United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
DAWN A. CAWVEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Dawn M.
Cawvey, represented by counsel, seeks judicial review of the
final agency decision denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
Cawvey applied for benefits in January 2013, alleging a
disability beginning in 2010. She later amended the alleged
date of onset to August 1, 2012. After holding an evidentiary
hearing, ALJ Koren Mueller denied the application on May 2,
2016. (Tr. 19-31.) The Appeals Council denied review, and the
decision of the ALJ became the final agency decision subject
to judicial review. (Tr. 1.) Administrative remedies have
been exhausted and Caawvery filed a timely complaint in this
makes the following arguments:
1. The ALJ failed to account for plaintiff's limitations
in ability to maintain concentration, persistence or pace in
assessing plaintiff's mental residual functional capacity
2. The ALJ erred in failing to identify and resolve conflicts
between the testimony of the vocational expert and
information contained in the Dictionary of Occupational
qualify for benefits, a claimant must be
“disabled” pursuant to the Social Security Act.
The Act defines a “disability” as the
“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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). The physical or mental impairment must result
from a medically demonstrable abnormality. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(3). 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. §
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. § 404.1520(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).
Mueller followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. She determined that plaintiff had not worked since the
alleged onset date and that she was insured for DIB through
March 31, 2015.
found that plaintiff had severe impairments of seizure
disorder, degenerative disc disease, migraine headaches,
asthma, mild carpal tunnel syndrome, mood disorder, and
anxiety disorder, and that these impairments do not meet or
equal a listed impairment. At this step, the ALJ determined
that plaintiff had moderate difficulties in both social
functioning and ability to maintain concentration,
persistence or pace.
found that Ms. Cawvey had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the light exertional level with some
physical and mental limitations. The mental limitations were
that plaintiff was limited to performing simple, repetitive,
routine tasks in a work environment free of fast-paced
production requirements, involving simple work-related
decisions with few work-place changes. She was also limited
to only occasional interaction with the public.
upon the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that
plaintiff not was capable of performing her past work as a
bus driver, but she was not disabled because she was capable
of performing other jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy.
Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary
record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The
following summary of the record is directed to the points
raised by plaintiff and is confined to the relevant time
period. As plaintiff addresses only her mental limitations, a