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Renteria v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 27, 2018

JOSE MANUEL RENTERIA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HON. MARIA VALDEZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Jose Manuel Renteria's (“Plaintiff”) claims for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). 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 memorandum, which this Court will construe as a motion for summary judgment, is granted and the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 15, 2012, Plaintiff filed claims for both DIB and SSI, alleging disability since July 8, 2012. (R. 201-15.) The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on November 13, 2015. (R. 33-86.) Plaintiff personally appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. Vocational expert Jo Ancell also testified. (Id.)

         On December 21, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claims for both DIB and SSI, finding him not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 10-28.) After noting that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2016, the ALJ proceeded through the five-step sequential evaluation process required by the Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 and 416.902(a). At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 8, 2012, the alleged onset date. (R. 15.)

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post abdominal injury with surgery, deep venous thrombosis, and sleep apnea. (Id.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff's obesity, foot fracture, kidney nephrosis, kidney cancer, and colostomy were non-severe impairments. (Id.) The ALJ concluded at step three that the impairments, alone or in combination, did not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (R. 19.)

         Before step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work, subject to the following limitations: the ability to perform lifting of ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently; to carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently; to sit six hours out of eight with a need to elevate the left leg to waist level on an as needed basis while seated; to stand two hours out of eight; to walk two hours out of eight, and to push and pull ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently. (R. 20.) The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs but never climb ladders or scaffolds. He can occasionally stoop. (Id.) He cannot work around unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts. (Id.) He cannot perform jobs requiring operation of a motor vehicle. (Id.) He also uses an assistive device for walking. (Id.) At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not capable of performing his past relevant work. (R. 21.) At step five, based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform including material mover, inspector/sorter, and protective service worker. (R. 22.) Because of this determination, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 23.)

         The Social Security Administration Appeals Council then denied Claimant's request for review, 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); (R. 1-6.) .

         DISCUSSION

         I. ALJ LEGAL STANDARD

         Under the Social Security Act, a person is disabled if she 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 claimant is disabled, the ALJ considers the following five questions in order: (1) Is the claimant presently unemployed? (2) Does the claimant 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 claimant unable to perform her former occupation? and (5) Is the claimant unable to perform any other work? 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).

         An affirmative answer at either step 3 or step 5 leads to a finding that the claimant is disabled. Young v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386, 389 (7th Cir. 1992). A negative answer at any step, other than at step 3, precludes a finding of disability. Id. The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps 1-4. Id. Once the claimant shows an inability to perform past work, the burden then shifts to the Commissioner to show the claimant's ability to engage in other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Id.

         II. ...


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