United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DAVID WEISMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Frank Burns filed this action seeking reversal of the
Commissioner's denial of disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) et seq.
The parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 638(c). (Dkt. 7.) For the
reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment.
a Disability under the Act
claimant must show a disability under the Act in order to
obtain disability insurance benefits. York v.
Massanari, 155 F.Supp.2d 973, 978 (N.D. Ill. 2001). To
do so, a claimant must establish 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 Social
Security regulations provide a five-step, sequential inquiry
to determine whether a claimant suffers from a disability:
(1) whether the claimant has performed any substantial
gainful activity during the period for which she claims
disability; (2) if not, whether she has a severe impairment
or combination of impairments; (3) if so, whether her
impairment meets or equals any impairment enumerated in the
regulations; (4) if not, whether she has the residual
functional capacity to perform her past relevant work; and
(5) if not, whether she can perform any other work existing
in significant numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520; see Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 885 (7th Cir. 2001). “The burden of proof is on
the claimant through step four; only at step five does the
burden shift to the Commissioner.” Clifford v.
Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2000).
filed his application for Disability Insurance Benefits on
October 29, 2013 alleging disability beginning October 13,
2010. (R. 75.) His application was initially denied, and
again upon reconsideration. (Id. at 84, 97.)
Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on May 15, 2016.
(See id. at 18.) The ALJ denied Plaintiff's
application, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled for
purposes of the Social Security Act. (Id. at 28.)
Court does not review the medical record in detail but in
sum, Plaintiff alleges he is disabled due to pain in his
upper right and left extremities, specifically, his shoulder,
elbow, and wrist on the right side, and his elbow on the left
side. (R. 390-92, 556.) Applying the five-step analysis, the
ALJ first determined that Plaintiff did not engage in
substantial gainful activity from the alleged onset date
through the date he was last insured. (R. at 20.) At step
two, the ALJ found Plaintiff's dysfunction of major
joints and carpal tunnel syndrome constituted severe
impairments. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found 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 21.)
next evaluated Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) and determined Plaintiff can perform
medium work as defined in 20 CFR §
404.1567(c) with the exception that Plaintiff should
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. (R. 22.)
Additionally, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff can frequently
reach overhead with the right upper extremity. (Id.)
On consideration of Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ found at
step four that Plaintiff could still perform his past
relevant work as a heavy equipment mechanic. (Id. at
27.) The ALJ further concluded that his work as a heavy
equipment mechanic did not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by the claimant's RFC.
(Id.) Accordingly, the ALJ held that Plaintiff
lacked a cognizable disability as delineated by the Act.
(Id. at 28.)
Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for review
of the ALJ's decision. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff now
seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision, which stands
as the Commissioner's final decision. Schmidt v.
Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 841 (7th Cir. 2007).
review of the Commissioner's final decision is authorized
by § 405(g) of the Act. 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 42 U.S.C. §
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); 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.”) (citations 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) (citations omitted). “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. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345,
351 (7th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). Although 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 “lacks evidentiary support
or is so poorly articulated as to prevent meaningful review,
the case must be remanded.” Steele v.
Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir. 2002).
asserts that the ALJ's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence because the ALJ (1) improperly assessed
Plaintiff's subjective symptoms; (2) improperly evaluated
Plaintiff's RFC; and (3) failed to make the required
finding of fact in determining Plaintiff could perform his
past work. (Pl's. Mem. at 9-14.) The Court addresses
Plaintiff's arguments below.
determining whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ must
consider all “symptoms, including pain, and the extent
to which [the claimant's] symptoms can reasonably be
accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence
and other evidence.” 20 C.F.R. § 202.1529. In the
spring of 2016, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) “updated its guidance about how to
evaluate symptoms in disability claims by issuing SSR 16-3p.
The new ruling eliminates the term ‘credibility'
from the SSA's sub-regulatory policies to ‘clarify
that subjective symptom evaluation is not an examination of
the individual's character.'” McCammond v.
Colvin, No. 15 C 6589, 2016 WL 3595736, at *2 (N.D. Ill.
July 5, 2016). A Court will only overturn an ALJ's
credibility determination if it is “patently
wrong.” Pepper v. Colvin, 712 F.3d 351, 367
(7th Cir. 2013) (internal ...