United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MARIA VALDEZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff Barbara Falkner's (“Plaintiff”)
claims for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United
States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment is granted. The case is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
November 14, 2011, Plaintiff filed claims for DIB and SSI,
alleging disability since November 17, 2010. (R. 43.) The
claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after
which Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id.)
On December 13, 2013, Plaintiff, represented by counsel,
appeared and testified before ALJ Stephen Templin. (R. 62-
119.) Medical expert (“ME”) Ashok Jilhewar, M.D.,
and vocational expert (“VE”) Natalie Maurin also
March 25, 2014, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claims for DIB
and SSI, finding her not disabled under the Social Security
Act. (R. 43-61.) The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) Appeals Council then denied
Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's
decision as the final decision of the Commissioner and,
therefore, reviewable by the District Court under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). See Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621,
626 (7th Cir. 2005) (R. 27-33.)
found at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity at any time material to his
decision. (R. 46.) At step two, the ALJ concluded that the
medical evidence established that Plaintiff had “at
least one, medically determinable, ‘severe'
impairment, or its equivalent.” (Id.) The ALJ
indicated at step three that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R.
49.) The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) and determined that
Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the full range of
light work. (R. 49-50.) At step four, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was able to perform any of her past relevant work.
(R. 56.) Because of this determination, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (R. 57.)
ALJ LEGAL STANDARD
the Social Security Act, a person is disabled if he has an
“inability to engage in 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(a). In order to determine whether a claimant
suffers from a disability, the ALJ considers the following
five questions in order: (1) Is the claimant presently
unemployed? (2) Does the claimant have a severe impairment?
(3) Does the impairment meet or medically equal one of a list
of specific impairments enumerated in the regulations? (4) Is
the claimant unable to perform his former occupation? and (5)
Is the claimant unable to perform any other work? 20 C.F.R.
affirmative answer at either step three or step five leads to
a finding that the claimant is disabled. Young v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386,
389 (7th Cir. 1992). A negative answer at any step, other
than at step three, precludes a finding of disability.
Id. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps
one through four. Id. Once the claimant shows an
inability to perform past work, the burden then shifts to the
Commissioner to show the claimant's ability to engage in
other work existing in significant numbers in the national
405(g) provides in relevant part that “[t]he findings
of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review
of the ALJ's decision is limited to determining whether
the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence
or based upon legal error. Clifford v. Apfel, 227
F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000); Stevenson v. Chater,
105 F.3d 1151, 1153 (7th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir.
2007). This Court may not substitute its judgment for that of
the Commissioner by reevaluating facts, reweighing evidence,
resolving conflicts in evidence, or deciding questions of
credibility. Skinner, 478 F.3d at 841; see also
Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008)
(holding that the ALJ's decision must be affirmed even if
“'reasonable minds could differ'” as long
as “the decision is adequately supported”)
(internal citation omitted).
is not required to address “every piece of evidence or
testimony in the record, [but] the ALJ's analysis must
provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind her decision
to deny benefits.” Zurawski v. Halter, 245
F.3d 881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001). In cases where the ALJ denies
benefits to a claimant, “he must build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion.”
Clifford, 227 F.3d at 872. The ALJ must at least
minimally articulate the “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); Murphy v. Astrue,
496 F.3d 630, 634 (7th Cir. 2007) (“An ALJ has a duty
to fully develop the record before drawing any conclusions .
. . and must adequately articulate his analysis so that we
can follow his reasoning . . . .”); see Boiles v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005).
conflicting evidence would allow reasonable minds to differ,
the responsibility for determining whether a claimant is
disabled falls upon the Commissioner, not the court. See
Herr v. Sullivan, 912 F.2d 178, 181 (7th Cir. 1990).
However, an ALJ may not “select and discuss only that
evidence that favors his ultimate conclusion, ” but
must instead consider all relevant evidence. Herron v.
Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994); see
Scrogham v. Colvin, 765 F.3d 685, 698 (7th Cir. 2014)