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 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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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.)
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.) .
ALJ LEGAL STANDARD
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.
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.