United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
LORI A. LINDEMANN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Lori A.
Lindemann, represented by counsel, seeks judicial review of
the final agency decision denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 423.
Lindemann applied for disability benefits in July 2013. She
initially claimed disability going back to 2004, but later
amended her alleged onset date to July 9, 2013. After holding
an evidentiary hearing, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Nathaniel Plucker denied the application on October 3, 2016.
(Tr. 24-34.) The Appeals Council denied review, and the
decision of the ALJ became the final agency decision. (Tr.
1.) Administrative remedies have been exhausted and a timely
complaint was filed in this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following points:
1. The ALJ erred in evaluating the credibility of
plaintiff's statements about her pain.
2. The ALJ failed to consider plaintiff's anxiety as a
severe impairment at Step 2.
qualify for benefits, a claimant must be
“disabled” pursuant to the Social Security Act.
The Act defines “disabled” as “unable 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. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The
physical or mental impairment must result from a medically
demonstrable abnormality. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(D).
Moreover, the impairment must prevent the plaintiff from
engaging in significant physical or mental work activity done
for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 416.972.
Security regulations require an ALJ to ask five questions
when determining whether a claimant is disabled. The first
three questions are simple: (1) whether the claimant is
presently unemployed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
physical or mental impairment; and (3) whether that
impairment meets or is equivalent to one of the listed
impairments that the regulations acknowledge to be
conclusively disabling. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4);
Weatherbee v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 565, 569 (7th Cir.
2011). If the answers to these questions are “yes,
” then the ALJ should find that the claimant is
times, an ALJ may find that the claimant is unemployed and
has a serious impairment, but the impairment is neither
listed in nor equivalent to the impairments in the
regulations-failing at step three. If this happens, then the
ALJ must ask a fourth question: (4) whether the claimant is
able to perform his or her previous work. Id. If the
claimant is not able to, then the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to answer a fifth and final question: (5)
whether the claimant is capable of performing any
work within the economy, in light of the claimant's age,
education, and work experience. If the claimant cannot, then
the ALJ should find the claimant to be disabled.
Id.; see also Simila v. Astrue,
573 F.3d 503, 512-13 (7th Cir. 2009); Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001).
claimant may appeal the final decision of the Social Security
Administration to this Court, but the scope of review here is
limited: while the Court must ensure that the ALJ did not
make any errors of law, the ALJ's findings of fact are
conclusive as long as they are supported by
“substantial evidence.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable person
would find sufficient to support a decision.
Weatherbee, 649 F.3d at 568 (citing Jens v.
Barnhart, 347 F.3d 209, 212 (7th Cir. 2003)). The Court
takes into account the entire administrative record when
reviewing for substantial evidence, but it does not reweigh
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute its own judgment for that of the ALJ.
Brewer v. Chater, 103 F.3d 1384, 1390 (7th Cir.
1997); Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1121 (7th
Cir. 2014). But even though this judicial review is limited,
the Court should not and does not act as a rubber stamp for
the Commissioner. Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920,
921 (7th Cir. 2010).
Decision of the ALJ
Plucker followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. He determined that Ms. Lindemann had not worked at the
level of substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset
date. He found that plaintiff had severe impairments of a
diffuse connective tissue disease and major depression.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the light exertional level with some
mental limitations. Based on the testimony of a vocational
expert (VE), the ALJ concluded that plaintiff could not do
her past work but that she was not disabled because she was
able to do other jobs which exist in significant numbers in
the national and regional economies.