United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
ANGELA J. P.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. WILKERSON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff seeks
judicial review of the final agency decision denying her
application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for DIB in March 2014, alleging a disability onset
date of May 13, 2011. After holding an evidentiary hearing,
an ALJ denied the application on August 30, 2017. (Tr.
15-26). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request
for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final agency
decision. (Tr. 1). Plaintiff exhausted her administrative
remedies and filed a timely complaint with this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following issues:
1. The ALJ found fibromyalgia to be a severe impairment but
did not provide any explanation of its role in the Residual
Functional Capacity assessment.
2. The ALJ failed to adequately assess the medical opinions.
3. The ALJ's analysis of Plaintiff's subjective
complaints is not based upon substantial evidence.
qualify for DIB, a claimant must be disabled within the
meaning of the applicable statutes. 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).
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. § 404.1520.
affirmative answer at either step 3 or step 5 leads to a
finding that the plaintiff is disabled. A negative answer at
any step, other than at step 3, precludes a finding of
disability. The plaintiff bears the burden of proof at steps
1-4. 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. Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001).
Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to ensure that
the decision is supported by substantial evidence and that no
mistakes of law were made. It is important to recognize that
the scope of review is limited. “The 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). Thus, this Court must determine not
whether plaintiff was, in fact, disabled at the relevant
time, but whether the ALJ's findings were supported by
substantial evidence and whether any errors of law were made.
Lopez ex rel. Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539
(7th Cir. 2003). This Court uses the Supreme Court's
definition of substantial evidence, i.e., “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Biestek v.
Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (internal
reviewing for “substantial evidence, ” the entire
administrative record is taken into consideration, but this
Court does not reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts,
decide questions of credibility, or substitute its own
judgment for that of the ALJ. Burmester v.
Berryhill, 920 F.3d 507, 510 (7th Cir. 2019).
However, while judicial review is deferential, it is not
abject; this Court does not act as a rubber stamp for the
Commissioner. See, Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920,
921 (7th Cir. 2010), and cases cited therein.
Decision of the ALJ
followed the five-step analytical framework described above.
He determined that plaintiff had not worked at the level of
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
She was insured for DIB only through December 31, 2016. The
ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and obesity, which
did not meet or equal a listed impairment. He also found that
her mental impairments were not severe.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to do work at the light exertional level, with
nonexertional physical limitations consisting of (1) no
climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; (2) only occasional
climbing of ramps and stairs; and (3) occasional balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling.
on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not able to do her past relevant work. However,
she was not disabled because she was able to do other jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.
Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary
record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The
following summary of the record is directed to the points
raised by plaintiff.
was born in 1977 and was 39 years old on the date last
insured. (Tr. 169). She said she was disabled because of
bipolar disorder, severe anxiety and depression, and chronic
pain in her knee and wrist. She was 5' 3” tall and
weighed 170 pounds. She said she stopped working on May 13,
2011. She had past employment as a factory worker, a clerical
worker, a laborer, and a restaurant server, among other jobs.
function report submitted in July 2014, plaintiff said that
she could not work because of severe anxiety with PTSD and
panic attacks. She had chronic pain and her right arm went
numb. She said she tried to cook and clean. It was hard for
her to carry and lift because she had a bad knee, wrist,
neck, and back. (Tr. 192-199).
later report, she said that she left her last job “to
get away from abuse after getting an O.P. [order of
protection] on my ex.” (Tr. 230).