United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
STEVEN D. A.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CLIFFORD J. PROUD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff,
represented by counsel, seeks judicial review of the final
agency decision denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for DIB and SSI in February 2015, alleging disability
beginning on December 20, 2014. (Tr. 20). A prior application
had been denied as of December 19, 2014. (Tr. 172-192). After
holding two evidentiary hearings, ALJ Jason R. Yoder denied
the application for benefits in a decision dated February 10,
2017. (Tr. 20-31). 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 Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following points:
1. The ALJ failed to account for cyclothymic disorder in
formulating plaintiff's RFC.
2. The Appeals Council erred in rejecting additional evidence
submitted by plaintiff because the evidence was relevant and
qualify for DIB or SSI a claimant must be disabled within the
meaning of the applicable statutes. 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. § 423(d)(1)(A).
“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). See
also Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir.
2001) (Under the five-step evaluation, an “affirmative
answer leads either to the next step, or, on Steps 3 and 5,
to a finding that the claimant is disabled…. If a
claimant reaches step 5, the burden shifts to the ALJ to
establish that the claimant is capable of performing work in
the national economy.”).
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.
Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539
(7th Cir. 2003). 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. Murphy v. Colvin, 759
F.3d 811, 815 (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 cited therein.
Decision of the ALJ
Yoder followed the five-step analytical framework described
above. He determined that plaintiff had worked at the level
of substantial gainful activity for short periods since the
alleged onset date. He was insured for DIB through September
30, 2016. He found that plaintiff had severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical and
lumbar spine, history of neuropathy, and obesity. Plaintiff
also had mental impairments of depressive disorder NOS,
anxiety disorder, panic disorder without agoraphobia, and
alcohol disorder in remission. The ALJ determined that these
mental impairments were not severe.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the light exertional level, with
some physical limitations. Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ found that plaintiff was able to
do his past work as an automobile salesperson. In the
alternative, he was also able to do other jobs which exist in
significant numbers in the national and regional economy.
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.
was born in 1963 and was 51 years old on the alleged onset
date of December 20, 2014. (Tr. 376). He had worked as a car
salesman from 1992 through 2001. From 2003 through 2012, he
was self-employed doing pressure washing and blacktop
sealing. (Tr. 379).
said he could not work because of severe neck and back
problems, arthritis, depression, and high blood pressure. He
was 5' 10” tall and weighed 190 pounds. He said he
stopped working in March 2012 because of ...