United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND United States Magistrate Judge
Sharon Wofford filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title 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 inquiry:
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.
addition, in cases such as the one before the Court, where an
individual is determined to be disabled and entitled to
benefits for a closed period, the Commissioner uses an
eight-step sequential process to determine whether the
claimant's disability continues. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1594(f), 416.994(b)(5); see Phillips v. Astrue,
601 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1028 (N.D. Ill.2009). In applying the
eight-step process, the Commissioner must determine:
1. Has the claimant engaged in any substantial gainful
2. If not, does the claimant have an impairment or
combination of impairments which meets or equals the severity
of a listed impairment?
3. If not, has there been a medical improvement as shown by a
decrease in medical severity?
4. Is the medical improvement related to the claimant's
ability to do work?
5. If no to steps three and four, do any exceptions to
medical improvement apply?
6. If yes to step four, are the claimant's current
impairments severe in combination?
7. If the impairments are severe, can the claimant perform
his past relevant work?
8. If not, can the claimant perform any other work?
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1594(f), 416.994(b)(5); see
Phillips, 601 F.Supp.2d at 1028; O'Reilly v.
Astrue, No. 11 C 1409, 2012 WL 1068780, at ...