remand the case only where the ...