United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MARY A. D.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff,
represented by counsel, seeks judicial review of the final
agency decision denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for benefits in March 2015, alleging disability
beginning on August 31, 2013. After holding an evidentiary
hearing, ALJ Diana Erickson denied the application on May 1,
2017. (Tr. 14-22.) 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
raises the following points:
1. The ALJ failed to fully and fairly develop the record
because a “redacted Medical Source Statement”
submitted by plaintiff's counsel after the hearing was
not included in the record. This error was harmful because
the opinions of two state agency consultants and of Dr.
Vittal Chapa were not sufficient to support the residual
functional capacity (RFC) determination.
2. The ALJ failed to properly consider her RFC.
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 that 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
Erickson followed the five-step analytical framework
described above. She determined that plaintiff had not been
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date. She was insured for DIB only through December 31,
2017. She found that plaintiff had severe
impairments of diabetes with peripheral neuropathy, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and asthma, and that
these impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment.
The ALJ found that plaintiff had the RFC to perform work at
the light exertional level limited to no climbing of ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; no crawling; occasional climbing of
stairs and ramps; occasional balancing, stooping, and
crouching; no use of foot controls; only frequent reaching,
handling, and fingering; no exposure to pulmonary irritants
or extreme cold; and only occasional exposure to extreme
heat, hazards, and vibration. Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ found that plaintiff could do her
past work as a hair stylist. In the alternative, she was also
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 record is directed to the points
raised by plaintiff.