United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
EUGENE J. MCEWEN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Rowland Magistrate Judge
Eugene J. McEwen filed this action seeking reversal of the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her
application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act (Act). 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1381 et. seq. The parties have consented
to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and filed cross motions
for summary judgement. For the reasons stated below, the case
is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this
filed an application for SSI on January 19, 2012, alleging
disability beginning September 1, 1993. (R. at 103). The
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
after which Plaintiff filed a timely request for hearing.
(Id. at 103-04, 109, 112-115). On December 16, 2014,
Plaintiff appeared, with his representative, before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Patrick Nagle, who ordered
Plaintiff to obtain a psychological consultative examination
and testing. (Id. at 100, 103, 560-70). After the
consultative examination, Plaintiff, represented by counsel,
testified at a supplemental hearing before ALJ Carla Suffi on
August 6, 2015. (Id. at 40-102). The ALJ also heard
testimony from Plaintiff's sister, Vera McEwen, and
Edward Pagella, an impartial vocational expert (VE).
denied Plaintiff's request for benefits on August 25,
2015. (R. at 13-33). Applying the five-step sequence for
assessing disability, see 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a), the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged
onset date of January 19, 2012. (Id. at 15). At step
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: obesity, severe degenerative joint disease of
the right knee, moderate degenerative joint disease at the
right ankle, asthma, a history of a learning disorder,
depression, and alcohol and marijuana abuse. (Id.).
At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff does not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or
medically equal the severity of any of the listings
enumerated in the regulations. (Id. at 16-19).
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a),
but with the following limitations:
[T]he claimant would be limited to occasional kneeling,
crouching, crawling, and climbing, and he should never work
around hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous
moving machinery. The claimant should never work in
environments with concentrated amounts of pulmonary
irritants, such as dusts, odors, fumes, and gases. The
Claimant would be capable of performing simple, routine tasks
that can be learned on a short demonstration. He would be
unable to plan work independently, but would be able to
follow simple directions and carry out simple tasks. He would
be unable to perform fast production pace work, but could
perform goal oriented work. The claimant would be unable to
tolerate work with the public due to his impaired cognition.
(R. at 19). The ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff
has no past relevant work. (Id. at 32). Based on
Plaintiff's RFC, age, education, work experience, and the
VE's testimony that Plaintiff is capable of performing
work as an assembler, packer and sorter, the ALJ determined
at step five that there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform.
(Id. at 32-33). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not under disability, as defined by the Act,
from the alleged onset date through the date of the ALJ's
decision. (Id. at 33).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
March 6, 2017. (Id. at 1-6). Plaintiff now seeks
judicial review of the ALJ's decision, which stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner. Villano v.
Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's final decision is authorized
by § 405(g) of the Act. In reviewing this decision, the
Court may not engage in its own analysis of whether the
plaintiff is severely impaired as defined by the Social
Security Regulations. Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d
995, 1001 (7th Cir. 2004). Nor may it “reweigh
evidence, resolve conflicts in the record, decide questions
of credibility, or, in general, substitute [its] own judgment
for that of the Commissioner.” Id. The
Court's task is “limited to determining whether the
ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence.” Id. (citing § 405(g)).
Evidence is considered substantial “if a reasonable
person would accept it as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Indoranto v. Barnhart, 374 F.3d
470, 473 (7th Cir. 2004); see Moore v. Colvin, 743
F.3d 1118, 1120-21 (7th Cir. 2014) (“We will uphold the
ALJ's decision if it is supported by substantial
evidence, that is, such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.”) (citation omitted). “Substantial
evidence must be more than a scintilla but may be less than a
preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d
836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). “In addition to relying on
substantial evidence, the ALJ must also explain his analysis
of the evidence with enough detail and clarity to permit
meaningful appellate review.” Briscoe ex rel.
Taylor v. Barnhart, 425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005).
this Court accords great deference to the ALJ's
determination, it “must do more than merely rubber
stamp the ALJ's decision.” Scott v.
Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation
omitted). “This deferential standard of review is
weighted in favor of upholding the ALJ's decision, but it
does not mean that we scour the record for supportive
evidence or rack our brains for reasons to uphold the
ALJ's decision. Rather, the ALJ must identify the
relevant evidence and build a ‘logical bridge'
between that evidence and the ultimate determination.”
Moon v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014).
Where the Commissioner's decision “lacks
evidentiary support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent
meaningful review, the case must be remanded.”
Steele v. Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir.
makes a number of arguments challenging the ALJ's
decision. After reviewing the record and the parties'
briefs, the Court is persuaded by Plaintiff's argument
that the RFC assessment and corresponding VE hypothetical did
not appropriately ...