United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
HELEN L. 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) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for disability benefits in April 2013, alleging that
she became disabled as of March 27, 2012. After holding an
evidentiary hearing, ALJ Kevin R. Martin denied the
application on August 10, 2016. (Tr. 13-27.) 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
makes the following arguments:
1. The ALJ erred in evaluating the credibility of
plaintiff's statements about her pain.
2. The ALJ failed to account for plaintiff's headaches
and need to elevate her legs in the RFC assessment.
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
Martin followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. He determined that plaintiff had not worked at the
level of substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset
date and that she was insured for DIB through December 31,
2017. He found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, status post lumbar fusion surgery
in 2003; osteoarthritis and degenerative medial meniscal
tearing in both knees; obesity; pain disorder; anxiety;
depression; and personality disorder.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the light exertional level with some
physical and mental limitations. The mental limitations are
not at issue here. The physical limitations are that she was
limited to standing and/or walking for a total of two hours a
day; occasional climbing of ramps or stairs; no climbing of
ladders, ropes, or scaffolding; and occasional balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling. Based on the
testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that
plaintiff could not do her past work, but she was not
disabled because she 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 record is directed to the