United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Canell House filed this action seeking reversal of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under
Title II and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act). 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 423 et. seq, 1381 et
seq. The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the
United States Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C §
636(c), and filed cross motions for summary judgment. For the
reasons stated below, the case is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
applied for DIB and SSI benefits on July 15, 2013, alleging
that he became disabled on January 1, 2009 because of chest
pains, heart problems, arthritis, back and knee problems,
tennis elbow and high cholesterol. (R. at 106-09). These
claims were denied initially on November 19, 2013, and upon
reconsideration on June 10, 2014, after which Plaintiff filed
a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 14- 15,
106-09, 137-140). On November 19, 2015, Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, testified at a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 36-83). The
ALJ also heard testimony from Ashok Jilhewar, M.D., a medical
expert (ME), and James Breen, a vocational expert (VE).
issued a partially favorable decision on March 1, 2016. (R.
at 20-35). Applying the five-step sequential evaluation
process, the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff did not
engage in substantial gainful activity since his amended
alleged onset date of September 26, 2012. (Id. at
23). At step two, the ALJ found that since the alleged onset
date, Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
degenerative joint disease of the bilateral knees and mild
degenerative changes in the lumbar spine. (Id.).
Beginning on January 16, 2013, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff also had the following severe impairments: major
depressive disorder and substance abuse. (Id.). At
step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of any of the listings
enumerated in the regulations. (Id.).
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that prior to January 16,
2013, Plaintiff had the RFC to perform medium work as defined
by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c), except for
the following limitations: “He could lift up to fifty
pounds occasionally, and lift or carry up to twenty-five
pounds frequently. He could not climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds. He could frequently climb ramps or stairs,
balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl.” (R. at 23).
Beginning on January 16, 2013, however, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform sedentary work as
defined by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a),
The claimant can lift up to ten pounds occasionally and five
pounds frequently. He can stand and/ or walk for
approximately two hours per eight-hour workday, and sit for
approximately six hours per eight-hour workday, with normal
breaks. The claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. He can occasionally climb ramps or stairs,
balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, and crawl. The claimant is
limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks in work at a
variable pace; involving only end of the day production
requirements; with no other periodic or hourly production
quotas. The claimant is limited to only occasional
interaction with the public in the work setting, coworkers,
(R. at 23). The ALJ determined at step four that since
September 26, 2012, Plaintiff was unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Id. at 27). Based on Plaintiff's
RFC, age, education, work experience, and the VE's
testimony that Plaintiff was capable of performing work as a
janitor, dishwasher, and hand packer, the ALJ determined at
step five that prior to January 16, 2013, there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform. (Id. at 27-38). However,
the ALJ found that beginning on January 16, 2013, based on
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience and RFC,
there are no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (Id. at
28). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
disabled, as defined by the Act, beginning on January 16,
2013, but was not disabled prior to that date. (Id.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
March 24, 2017. (R. 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). It “must be more than a
scintilla but may be less than a preponderance.”
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir.
2007). The ALJ's decision must be explained “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). “[T]he 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. 2002).
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 arguments
that the ALJ erred ...