United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
BRIAN M. R., Plaintiff,
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Brian M.
R. seeks judicial review of the final agency decision denying
his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB)
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
filed for DIB on June 6, 2013, alleging a disability onset
date of June 1, 2007. (Tr. 158-61.) Plaintiff's claim was
denied initially, and again at the reconsideration level.
(Tr. 79-98.) Plaintiff requested an evidentiary hearing,
which Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Barry H. Jenkins
conducted in December 2014. (Tr. 109-10, 38-78.) ALJ Jenkins
issued an unfavorable opinion in October 2015 and the
Appeal's Council denied plaintiff's request for
review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final agency
decision. (Tr. 19-33, 1-4.) Plaintiff exhausted all of his
administrative remedies and filed a timely complaint with
this Court. (Doc. 1.)
makes the following arguments:
1. The ALJ improperly found that plaintiff's impairments
did not meet or equal a Listing.
2. The ALJ's credibility determination was erroneous.
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).
Jenkins followed the five-step analytical framework set forth
above. He determined plaintiff met the insured status
requirements through December 31, 2012 and had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since June 1, 2007, the alleged
onset date. Plaintiff had severe impairments of bilateral
radiculopathy, hepatitis C, sensorineural hearing loss with
occasional tinnitus, schizophrenia, and anxiety related
disorder. (Tr. 24.) None of these impairments met or equaled
a Listing. (Tr. 25-27.) Plaintiff had the RFC to perform
light work with several additional limitations, which
prevented him from performing any past relevant work. (Tr.
27-31.) However, jobs existed in the national economy that
plaintiff could perform and, therefore, he was not disabled.
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.