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Segerstrom v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

December 19, 2017

TIFFANY CATHERINE SEGERSTROM, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARY M. ROWLAND, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Tiffany Catherine Segerstrom filed this action seeking reversal of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for Childhood Disability 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 moved for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

         I. THE SEQUENTIAL EVALUATION PROCESS

         To recover Childhood Disability Benefits (CBD), 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 inquiry:

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 months?
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 occupation?
5. Is the claimant unable to perform any other work?

20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509, 404.1520[2]; 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 at 868.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff applied for childhood disability benefits on January 14, 2013, due to learning disability, anemia, Von Willebrand's disease, and noise related anxiety, alleging disability since October 12, 2012. (R. at 86-87). The application was denied initially on May 2, 2013, and upon reconsideration on November 26, 2013, after which time Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). (Id. at 86-99, 100-14, 136-37). On January 28, 2015, Plaintiff appeared and testified in front of ALJ Daniel Dadabo. (Id. at 32-63). The ALJ also heard testimony from, Gloria Segerstrom, Plaintiff's mother, and Timothy Bobrowski, a vocational expert (VE). (Id. at 32, 63-85).

         On April 29, 2015, ALJ Daniel Dadabo denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (R. at 11-26). The ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process and found at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of October 12, 2012. (Id. at 13). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: learning disorder with low average intellectual functioning and anxiety. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ found Plaintiff's impairments, alone or in combination, did not meet or medically equal a Listing. (Id. at 16).

         The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) and determined that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, “subject to the need for simple work that does not require a specific production rate, is routine and stays the same day-to-day, involving only occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors, and which does not require public contact or work in tandem with others.” (R. at 18). At step four, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff has no past relevant work. (Id. at 24). 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 local economy that Plaintiff can perform, including cleaner/ housekeeper, surveillance system monitor, and hand packager. (Id. at 25). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined by the Act, from the alleged onset date of October 12, 2012 through the date of the ALJ's decision on April 29, 2015. (Id. at 25-26).

         On August 27, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Id. at 1-6). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final decision of the ...


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