United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Leroy Gunn
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.
applied for DIB and SSI on November 14, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of May 15, 2011. (Tr. 166-73.) His
application was denied at the initial level and again on
reconsideration. (Tr. 61-70, 73-86.) Plaintiff requested an
evidentiary hearing, which Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
Michael A. Lehr conducted on February 18, 2016. (Tr. 32-60.)
ALJ Lehr issued an unfavorable decision thereafter. (Tr.
20-27.) The Appeals Council denied review of plaintiff's
application, rendering the ALJ's decision the final
agency decision. (Tr. 3-8.) Plaintiff exhausted his
administrative remedies and filed a timely Complaint in this
Court. (Doc. 1.)
argues the ALJ failed to build a logical bridge between the
evidence and the RFC assessment and did not meet his burden
to fully and fairly develop the evidentiary record.
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).
Lehr determined plaintiff met the insured status requirement
through December 31, 2013 and had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since May 15, 2011. Plaintiff had the severe
impairment of osteoarthritis of the bilateral hips and
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. The ALJ
determine plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work, except
he could only occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl; could never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; and could not work in concentrated exposure to
extreme temperatures, vibration, or hazards; and could not
operate foot controls. ALJ Lehr also opined plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work but was not disabled
because jobs existed that he could perform. (Tr. 20-27.)
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 that the following
conditions limited his ability to work: fibromyalgia,
sciatica, scoliosis, ataxia, shooting pain in his eyes and
ear, recurring sinus infections, mild dystonia, neck spasms,
TMJ, rectum pain, and problems bending at the knees. His
hands and arms also locked up. Plaintiff ...