United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Byndum (“Plaintiff”) filed this action seeking
reversal of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying her applications for Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Titles XVI and II of the Social
Security Act (the “Act”). 42 U.S.C§§
405(g), 423 et seq. The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the United Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. 14). Plaintiff filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment on June 24, 2017. (Dkt. 17). The
Commissioner filed her motion on August 9, 2017. (Dkt. 19).
For the reasons stated below, this case is remanded for
further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
filed applications for DIB and SSI on April 9, 2013. (R. at
17). In both applications, Plaintiff alleged disability
beginning January 1, 2013. (Id.) These claims were
denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing.
(Id.) On November 20, 2015, Plaintiff, represented
by counsel, testified at a hearing before Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Melissa M. Santiago. (Id.) The ALJ also
heard testimony from Brian L. Harmon, an impartial vocational
expert (“VE”). (Id.)
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on December 15,
2015. (R. at 17- 27). Applying the five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date of January 1, 2013.
(Id. at 19). At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lupus,
fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”), and substance abuse.
(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. (Id.
at 20). The ALJ 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) as
lifting/carrying 20 pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently, standing/walking about six hours in an eight hour
workday, and sitting about six hours in an eight hour
workday. Additionally, the ALJ limited Plaintiff to:
Never crawl, kneel, or climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds;
occasionally crouch, stoop, balance, and climb ramps and
stairs; avoid exposure to direct sunlight; simple, routine
instructions and tasks; low stress work environment where
changes are infrequent and gradually introduced; and frequent
judgment is required on the job. (R. at 21-22).
determined at step four that Plaintiff was unable to perform
her past work. (Id. at 25). At step five, based on
Plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and work experience, the
ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform,
including mail clerk, cashier II, and cleaner housekeeper.
(Id. at 26). 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 27).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
December 22, 2016. (Id. at 1). 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, 561-72 (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.
Idoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d 470, 473 (7th Cir.
2004); Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120-21 (7th
Cir. 2014). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla but
may be less than a preponderance. Skinner v. Astrue,
478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). In addition, the ALJ must
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.
great deference is given to the ALJ's determination, the
Court must do more than “rubber stamp” the
ALJ's decision. Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589,
593 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). This deferential
standard also does not mean that the Court scours the record
for supportive evidence or “rack[s] [its] brains”
for reasons to uphold the ALJ's decision. Moon v.
Colvin, 763 F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014). The ALJ must
identify the relevant evidence and build a “logical
bridge” between that evidence and the ultimate
determination. Id. 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
raises a number of arguments challenging the ALJ's
decision. After reviewing the record and the parties'
briefs, this Court is persuaded by two arguments in
particular. The Court concludes that remand is warranted
because the ALJ 1) did not properly weigh the medical opinion
evidence and 2) failed to appropriately analyze
Plaintiff's subjective symptoms.
The ALJ did not properly weigh the medical ...