United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
PHIL GILBERT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Terry Lee
Ditterline (plaintiff), represented by counsel, seeks
judicial review of the final agency decision denying his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
Plaintiff filed for DIB on July 30, 2012, alleging a
disability onset date of July 18, 2011. (Tr. 168-74.)
Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on November 5,
2012, and again upon reconsideration on April 3, 2013. (Tr.
96-100, 103-06.) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Stuart Janney
conducted an evidentiary hearing and later issued an
unfavorable opinion on January 5, 2015. (Tr. 14-24.) The
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review and
the ALJ's decision became the final agency decision. (Tr.
2-4.) Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies and
filed a timely complaint with this Court. (Doc. 4.)
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following points:
ALJ's RFC assessment was erroneous.
ALJ erred in not developing the VE's testimony at the
qualify for DIB, a claimant must be disabled within the
meaning of the applicable statutes. For these purposes,
“disabled” means 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).
“physical or mental impairment” is an impairment
resulting from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(3). “Substantial gainful activity”
is work activity that involves doing significant physical or
mental activities, and that is done for pay or profit. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1572.
Security regulations set forth a sequential five-step inquiry
to determine whether a claimant is disabled. The Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals has explained this process as
The first step considers whether the applicant is engaging in
substantial gainful activity. The second step evaluates
whether an alleged physical or mental impairment is severe,
medically determinable, and meets a durational requirement.
The third step compares the impairment to a list of
impairments that are considered conclusively disabling. If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
then the applicant is considered disabled; if the impairment
does not meet or equal a listed impairment, then the
evaluation continues. The fourth step assesses an
applicant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
ability to engage in past relevant work. If an applicant can
engage in past relevant work, he is not disabled. The fifth
step assesses the applicant's RFC, as well as his age,
education, and work experience to determine whether the
applicant can engage in other work. If the applicant can
engage in other work, he is not disabled.
Weatherbee v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 565, 568-569 (7th
another way, it must be determined: (1) whether the claimant
is presently unemployed; (2) whether the claimant has an
impairment or combination of impairments that is serious; (3)
whether the impairments meet or equal one of the listed
impairments acknowledged to be conclusively disabling; (4)
whether the claimant can perform past relevant work; and (5)
whether the claimant is capable of performing any work within
the economy, given his or her age, education and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Simila v.
Astrue, 573 F.3d 503, 512-513 (7th Cir. 2009);
Schroeter v. Sullivan, 977 F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir.
answer at steps one and two is “yes, ” the
claimant will automatically be found disabled if he or she
suffers from a listed impairment, determined at step three.
If the claimant does not have a listed impairment at step
three, and cannot perform his or her past work (step four),
the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show
that the claimant can perform some other job. Rhoderick
v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir. 1984). See
also Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir.
2001) (Under the five-step evaluation, an “affirmative
answer leads either to the next step, or, on Steps 3 and 5,
to a finding that the claimant is disabled. . . . If a
claimant reaches step 5, the burden shifts to the ALJ to
establish that the claimant is capable of performing work in
the national economy.”).
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to ensure that
the Commissioner made no mistakes of law and that decision is
supported by substantial evidence. This scope of judicial
review is limited. “The findings of the Commissioner of
Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive. . . .” 42 U.S.C.
§405(g). Thus, this Court must determine not whether
plaintiff was, in fact, disabled at the relevant time, but
only whether the ALJ's findings were supported by
substantial evidence and that the ALJ made no mistakes of
law. See, Books v. Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 977-78 (7th
Cir. 1996) (citing Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 306
(7th Cir. 1995)). This Court uses the Supreme Court's
definition of substantial evidence: “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
reviewing for substantial evidence, the entire administrative
record is taken into consideration, but this Court does not
reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of
credibility, or substitute its own judgment for that of the
ALJ. Brewer v. Chater, 103 F.3d 1384, 1390 (7th Cir.
1997); Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1121 (7th
Cir. 2014). While judicial review is deferential, however, it
is not abject; this Court does not act as a rubber stamp for
the Commissioner. See Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d
920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010), and cases cited therein.
Decision of the ALJ
Janney followed the five-step analytical framework set forth
above. He determined plaintiff met the insured status
requirements through December 31, 2014 and had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since July 18, 2011. The ALJ
also opined plaintiff had severe impairments of bilateral
shoulder osteoarthritis; hemangioma at ¶ 3 of the
cervical spine; a left arm neurological defect variously
diagnosed as monoeuritis; Parson-Turner Syndrome; subscapular
neuropathy; axonal neuropathy; cervicobrachial syndrome;
brachial plexus lesions; and thoracic outlet syndrome. (Tr.
Janney determined plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work
with various restrictions. Although plaintiff was unable to
perform past relevant work, the ALJ found plaintiff could
perform other jobs that existed in the economy. He was,
therefore, determined not disabled. (Tr. 18-24.)
Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary
record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The
following summary of the record is directed to the points
raised by plaintiff.
alleged in the agency forms that depression, arthritis,
rotator cuff injuries, and issues with his left suprascapular
nerve prevented him from working. (Tr. 197.) He stated that
he was unable to lift anything and had limited motor skills
due to a lack of nerve function and muscle deterioration. His
conditions weakened his upper body and he experienced chronic
pain. Plaintiff had difficulty dressing and required