United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division
JOANNA H. Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations performing the duties and functions not reserved to the Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
I. LONG, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Joanna H. seeks review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the
Social Security Administration's denial of her
application for disability insurance benefits. The parties
filed cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons
explained below, the Court recommends that Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (#11) be
DENIED, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment (#15) be GRANTED,
and the decision to deny benefits be affirmed.
February 12, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning
March 15, 2014. The Social Security Administration denied
Plaintiff's claims initially and on reconsideration.
Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). During the hearing, the ALJ
heard testimony from an impartial vocational expert (VE).
6, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (R. 15-25.)
The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease and spondylosis of the lumbar spine
status post laminectomy, osteoarthritis of the right knee,
post arthroplasty of the left knee with patellar fracture,
cervical spondylosis, and fibromyalgia. (R. 17.) The ALJ also
found that Plaintiff has the nonsevere impairments of status
post bunionectomy, osteoarthritis of the right hand, and
restless leg syndrome. (R. 17.) The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart A,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526). (R.
18.) Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the
residual functional capacity (RFC) to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a)
except she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance,
and stoop; never kneel, crouch, or crawl; never climb ladder,
ropes, or scaffolds. She cannot tolerate concentrated
exposure to extreme cold or vibration, and she cannot work
around unprotected heights, open flames, or dangerous and
(R. 19.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff is capable of
performing her past relevant work as a customer service
policy holder information clerk. (R. 24.) The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the
ALJ's ruling the Commissioner's final decision.
Standard of Review
court reviews a decision denying benefits to determine only
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.
Jelinek v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 805, 811 (7th Cir.
2011). Substantial evidence means “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Walker v. Berryhill,
900 F.3d 479, 482 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). When reviewing the
administrative record, the Court does not “reweigh the
evidence or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
ALJ.” Chavez v. Berryhill, 895 F.3d 962, 968
(7th Cir. 2018).
differently, if reasonable minds could differ as to whether
Plaintiff is disabled, the Court must uphold the ALJ's
decision to deny benefits. Shideler v. Astrue, 688
F.3d 306, 310 (7th Cir. 2012). Importantly, “the ALJ
must ‘build a logical bridge from the evidence to his
conclusion, but he need not provide a complete written
evaluation of every piece of testimony and
evidence.'” Id. (quoting Schmidt v.
Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 2005).
argues that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate
Plaintiff's mental impairments, did not follow SSR 96-8p
in determining Plaintiff's RFC, and improperly evaluated
Plaintiff's subjective allegations of pain.
found that Plaintiff did not have a medically determinable
mental impairment. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in
failing to subject Plaintiff's depression to the
“special technique” outlined for assessing mental
impairments and ...