United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MARIA VALDEZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff
Cecilia Martinez's (“Plaintiff”) claims for
Disability Income Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI the Social Security Act (the “Act”).
The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United
States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment is granted and the Commissioner's
cross-motion for summary judgment is denied.
filed her applications for DIB and SSI in April 2013,
alleging disability beginning in August 2012 due to
depression, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes,
asthma, and sleep apnea. (R. 271-80, 303.) Her applications
were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (R.
96-185.) Plaintiff appeared for a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on October 19,
2015, represented by counsel. (R. 51-95.) A vocational
expert, Thomas Gusloff, also offered testimony.
(Id.) On November 4, 2015, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled. (R.
30-50.) The Appeals Council (“AC”) denied review
on June 20, 2016, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final
decision of the Commissioner and, therefore, reviewable by
the District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See
Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005);
Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 332 (7th Cir. 1994);
November 4, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable written
determination finding Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 30-50.)
At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 1, 2012,
her alleged onset date and meets the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2018. (R. 35.)
At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from
severe impairments of asthma, reduced vision at a distance,
diabetes mellitus, obesity, carpal tunnel, status
post-surgical release in both hands, and depression.
(Id.) At step three, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meet or medical equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926). (R. 36.)
step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work at a
light exertional level, subject to several
limitations. At step four, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as
a housekeeper/cleaner, or alternatively, other jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy, such
as a photocopy machine operator, marker, and inserting
machine operator. (R. 43-44.) Because of this determination,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled under the Act.
the Act, a person is disabled if he has an “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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(a). In order to determine whether a plaintiff is
disabled, the ALJ considers the following five questions in
order: (1) Is the plaintiff presently unemployed? (2) Does
the plaintiff have a severe impairment? (3) Does the
impairment meet or medically equal one of a list of specific
impairments enumerated in the regulations? (4) Is the
plaintiff unable to perform his former occupation? and (5) Is
the plaintiff unable to perform any other work? 20 C.F.R.
affirmative answer at either step three or step five leads to
a finding that the plaintiff is disabled. Young v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386,
389 (7th Cir. 1992). A negative answer to any remaining
question precludes a finding of disability. Id. The
plaintiff bears the burden of proof at steps one through
four. Id. Once the plaintiff shows an inability to
perform past work, the burden then shifts to the Commissioner
to show the plaintiff's ability to engage in other work
existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
405(g) provides in relevant part that “[t]he findings
of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review
of the ALJ's decision is limited to determining whether
the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence
or based upon legal error. Clifford v. Apfel, 227
F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000); Stevenson v. Chater,
105 F.3d 1151, 1153 (7th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir.
2007). This Court may not substitute its judgment for that of
the Commissioner by reevaluating facts, reweighing evidence,
resolving conflicts in evidence, or deciding questions of
credibility. Skinner, 478 F.3d at 841; see also