United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ivette Williams filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) 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 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 DIB, 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
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
applied for DIB on January 18, 2013, alleging she became
disabled on April 20, 2012. (R. at 13). These claims were
denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id.
at 13, 139-40). On August 11, 2015, Plaintiff, represented by
counsel, testified at a hearing before Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) Jordan Garelick. (Id. at 13, 33-93). The
ALJ also heard testimony from Dennis Gustafson, a vocational
expert (VE). (Id.).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on October 23,
2015. (R. at 13- 22). 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 April 20, 2012. (Id.
at 15). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
following severe impairments: history of autoimmune diseases
(including hepatitis, lymphocytic thyroiditis, Sjogren's
syndrome, and fibromyalgia), primary biliary cirrhosis with
III/IV staging, and depression. (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 16).
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that Plaintiff has the RFC
to perform restricted light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.