United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
SARAH L. KOHLHAAS, 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 Sarah L.
Kohlhaas seeks judicial review of the final agency decision
denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(DIB) and Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) benefits
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for benefits in May 2013, alleging that she became
disabled as of December 3, 2011: the day after her previous
application for disability benefits had been denied. After
holding an evidentiary hearing, ALJ Kevin R. Martin denied
the application on December 29, 2015. (Tr. 13-31.) 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
counsel, plaintiff raises the following points:
1. Whether the ALJ erred in giving significant weight to the
state-agency opinion while failing to explain why he
disagreed with the sitting aspect of the opinion;
2. Whether the ALJ erred in weighing every opinion in the
record except for that of the VE, despite the VE opinion
being baseless and flawed;
3. Whether the ALJ erred in adopting the VE opinions as
controlling without rationale; and
4. Whether the ALJ erred in failing to identify and resolve
conflicts between the VE's opinions and the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles
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. §
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).
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 ...