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Rein v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 23, 2018

HOWARD REIN, Claimant,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Jeffrey T. Gilbert Magistrate Judge

         Claimant Howard Rein ("Claimant") seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying Claimant's application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1, the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings, including entry of final judgment. [ECF No. 7.] The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment [ECF Nos. 14 and 21] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c) and 405(g). For the reasons stated below, Claimant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 14] is granted, and the Commissioner's Motion [ECF No. 21] is denied. This matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On May 3, 2013, Claimant filed his claims for DIB and SSI, alleging the onset of his disability as of May 13, 2012. (R. 20.) These applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which Claimant requested an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (Id.) On December 11, 2014, Claimant was represented by counsel and appeared and testified at a hearing before ALJ Jessica Inouye. (R. 33-99.) The ALJ also heard testimony from vocational expert ("VE") Susan Entenberg. (Id.)

         On April 10, 2015, the ALJ denied Claimant's claims for DIB and SSI, based on a finding that he was not disabled under the Act. (R. 20-28.) The opinion followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by Social Security Regulations ("SSR").[1] 20 C.F.R, § 404.1520. At step one, the ALJ found that Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity ("SGA") since his alleged onset date of May 13, 2012. (R. 22.) At step two, the ALJ found that Claimant had the severe impairment of schizophrenia. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ found that Claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404 Subpart P., Appendix 1. (Id.)

         The ALJ then found Claimant had the residual functional capacity ("RFC")[2] to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, with the following nonexertional limitations;

Understand, remember, and cany out no more than simple, routine, repetitive tasks; no more than occasional changes in the work tasks; no more than occasional decision making required by the work; no more than occasional completion of written forms as part of the work; no more than occasional interaction with others; no tandem tasks; no team work; learns best by demonstration; is allowed to take notes; and can sustain concentration, persistence, and pace to complete work functions, as described, in two-hour increments.

(R. 24.) At step four, the ALJ determined that Claimant was unable to perform any past relevant work. (R. 27.) Finally, at step five, the ALJ found that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Claimant could perform, such as dishwasher, packer, or cleaner. (R. 28.) Because of this determination, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled under the Act. (Id.) The Appeals Council declined to review the matter on September 2, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner and, therefore, reviewable by this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v. Baumhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A decision by an ALJ becomes the Commissioner's final decision if the Appeals Council denies a request for review. Sims v. Apfel 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000). Under such circumstances, the district court reviews the decision of the ALJ. (Id.) Judicial review is limited to determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards in reaching his or her decision. Nelms v. Astrue, 553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2009). The reviewing court may enter a judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the [Commissioner], with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 42 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). A "mere scintilla" of evidence is not enough. Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002). Even where there is adequate evidence in the record to support the decision, the findings will not be upheld if the ALJ does not "build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to the conclusion." Berger v. Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008). In other words, if the Commissioner's decision lacks evidentiary support or adequate discussion of the issues, it cannot stand. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2009). Though the standard of review is deferential, a reviewing court must "conduct a critical review of the evidence" before affirming the Commissioner's decision. Eichstadt v. Astrue, 534 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2008). It may not, however, "displace the ALJ's judgment by reconsidering facts or evidence." Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Claimant alleges a number of errors on appeal. First, Claimant asserts that the ALJ improperly evaluated his subjective statements about his symptoms and his credibility. [ECF No. 14, at 4-16, ] Second, Claimant contends that the ALJ improperly evaluated the opinions of his treating psychiatrist, Dr. Weinstein. (Id.) Finally, Claimant argues that the mental RFC is not supported by substantial evidence. (Id.)

         A. The ...


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