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 Plaintiff Regina Miles'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 [Doc. No. 17], is granted and
the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment
[Doc. No. 21] is denied.
December 12, 2012, Plaintiff filed claims for both DIB and
SSI, alleging disability since November 21, 2011, due to
lupus, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure,
arthritis, and thyroid conditions. (R. 171-78, 195.) Her
claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after
which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”). (R. 80-121, 124-25.) An
administrative hearing was held on September 9, 2014, at
which Plaintiff personally appeared and testified at the
hearing and was represented by counsel. (R. 35-79.)
Vocational expert Richard Hamersma also testified
October 27, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision,
finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act.
(R. 17-34.) 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 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 August 22, 2102, the amended alleged onset
date. (R. 22.) At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
had the following severe impairments: incomplete lupus,
morbid obesity, hypertension, anemia, and uveitis.
(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.
See C.F.R. Par 404, Subpt. P, App. 1; (R. 23.)
step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light
work, subject to the following limitations: she can lift or
carry twenty pounds only rarely, which the ALJ defines as no
more than ten percent of the workday, but can lift or carry
up to fifteen pounds frequently; can stand or walk about four
hours in an eight-hour workday and sit for about four hours,
with normal breaks; can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; and requires a cane for prolonged ambulation.
(Id.) At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
was able to perform her past relevant work as a check clerk
(at a bank) and as a storage facility clerk. (R. 29.)
Social Security Administration Appeals Council then denied
Plaintiff's request for review on February 23, 2016,
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. 8- 14.)
405(g) provides in relevant part that "[t]he 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). Judicial review of the ALJ's
decision is limited to determining whether the ALJ's
findings are supported by substantial evidence or based upon
legal error. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 869
(7th Cir. 2000); Stevenson v. Chater, 105 F.3d 1151,
1153 (7th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is "such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d
842 (1971); Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841
(7th Cir. 2007). This Court may not substitute its judgment
for that of the Commissioner by reevaluating facts,
reweighing evidence, resolving conflicts in evidence, or
deciding questions of credibility. Skinner, 478 F.3d
at 841; see also Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413
(7th Cir. 2008) (holding that the ALJ's decision must be
affirmed even if "reasonable minds could differ" as
long as "the decision is adequately supported.")
(internal citation omitted).
is not required to address "every piece of evidence or
testimony in the record, [but] the ALJ's analysis must
provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind her decision
to deny benefits." Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d
881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001). In cases where the ALJ denies
benefits to a plaintiff, "he must build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to [her] conclusion."
Clifford, 227 F.3d at 872. The ALJ must at least
minimally articulate the "analysis of the evidence with
enough detail and clarity to permit meaningful appellate
review." Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart,
425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005); Murphy v. Astrue,
496 F.3d 630, 634 (7th Cir. 2007) ("An ALJ has a duty to
fully develop the record before drawing any conclusions . . .
and must adequately articulate his analysis so that we can
follow his reasoning. . . ."); see Boiles v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 421, 425 (7th Cir. 2005).
review the ALJ's decision but we play an "extremely
limited" role. Elder, 529 F.3d at 413. Where
conflicting evidence would allow reasonable minds to differ,
the responsibility for determining whether a plaintiff is
disabled falls upon the Commissioner, not the court. See
Herr v. Sullivan, 912 F.2d 178, 181 (7th Cir. 1990).
However, an ALJ may not "select and discuss only that
evidence that favors his ultimate conclusion," but must
instead consider all relevant evidence. Herron v.
Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th Cir. 1994).