United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
ELIAS N. TADROS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND United States Magistrate Judge
Elias N. Tadros filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
his applications 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.
applied for DIB and SSI benefits on June 23, 2013, alleging
that he became disabled on May 25, 2013, due to pain from a
bulging disc in his back. (R. at 18, 219). The application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id.
at 18, 70-109, 130-50). On August 26, 2015, Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 18, 37-69).
The ALJ also heard testimony from Edward Pagella, a
vocational expert (VE). (Id. at 18, 64-67).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on November 12,
2015. (R. at 18- 27). Applying the five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that
Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 25, 2013, the alleged onset date. (Id. at
20). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative
disc disease of the cervical spine, and obesity are severe
impairments. (Id. at 20-21). At step three, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the
severity of any of the listings enumerated in the
regulations. (Id. at 21).
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that he can perform light
work, except “he can never climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; can occasionally crouch, stoop, and climb ramps
and stairs; and can frequently handle and finger
bilaterally.” (R. at 21). Based on Plaintiff's RFC
and the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined at step four
that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work.
(Id. at 26). At step five, based on Plaintiff's
RFC, his vocational factors, and the VE's testimony, the
ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
including sorter, assembler, and packer. (Id. at
26-27). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
suffering from a disability as defined by the Act.
(Id. at 27).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
March 18, 2016. (R. at 1-4). Plaintiff now seeks judicial
review of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner. Villano v. Astrue, 556
F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's final decision is authorized
by § 405(g) of the SSA. In reviewing this decision, the
Court may not engage in its own analysis of whether the
plaintiff is severely impaired as defined by the Social
Security Regulations. Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d
995, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004). Nor may it “reweigh
evidence, resolve conflicts in the record, decide questions
of credibility, or, in general, substitute [its] own judgment
for that of the Commissioner.” Id. The
Court's task is “limited to determining whether the
ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence.” Id. (citing § 405(g)).
Evidence is considered substantial “if a reasonable
person would accept it as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Indoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d
470, 473 (7th Cir. 2004); see Moore v. Colvin, 743
F.3d 1118, 1120-21 (7th Cir. 2014) (“We will uphold the
ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence, that is, such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.”) (citation omitted). “Substantial
evidence must be more than a scintilla but may be less than a
preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d
836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). “In addition to relying on
substantial evidence, the ALJ must also explain his analysis
of the evidence with enough detail and clarity to permit
meaningful appellate review.” Briscoe ex rel.
Taylor v. Barn-hart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005).
this Court accords great deference to the ALJ's
determination, it “must do more than merely rubber
stamp the ALJ's decision.” Scott v.
Barnhart,297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation
omitted). “This deferential standard of review is
weighted in favor of upholding the ALJ's decision, but it
does not mean that we scour the record for supportive
evidence or rack our brains for reasons to uphold the
ALJ's decision. Rather, the ALJ must identify the
relevant evidence and build a ‘logical bridge'
between that evidence and the ultimate determination.”
Moon v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014).
Where the Commissioner's decision ...