United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
David Weisman United States Magistrate Judge.
David John Raymer appeals the Commissioner's decision
denying his application for Social Security benefits. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the
filed an application for benefits on January 29, 2014,
alleging a disability onset date of March 4, 2013. (R. 79.)
His application was denied initially on May 20, 2014, and
again on reconsideration on January 30, 2015. (R. 79, 88.)
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on May 18, 2016. (R.
21-71.) On June 6, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying
plaintiff's application. (R. 92-103.) The Appeals Council
denied review (R. 1-3), leaving the ALJ's decision as the
final decision of the Commissioner. See Villano v.
Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).
Court reviews the ALJ's decision deferentially, affirming
if it is supported by "substantial evidence in the
record, " i.e., '"such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'" White v. Sullivan,
965 F.2d 133, 136 (7th Cir. 1992) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). "Although this
standard is generous, it is not entirely uncritical, "
and the case must be remanded if the "decision lacks
evidentiary support." Steele v. Barnhart, 290
F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2002).
the Social Security Act, disability is defined as 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). The regulations prescribe a five-part
sequential test for determining whether a claimant is
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. Under the
regulations, the Commissioner must consider: (1) whether the
claimant has performed any substantial gainful activity
during the period for which he claims disability; (2) if not,
whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination
of impairments; (3) if so, whether the claimant's
impairment meets or equals any listed impairment; (4) if not,
whether the claimant retains the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform his past relevant work; and (5)
if not, whether he is unable to perform any other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
Id.; Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 885 (7th Cir.
2001). The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one
through four, and if that burden is met, the burden shifts at
step five to the Commissioner to provide evidence that the
claimant is capable of performing work existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. See 20
one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since March 4, 2013, the alleged
onset date of his disability. (R. 94.) At step two, the ALJ
found that plaintiff had the severe impairments of
"hypertension, diabetes mellitus with peripheral
neuropathy, and obesity." (Id.) At step three,
the ALJ determined that plaintiff did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled
the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Id.)
At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity ("RFC"):
[T]to perform light work ... in that [he] would be able to
lift and carry 20 pounds frequently and occasionally.
However, he would be limited to sitting for a total of four
hours and standing a total of four hours in an eight-hour
workday. He would require a job that would allow him to
alternate between sitting and standing every thirty minutes.
He would be limited to fingering bilaterally, and he should
avoid exposure to extreme cold.
(R. 95.) At step five, the ALJ found that there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
plaintiff can perform, and thus he is not disabled. (R.
asserts that the ALJ did not appropriately weigh the opinion
of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Christou, who
opined that plaintiff can only sit or stand for thirty
minutes, can only walk for one block, and handles objects
poorly because of pain. (R. 270.) An ALJ must give a treating
physician's opinion controlling weight if "it is
well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with
the other substantial evidence in [the] case record." 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2). "If an ALJ does not give a
treating physician's opinion controlling weight, the
regulations require [her] to consider the length, nature, and
extent of the treatment relationship, frequency of
examination, the physician's specialty, the types of
tests performed, and the consistency and supportability of
the physician's opinion, " in assessing the opinion.
Moss v. Astrue, 555 F.3d 556, 561 (7th Cir. 2009);
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c).
only "accord[ed] some weight" to Dr. Christou's
opinion because: (1) his treatment notes are
"sparse" and "contain . . . very few
objective clinical findings"; (2) he saw plaintiff
"only a few times per year"; and (3) it was
contradicted by evidence that plaintiff had worked as a
bouncer from August 2015 through February 2016 and had
"normal ability to perform fine dexterous
movements." (R. 101.) Though the ALJ did not explicitly
weigh each of the regulatory factors in assessing Dr.
Christou's opinion, "she did note the lack of
medical evidence supporting [it] . . . and its inconsistency
with the rest of the record, " which "is
enough." Henke v. Astrue, 498 F.App'x 636,
640 n.3 (7th Cir. 2012). Thus, the Court finds no error in
the ALJ's assessment of Dr. Christou's opinion.
plaintiff argues that "objective evidence such [as]
blood pressure readings and blood work" are sufficient
to establish that he is disabled. However, hypertension
"generally causes disability through its effects on
other body systems, " and thus the Listings instruct
ALJs to evaluate hypertension "by reference to the
specific body system(s) affected (heart, brain, kidneys, or
eyes)." See Social Security Listing 4.00 H,
(last visited May 17, 2017). As the ALJ noted, the record
"does not show [that plaintiff has a] cardiac
abnormality, brain abnormality, kidney abnormality, or ocular
abnormality." (R. 95.) Therefore, she correctly
concluded that plaintiff did not have Listing-level
ALJ's conclusion that there is no evidence of
Listing-level neuropathy is equally sound. Plaintiff would
meet that Listing only if the record showed that he has: (1)
"[disorganization of motor function in two extremities .
. . resulting in an extreme limitation . . . in the ability
to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or
walking, or use the upper extremities"; or (2)
"[m]arked limitation ... in physical functioning"
and in "understanding, remembering, or applying
information, " "[interacting with others, "
"[c]oncentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace,
" or [a]dapting or managing oneself." See
Social Security Listing 11.14, availableathttps://www.ssa.gOv/disability/professionals/bluebook/l1.00-Neurological-Adult.htm#l 114 (last visited May
17, 2017). Though plaintiff repeatedly complained to Dr.
Christou about hand or leg pain, Dr. Christou consistently
noted that plaintiff was "[a]ble to move [his]
extremities appropriately." (See R. 303, 305,
308-09, 312, 316.) Moreover, the consulting examiner said
that plaintiff has "normal fine dexterity in both hands,
" walks without an assistive device, and has only