United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Roxanne R. filed this action seeking reversal of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under
Title II and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act (the Act). The parties
consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate
Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and filed cross
motions for summary judgment. This Court has jurisdiction
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). For
the reasons stated below, the case is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
October 31, 2014, Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging
that she became disabled on September 11, 2010 because of
carpal tunnel syndrome and affective/ mood disorders. (R. at
82-83). Her claims were denied initially on February 9, 2015
and upon reconsideration on August 6, 2015, after which
Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (Id. at 82-83,
114-15, 169-70). Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified
at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on
March 15, 2017. (Id. at 12-57). The ALJ also heard
testimony from Jacqueline Bethell, a vocational expert (VE).
issued an unfavorable decision on June 21, 2017. (R. at
116-44). Applying the five-step sequential evaluation
process, the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 1,
2010, her alleged disability onset date. (Id. at
123). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's carpal
tunnel syndrome, cervical degenerative disc disease, and
depression alternatively diagnosed as bipolar disorder was a
severe impairment. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of any of the listings enumerated in the
then assessed Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that Plaintiff has the RFC
to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§404.1567(b) except with the following
[S]he can occasionally reach overhead with her non-dominant
left upper extremity, and she can frequently, but not
continuously, engage in fine or gross manipulation with her
non-dominant left hand. She is limited to performing simple,
routine, repetitive tasks, and can make simple work-related
decisions. The claimant can tolerate only occasional changes
in the work setting. She can tolerate only occasional
interaction with supervisors or co-workers, and should avoid
all contact with the public. The claimant cannot engage in
(R. at 126). The ALJ determined at step four that Plaintiff
was able to perform her past relevant work as a cap lining
machine operator. (Id. at 137). In the alternative,
at step five, based on Plaintiff's RFC, her vocational
factors, and the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined that
there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the local
economy that Plaintiff also can perform, including
housekeeper/ cleaner, office helper, and mail clerk.
(Id. at 137-38). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined by the Act,
from the alleged onset date through the date of the ALJ's
decision. (Id. at 139).
11, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review. (R. at 1-6). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review
of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final decision
of the Commissioner. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d
558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the Commissioner's final decision may not
engage in its own analysis of whether the plaintiff is
severely impaired as defined by the Social Security
Regulations. Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1001
(7th Cir. 2004). Nor may it “reweigh evidence, resolve
conflicts in the record, decide questions of credibility, or,
in general, substitute [its] own judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Id. The Court's task is
“limited to determining whether the ALJ's factual
findings are supported by substantial evidence.”
Id. (citing § 405(g)). Evidence is considered
substantial “if a reasonable person would accept it as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Indoranto v.
Barnhart, 374 F.3d 470, 473 (7th Cir. 2004); see
Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120-21 (7th Cir. 2014)
(“We will uphold the ALJ's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence, that is, such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.”) (citation omitted).
“Substantial evidence must be more than a scintilla but
may be less than a preponderance.” Skinner v.
Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). “In
addition to relying on substantial evidence, the ALJ must
also explain his 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).
this Court accords great deference to the ALJ's
determination, it “must do more than merely rubber
stamp the ALJ's decision.” Scott v.
Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002) (citation
omitted). “This deferential standard of review is
weighted in favor of upholding the ALJ's decision, but it
does not mean that we scour the record for supportive
evidence or rack our brains for reasons to uphold the
ALJ's decision. Rather, the ALJ must identify the
relevant evidence and build a ‘logical bridge'
between that evidence and the ultimate determination.”
Moon v. Colvin, 763 F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014).
Where the Commissioner's decision “lacks
evidentiary support or is so poorly articulated as to prevent
meaningful review, the case must be remanded.”
Steele v. Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936, 940 (7th Cir.
sole basis for remand is that the ALJ improperly relied upon
the VE's testimony in finding that Plaintiff can perform
her past work at step four and other jobs at step five. (Dkt.
17 at 2-3). After reviewing the record and the parties'
briefs, the Court agrees that the ALJ erred by failing to
properly address conflicts between the ...