United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
KATHRYN M. P., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. WILKERSON 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 her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
applied for benefits in November 2014, alleging disability
beginning on October 22, 2014. (Tr. 67). After holding an
evidentiary hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
denied the application for benefits in a decision dated
February 14, 2018. (Tr. 13-28). 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:
ALJ erred by failing to account for moderate deficits of
concentration, persistence, or pace in the RFC finding.
ALJ did not adhere to SSR 96-8p when she ignored evidence in
her residual functional capacity (RFC) determination for
ALJ erred in failing to identify the evidentiary basis of her
assessment of plaintiff's RFC.
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). To determine whether a plaintiff is
disabled, the ALJ considers the following five questions in
order: (1) Is the plaintiff presently unemployed? (2) Does
the plaintiff 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
plaintiff unable to perform her former occupation? and (5) Is
the plaintiff 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 plaintiff is disabled. Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001). A negative
answer at any step, other than at step 3, precludes a finding
of disability. Ibid. The plaintiff bears the burden
of proof at steps 1-4. Ibid. Once the plaintiff
shows an inability to perform past work, the burden then
shifts to the Commissioner to show the plaintiff's
ability to engage in other work existing in significant
numbers in the national economy. Ibid.
Decision of the ALJ
followed the five-step analytical framework described above.
She determined that plaintiff had not worked at the level of
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
The ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
somatic symptoms disorder, depression with anxiety, bilateral
osteoarthritis of the hands, seronegative rheumatoid
arthritis (RA), mild lumbar facet osteoarthritis, morbid
obesity, diabetes mellitus, neuropathy, and mild bilateral
found that plaintiff had the RFC to perform work at the light
exertional level, limited to no climbing of ladders, ropes,
and scaffolds; occasional climbing of ramps and stairs;
occasional stooping, crouching, crawling, and kneeling; and
frequent handling and fingering. She was also limited to
performing simple routine tasks but not in a fast paced,
production environment, such as an assembly line. Based on
the testimony of a vocational expert (VE), the ALJ concluded
that plaintiff was unable to do her past relevant work, while
also making an alternative finding that she was able to do
other jobs at the light exertional level which exist in
significant numbers in the national economy.