United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
SARAH M. D.,  Petitioner,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CLIFFORD J. PROUD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Sarah M.
D., 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 benefits in March 2013 alleging disability
beginning in January 2012. (Tr. 190). Plaintiff was denied
benefits, and requested an evidentiary hearing, which was
held in June 2016 by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) George M.
Bock. (Tr. 32). Plaintiff's application for benefits was
denied. (Tr. 18-27). The Appeals Council denied review and
the decision of the ALJ became the final agency decision.
(Tr. 1-6). Plaintiff filed a timely complaint with this
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the specific issue that the ALJ committed reversible
error by failing to account for plaintiff's moderate
deficit in concentration, persistence, or pace (CPP) within
the residual functional capacity (RFC) finding.
qualify for DIB benefits, a claimant must be disabled within
the meaning of the applicable statutes and regulations. For
these purposes, “disabled” means 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. §
“physical or mental impairment” is an impairment
resulting from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques. 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(3). “Substantial gainful activity”
is work activity that involves doing significant physical or
mental activities, and that is done for pay or profit. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1572.
Security regulations set forth a sequential five-step inquiry
to determine whether a claimant is disabled. The Seventh
Circuit Court of Appeals has explained this process as
The first step considers whether the applicant is engaging in
substantial gainful activity. The second step evaluates
whether an alleged physical or mental impairment is severe,
medically determinable, and meets a durational requirement.
The third step compares the impairment to a list of
impairments that are considered conclusively disabling. If
the impairment meets or equals one of the listed impairments,
then the applicant is considered disabled; if the impairment
does not meet or equal a listed impairment, then the
evaluation continues. The fourth step assesses an
applicant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and
ability to engage in past relevant work. If an applicant can
engage in past relevant work, he is not disabled. The fifth
step assesses the applicant's RFC, as well as his age,
education, and work experience to determine whether the
applicant can engage in other work. If the applicant can
engage in other work, he is not disabled.
Weatherbee v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 565, 568-569 (7th
another way, it must be determined: (1) whether the claimant
is presently unemployed; (2) whether the claimant has an
impairment or combination of impairments that is serious; (3)
whether the impairments meet or equal one of the listed
impairments acknowledged to be conclusively disabling; (4)
whether the claimant can perform past relevant work; and (5)
whether the claimant is capable of performing any work within
the economy, given his or her age, education and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Simila v.
Astrue, 573 F.3d 503, 512-513 (7th Cir. 2009);
Schroeter v. Sullivan, 977 F.2d 391, 393 (7th Cir.
answer at steps one and two is “yes, ” the
claimant will automatically be found disabled if he or she
suffers from a listed impairment, determined at step three.
If the claimant does not have a listed impairment at step
three, and cannot perform his or her past work (step four),
the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show
that the claimant can perform some other job. Rhoderick
v. Heckler, 737 F.2d 714, 715 (7th Cir. 1984).
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to ensure that
the decision is supported by substantial evidence and that no
mistakes of law were made. It is important to recognize that
the scope of review is limited. “The 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). Thus, this Court must determine not
whether plaintiff was, in fact, disabled at the relevant
time, but whether the ALJ's findings were supported by
substantial evidence and whether any errors of law were made.
See, Books v. Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 977-78 (7th Cir.
1996) (citing Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 306 (7th
Cir. 1995)). This Court uses the Supreme Court's
definition of substantial evidence, i.e., “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
reviewing for “substantial evidence, ” the entire
administrative record is taken into consideration, but this
Court 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). However, while judicial
review is deferential, it is not abject; this Court does not
act as a rubber stamp for the Commissioner. See, Parker
v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010), and cases
Decision of the ALJ
Bock followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. ALJ Bock found plaintiff was insured through December
31, 2016, and he determined that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity (SGA) since January 2012. The
ALJ found plaintiff had severe impairments of depression,
anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cervical
degenerative disc disease, and migraine headaches. (Tr. 20).
He also found plaintiff had moderate limitations in social
function and in maintaining CPP. (Tr. 21). However, ALJ Bock
determined none of plaintiff's impairments met or equaled
the severity of a listed impairment. (Tr. 20).
Bock found plaintiff had the RFC to perform work at the light
exertional level with several limitations, physical and
mental. Relevant to plaintiff's issue, the mental
limitations were that she can perform repetitive, unskilled,
simple tasks with no complex instructions or interaction with
the general public. (Tr. 22).
on plaintiff's earnings records and testimony from the
vocational expert (VE), ALJ Bock found plaintiff was
incapable of performing any past relevant work. However, he
found other jobs existed in significant numbers within the
national economy when considering plaintiff's age,
education, work experience, and RFC. (Tr. 26).