United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Danielle Adams filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
her application Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income 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 (DIB) or Supplemental
Security Income (SSI), 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on October 7, 2013,
alleging she became disabled on February 1, 2011. (R. at 212,
216). These claims were denied initially and
upon reconsideration, after which Plaintiff filed a timely
request for a hearing. (Id. at 158). On April 25,
2016, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified before
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Melissa M. Santiago.
(Id. at 40-80). The ALJ also heard testimony from
Sarah Elizabeth Gibson, a vocational expert (VE).
(Id. at 40- 80, 378).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on June 9, 2016.
(R. at 17-33). Applying the five-step sequential evaluation
process, the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 1, 2013,
the date of her prior determinations. (Id. at 23). At
step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: asthma, obesity, diabetes mellitus,
depression with psychotic features, schizoaffective disorder,
bipolar disorder, and a history of learning disorder.
(Id. at 23). 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.
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 she “can
occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. She should avoid
concentrated exposure to dusts, fumes, gases, and poor
ventilation. She is limited to only simple, routine
instructions and tasks, and is limited to only occasional
interaction with the general public, coworkers, and
supervisors.” (R at 25). The ALJ determined at step
four that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant
work. (Id. at 31). At step five, based on
Plaintiff's RFC, her vocational factors, and the VE's
testimony, the ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the ...