United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, United States Magistrate Judge
Fred John Lorenz filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits under
Title II of the Social Security Act (Act). 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 423 et seq. The parties have consented
to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and Plaintiff has filed
a request to reverse the ALJ's decision and remand for
additional proceedings. For the reasons stated below, the
Commissioner's decision is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
recover Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), 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). In determining whether a claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner conducts a standard five-step
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; 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
applied for DIB on January 5, 2015, alleging that he became
disabled on January 1, 2015, due to COPD, joint disease,
hypertension, acute bronchitis, major depression, and tobacco
abuse. (R. at 13, 213). The application was denied initially
and upon reconsideration, after which Plaintiff filed a
timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 13, 68-97,
112-13). On April 6, 2016, Plaintiff, represented by counsel,
testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). (Id. at 13, 29-67). The ALJ also heard
testimony from Thomas A. Gusloff, a vocational expert (VE).
(Id. at 13, 59-65, 289).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on May 16, 2016.
(R. at 13-24). Applying the five-step sequential evaluation
process, the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1,
2015, the alleged onset date. (Id. at 15). At step
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's obesity, right hip
degenerative joint disease and bursitis, lumbar spondylosis
and stenosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD) are severe impairments. (Id. at 15-18). 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 13).
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that he can perform light
work, except he “can frequently but not constantly
balance, kneel and crawl. [Plaintiff] must avoid concentrated
exposure to hazards (defined as work at heights) or
respiratory irritants.” (R. at 18-19; see Id.
at 19-24). Based on Plaintiff's RFC and the VE's
testimony, the ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff is
capable of performing past relevant work as a security guard
and cashier. (Id. at 24). Accordingly, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff was not suffering from a disability
as defined by the Act. (Id.).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
August 9, 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).