United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Michael Shawn Kenneth Morton filed this action seeking
reversal of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying his application for continuation of
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI
of the Social Security Act (Act). 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g); 42 U.S.C. § 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 Plaintiff has filed a request to reverse the ALJ's
decision and remand for an award of benefits or in the
alternative, for additional proceedings. For the reasons
stated below, the case is remanded for further proceedings
consistent with this Opinion.
previously received SSI based on disability as a child. After
Plaintiff attained age 18, it was determined that he was no
longer disabled as of March 1, 2011. (R. at 57, 64). His
application was denied on reconsideration on March 4, 2014.
(Id. at 64, 111). Plaintiff, unrepresented by
counsel, testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) on March 6, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois.
(Id. at 64, 8-56). Plaintiff's grandmother also
appeared and testified at the hearing. (Id.). The
ALJ also heard testimony from Grace Gianforte, a vocational
expert (VE). (Id.). Following the hearing,
additional records were entered into the administrative
record. (Id. at 64, see Ex. 15E, 23E, 16F,
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on July 31, 2015.
(R. at 64-78). Applying the five-step sequential evaluation
process, at step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
had the following severe impairments: asthma, borderline
intellectual functioning, learning disorder, attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress
disorder, adjustment disorder vs bipolar disorder, and
antisocial personality traits. (Id. at 66). At step
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of any of the listings
enumerated in the regulations. (R. at 67- 70). The ALJ then
assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(RFC) and determined that, since March 1, 2011,
Plaintiff had the RFC to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels but with the following non-exertional
the claimant should never work in environments with exposure
to concentrated pulmonary irritants such as dusts, fumes,
odors and gases. The claimant can perform simple, routine,
repetitive tasks that can be learned on short demonstration.
He is unable to perform work requiring math computation or
abilities. He is able to follow simple instructions but
cannot plan work independently. The claimant can have no more
than occasional contact with supervisors, coworkers and the
general public and cannot work on joint tasks with coworkers.
The claimant cannot perform fast production pace work and can
only perform goal oriented work. (R. at 70).
determined at step four that Plaintiff has no past relevant
work. (Id. at 76). Based on Plaintiff's RFC,
age, education, work experience, 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. (Id. at 77). Accordingly, the
ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's disability ended on March
1, 2011 and that Plaintiff has not become disabled again
since that date. (Id. at 78).
October 5, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (R. at 1-4). 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 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act. 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 42 U.S.C. § 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)
(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).
The Court must critically review the ALJ's decision to
ensure that the ALJ has built an “accurate and logical
bridge from the evidence to his conclusion.”
Young, 362 F.3d at 1002. 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. 2002).
challenges the ALJ's decision, arguing that: (1) the ALJ
did not properly assess Plaintiff's mental impairments
with respect to Listing 12.05C; (2) the ALJ's
determination of Plaintiff's mental RFC was not supported
by substantial evidence; (3) the ALJ ignored favorable VE
testimony; and (4) the ALJ erred in failing to properly
assess Plaintiff's subjective complaints. (Dkt. 19).
After reviewing the record and the parties' briefs, the
Court is convinced by the second and third arguments and
determines that remand is warranted.