United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, United States Magistrate Judge
Edward Longmire filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
his application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under
Title XVI the Social Security Act (Act). 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1381 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
THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS
recover 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.
applied for SSI benefits on August 1, 2011, alleging that he
became disabled on January 1, 1997, due to affective
disorders, mood disorders, and asthma. (R. at
The application was denied initially on October 20, 2011, and
upon reconsideration on April 6, 2012, after which Plaintiff
filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 49-50,
66). On July 12, 2013, Plaintiff, represented by counsel,
testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). (Id. at 29-48). The hearing was held by video
with Plaintiff located at the Hill Correctional Institution
and his attorney was present at the hearing. (Id. at
18). The ALJ also heard testimony from Aimee Mowery, a
vocational expert (VE). (Id. at 29-48).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on August 6,
2013. (R. at 18-25). Applying the five-step sequential
evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that
Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity
since August 1, 2011, the application date. (Id. at
20). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
depression, asthma, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder,
and anti-social personality disorder were severe impairments.
(Id.). At step three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of any
of the listings enumerated in the regulations.
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that Plaintiff could
perform the full range of work at all exertional levels
except Plaintiff was limited to “1, 2, and 3-step job
tasks; no contact with the general public; no fast-paced
production jobs; must avoid concentrated exposure to
pulmonary irritants; and no reading or writing
requirements.” (R. at 21). At step four, the ALJ noted
that Plaintiff has no past relevant work. (Id. at
23). Based on Plaintiff's RFC, age, education, and the
VE's testimony, the ALJ determined at step five that
there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including hand
packager, sorter, and kitchen helper. (Id. at 24).
The ALJ indicated that “[t]hese would be reduced by 50%
due to no reading and writing. However, the [VE] testified
that she has placed individuals who speak no English and
cannot read or write in these positions.”
(Id.) Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
is not under a disability, as defined by the Act.
(Id. at 26- 27).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
August 26, 2016. (R. at 1-6). 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).
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.” Indoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d
470, 473 (7th Cir. 2004); see Moore v. Colvin, 743
F.3d 1118, 1120-21 (7th Cir. 2014) (“We will uphold the
ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence, that is, such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.”) (citation omitted). “Substantial
evidence must be more than a scintilla but may be less than a
preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d
836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). “In addition to relying on
substantial evidence, the ALJ must also 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. 2005).
this Court accords great deference to the ALJ's
determination, it “must do more than merely rubber
stamp the ALJ's decision.” Scott v.
Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation
omitted). “This deferential standard of review is
weighted in favor of upholding the ALJ's decision, but it
does not mean that we scour the record for supportive
evidence or rack our brains for reasons to uphold the
ALJ's decision. Rather, the ALJ must identify the
relevant evidence and build a ‘logical bridge'
between that evidence and the ultimate determination.”
Moon v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014).
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 Cir.
support for his request for reversal, Plaintiff argues that
the ALJ (1) failed to consider the line of evidence
documenting Plaintiff's auditory hallucinations when
formulating the RFC; (2) failed to properly assess
Plaintiff's mental RFC; (3) mischaracterized the medical