United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE.
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff John Benny
Chairs, Sr. seeks judicial review of the final agency
decision denying his application for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for DIB and SSI in July 2013 alleging a disability
onset date of March 15, 2013. (Tr. 193-207.) His applications
were denied at the initial level and again on
reconsideration. (Tr. 73-117.) Plaintiff requested an
evidentiary hearing, which administrative law judge (ALJ)
Mary Ann Poulose conducted in February 2015. (Tr. 32-67.) ALJ
Poulose issued an unfavorable decision thereafter. (Tr.
14-31.) The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request
for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final agency
decision. (Tr. 1-6.) Plaintiff exhausted his administrative
remedies and filed a timely Complaint in this Court (Doc. 1).
Raised by Plaintiff
argues the ALJ erred by not articulating the residual
functional capacity (RFC) in a function-by-function
assessment. He also asserts the ALJ erroneously evaluated his
allegations of pain and failed to include an assistive device
restriction in the hypothetical RFCs at the evidentiary
hearing. Plaintiff also contends the Appeals Council applied
the wrong standard in evaluating the ALJ's decision.
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 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).
Poulose determined plaintiff meets the insured status
requirements through December 31, 2018, and had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since March 15, 2013, the
alleged onset date. She found plaintiff had a severe
impairment of status-post right pilon fracture with
post-traumatic arthritis. (Tr. 19.) The ALJ opined plaintiff
had the RFC to perform a full range of sedentary work.
Although plaintiff could not perform past relevant work, he
was not disabled because other jobs existed in the economy
that he could perform. (Tr. 21-26.)
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.
was born in October 1966. He alleged that a broken ankle,
chronic pain, and depression limited his ability to work. He
previously worked as a custodian at a school and as a
furniture mover at a moving company. (Tr. 217-22.)
underwent two surgeries for an ankle injury and experienced
constant swelling and pain thereafter. He could not stand for
longer than five minutes without pain and found it difficult
to bend and kneel. He could walk about ten feet before he
needed to rest. Plaintiff used a cane and crutches and wore a
brace. (Tr. 235, 240-41.)