United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jeffrey T. Gilbert Magistrate Judge
Anthony Tincher ("Claimant") seeks review of the
final decision of Respondent Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security ("the
Commissioner"), denying Claimant's applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title
II of the Social Security Act ("the Act") and
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title
XVI of the Act. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local
Rule 73.1, the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
a United Magistrate Judge for all proceedings, including
entry of final judgment. [ECF No. 7.]
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, Claimant and the
Commissioner filed cross-motions for summary judgment. [ECF
No. 19; ECF No. 27.] For the reasons stated below,
Claimant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 19] is
granted, and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary
Judgment [ECF No. 27] is denied.
March 31, 2010, Claimant filed applications for a period of
disability, DIB, and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of
February 1, 2008 with a last insured date of December 31,
2009. (R. 169-79.) After an initial denial and a denial on
reconsideration (R. 91, 94, 102), Claimant filed a request
for an administrative hearing, (R. 108-10). After a hearing
on April 16, 2012, at which Claimant appeared without
representation, an Administrative Law Judge ("the first
ALJ") denied Claimant's applications in a written
decision issued on July 23, 2012. (R. 24-40, 44-8.)
Claimant's subsequent request for review was denied by
the Appeals Council. (R. 604.)
then filed a complaint in the United States District Court
for the Northern District of Illinois on November 21, 2013
challenging the Commissioner's decision. (R. 548-56.) On
July 14, 2015, another judge of this court reversed the
Commissioner's decision and remanded the case for further
administrative proceedings. Tincher v. Colvin, 2015
WL 4253632, at *8 (N.D. Ill. July 14, 2015). The court
identified multiple bases for remand. The first ALJ did not
consider what effect Claimant's severe mental impairments
had on his ability to take medication regularly or to seek
out free mental health care. Id. at *3-4. The first
ALJ also did not build a logical bridge between the record
and Claimant's residual functional capacity
("RFC"). Id. at *6. Specifically, the
first ALJ did not adequately assess the medical opinions of
Dr. David Voss, Dr. John Tomassetti, and Dr. Alan Jacobs.
Id. at *6-7. Finally, the first ALJ improperly
rejected Claimant's testimony that he needed to lie down
for up to three hours every day based solely on the absence
of objective evidence. Id. at *8.
remand, a different ALJ ("the ALJ") held a hearing
at which Claimant, this time represented by counsel, and a
vocational expert ("VE") testified. (R. 507-47.) In
an opinion issued on April 26, 2016, the ALJ denied
Claimant's applications for benefits based on a finding
that Claimant was not disabled under the Act. (R. 480-81,
499). In her decision, the ALJ listed 13 directions from the
district court's remand decision and then proceeded with
the five-step sequential evaluation process required by
Social Security Regulations. (R. 479-82.) At step one, the
ALJ found Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date. (R.
482.) At step two, the ALJ found Claimant had
the severe impairments of a generalized anxiety disorder, a
panic disorder without agoraphobia, a bipolar disorder, and a
substance abuse disorder (alcohol). (R. 483). At step three,
the ALJ found Claimant 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 (20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926). (R. 488).
to step four, the ALJ found Claimant had the RFC to perform a
full range of work at all exertional levels, but imposed
several non-exertional limitations. (R. 491.) Lhe ALJ found
Claimant could understand and remember short, simple
instructions; complete simple, routine, repetitive tasks;
maintain attention, concentration, and persistence necessary
to carry out simple work tasks at a consistent pace; adapt to
work situations and changes that occur in a usual workplace
with reasonable support and structure; and make simple
work-related decisions. (Id.) The ALJ also found
Claimant's contact with coworkers and the public should
be minimized, which she defined as permitting no public
contact and only occasional interaction with coworkers and
supervisors. (Id.) Finally, the ALJ found Claimant
could independently sustain work routine without need for
close supervision. (Id.) Based on this RFC, the ALJ
found, at step four, that Claimant was unable to perform any
past relevant work. (R. 497.) At step five, the ALJ
considered whether Claimant could do any other work given her
RFC, age, education, and work experience. (R. 498.) Based on
these factors, the ALJ determined that there were jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy
Claimant could perform, specifically cleaner II (DOT #
919.687-014), store laborer (DOT # 922.687-058), and hand
packer (DOT # 920.587-018). (Id.)
did not file exceptions with the Appeals Council and the
Appeals Council did not take jurisdiction, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner
pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.984. Claimant now seeks
review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
See Haynes v. Baumhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
decision by an ALJ becomes the Commissioner's final
decision if the Appeals Council denies a request for review.
Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000). Under
such circumstances, the district court reviews the decision
of the ALJ. Id. Judicial review is limited to
determining whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence in the record and whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards in reaching her decision. Nelms
v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2009).
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). A
"mere scintilla" of evidence is not enough.
Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir.
2002). Even when there is adequate evidence in the record to
support the decision, however, the findings will not be
upheld if the ALJ does not "build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to the conclusion."
Berger v. Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008).
If the Commissioner's decision lacks evidentiary support
or adequate discussion of the issues, it cannot stand.
Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir.
"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). Though the
standard of review is deferential, a reviewing court must
"conduct a critical review of the evidence" before
affirming the Commissioner's decision. Eichstadt v.
Astrue,534 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2008). It
may not, however, "displace the ALJ's judgment by
reconsidering facts or evidence." Elder v.
Astrue,529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008). Thus,
judicial review is limited to determining whether the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards and whether there is
substantial evidence to support the findings. Nelms,
553 F.3d at 1097. The reviewing court may enter a ...