United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
LOUIS A. STEVENSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Louis A.
Stevenson, represented by counsel, seeks judicial review of
the final agency decision denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
Stevenson applied for disability benefits in July 2013. He
initially claimed disability going back to 2008, but later
amended his alleged onset date to May 22, 2009. After holding
an evidentiary hearing, ALJ Koren Mueller denied the
application on May 12, 2016. (Tr. 19-27.) 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.
makes the following arguments:
1. Whether the ALJ erred in finding Stevenson had “a
limited 8th or 9th grade education” with the ability
“to communicate in English”;
2. Whether the ALJ erred in providing a boilerplate
credibility finding, and in considering sporadic activities
of daily living as if they were evidence of the capacity to
function in full-time work; and
3. Whether the ALJ erred in failing to consider
Stevenson's lack of insurance, and instead finding
Stevenson's lack of treatment indicated a lack of
severity of Stevenson's conditions.
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).
Decision of the ALJ
Mueller followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. She determined that Mr. Stevenson had not worked at
the level of substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date. He was insured for DIB only through December 31,
2010. She found that plaintiff had severe
impairments of small bowel obstruction and osteoarthritis.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the medium exertional level with
some physical limitations. Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff could not
do his past work, but he was not disabled because he was able
to do other jobs which exist in significant numbers in the
national and regional economies.
Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary
record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The
following summary of the ...