United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
KIMBERLY K. WHYDE, 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 Kimberly
K. Whyde seeks judicial review of the final agency decision
denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 423.
applied for DIB on August 5, 2013, and for SSI on August 7,
2013. She alleged a disability onset date of January 31,
2011. (Tr. 227-34.) Plaintiff's application was denied at
the initial level and again upon reconsideration. (Tr.
95-122, 125-56.) Plaintiff requested an evidentiary hearing,
which Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Stuart T. Janney
conducted on December 15, 2015. (Tr. 40-94.) ALJ Janney
ultimately issued an unfavorable decision on January 12,
2016. (Tr. 17-34.) The Appeals Council denied review,
rendering the ALJ's decision the final agency decision.
(Tr. 1-6.) Plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies
and filed a timely complaint in this Court (Doc. 1).
Raised by Plaintiff
argues the ALJ erroneously evaluated the medical opinions,
improperly assessed plaintiff's credibility, and failed
to respond to an objection plaintiff raised in a post-hearing
qualify for benefits, a claimant must be
“disabled” pursuant to the Social Security
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 that 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).
Janney found plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through September 30, 2016, and had not engaged in any
substantial gainful activity since January 31, 2011. He
opined plaintiff had severe impairments of left knee
arthritis; bilateral hip and bilateral sacroiliac joint
osteoarthritis; obesity; chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease; obstructive sleep apnea; ADHD; chronic schizophrenia
and/or schizoaffective disorder (bipolar type); major
depressive disorder; bipolar disorder (type I); anxiety; and
panic disorder. (Tr. 19.)
found plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform sedentary work with several additional limitations.
(Tr. 22.) ALJ also found plaintiff was unable to perform any
past relevant work but was not disabled because jobs existed
that plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 31-33.)
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.
agency forms, plaintiff indicated the following conditions
limited her ability to work: chronic depression, migraines,
anxiety, fibromyalgia, arthritis, ADD, and bipolar disorder.
(Tr. 253.) Plaintiff had a twelfth-grade education and
throughout the previous fifteen years worked as a case
manager assistant at Murphysboro Health Center, performed
clerical work at Jackson Vision and Laser Center, and was a
pharmacy technician at Kroger Pharmacy. (Tr. 255.)
stated that she woke up around four to six a.m. because she
could not sleep due to pain. She took her medication upon
waking up and could barely move or walk. She had difficulty
dressing, bathing, and using the toilet. Plaintiff was able
to prepare sandwiches and frozen dinners. She could complete
some cleaning, wash laundry, and care for her animals. She
performed these chores for four to six hours a day, once or
twice per week. Her daughter helped her on bad days.
Plaintiff grocery shopped on a weekly basis. She could only
lift about ten pounds and she experienced pain with
squatting, bending, and kneeling. She could only stand for a
short period, and even sedentary tasks were difficult.
Climbing stairs was almost impossible for plaintiff. She
could walk about fifty feet before she needed to rest for ten
to fifteen minutes. She could pay attention for about ten
minutes and did not follow instructions well. (Tr. 277-84.)
had difficulty opening lids because she had no strength in
her arms, wrists, or hands. She had problems sorting and
filing papers because she easily lost concentration.
Plaintiff also lost her train of thought and confused numbers
when she dialed the phone. Weakness in her arms and upper
body made it difficult for her to carry bags of groceries,
baskets of laundry, or trash bags. She also had problems
reaching overhead because she got dizzy and light-headed.
depression left her feeling hopeless and helpless. Her
anxiety caused her stress and made it difficult to get along
with others. Fibromyalgia and arthritis woke her up at night.
disability reports from January and August 2014, plaintiff
stated all of her conditions were more severe. (Tr. 304,
Janney presided over an evidentiary hearing on December 17,
2015, at which plaintiff was represented by counsel.
had a driver's license and was able to drive for short
distances. Plaintiff weighed two-hundred-and-thirty pounds
and was five-foot, nine-inches tall. She had a gastric sleeve
and planned to undergo a bypass procedure. Plaintiff lost
seventy pounds ...