United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
DEBRA R. W., 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) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
filed a prior application for disability benefits, which was
denied on March 27, 2014. Plaintiff did not file an appeal.
Therefore, plaintiff was conclusively not disabled before
March 28, 2014 and must prove that she was disabled after
that date. Plaintiff reapplied for disability benefits in
April 2015 and September 2015, alleging disability as of
April 1, 2014. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied the application on May
10, 2018. (Tr. 17-31). 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:
1. The ALJ erred by failing to account for moderate deficits
of concentration, persistence, or pace in the residual
functional capacity (RFC) finding.
2. The ALJ did not adhere to SSR 16-3p when he failed
properly assess plaintiff's subjective allegations,
including her daily activities.
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.
He 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
cervical degenerative disc disease status post fusion, lumbar
degenerative disc disease status remote post fusion, bipolar
disorder (BD), and borderline personality disorder (BPD).
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
climbing of ramps and stairs. The ALJ found that plaintiff
was also limited to performing simple routine tasks with only
occasional decision-making or changes in the work setting.
Additionally, plaintiff was limited to no interaction with
the public and only brief and superficial interaction with
coworkers. 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
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, which ...