United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
PATRICK M. O'BRIEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Patrick O'Brien 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 Titles II and XVI 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 filed cross motions for summary judgment.
For the reasons stated below, the case is remanded for
further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
recover Disability Insurance Benefits, 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
protectively applied for DIB and SSI on January 3, 2013,
alleging he became disabled on August 14, 2012. (R. at 17).
These claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration,
after which Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing.
(Id. at 17, 186-87). On August 14, 2015, Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Margaret Carey. (Id.
at 39- 109). The ALJ also heard testimony from Gary Wilhelm,
a vocational expert (VE), and Richard O'Brien,
Plaintiff's father. (Id.).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on September 25,
2015. (R. at 17- 28). Applying the five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since his alleged onset date of August 14, 2012.
(Id. at 19). At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia;
traumatic brain injury; and mood disorder/affective disorder.
(Id.). 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.
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that Plaintiff has the RFC
to perform light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that he is limited to:
frequent climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, ramps and
stairs, stooping, kneeling crouching, and crawling;
occasional overhead reaching; simple and routine tasks with
occasional decision making and occasional changes in the work
environment; no more than superficial interaction with the
public; can be around coworkers on a daily basis, but is
limited to no more than occasional interaction and thus
cannot perform tandem tasks or tasks where one production
step depends on another; and will be isolated with only
occasional interaction with supervisors.
(R. at 21-22). The ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff
was 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 found
that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including
marker-retail and housekeeper. (Id. at 27).
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a
disability, as defined by the Act, from the alleged onset
date through the date of the ALJ's decision.
(Id. at 28).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
November 16, 2016. (R. at 1-6). Plaintiff now seeks judicial
review of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final
decision of the ...