United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MICHAEL E. Claimant
ANDREW SAUL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jeffrey T. Gilbert 'United States Magistrate Judge
Michael E. ("Claimant") seeks review of the
final decision of Respondent Andrew Saul,  Acting
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"),
denying Claimant's application for Supplemental Security
Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act ("Act"). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and Local Rule 73.1, the parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge for all
proceedings, including entry of final judgment. [ECF No. 6],
The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment
[ECF Nos. 12, 19] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c). For the reasons discussed
below, Claimant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No.
12] is granted, and the Commissioner's Motion [ECF No.
19] is denied.
application for SSI benefits was protectively filed on
Claimant's behalf on October 1, 2014, as Claimant was
under the age of 18 at the time. (R. 177-182). The claim was
denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which
Claimant requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ'). (R. 100-15). On March 13, 2017,
Claimant, who by then had turned 18, appeared and testified
at a hearing before ALJ Bill Laskaris. (R. 41-53). The ALJ
also heard testimony at the hearing from Claimant's
parents, Mark and Stephanie E., and vocational expert
("VE") Glee Ann L. Kehr. (R. 54-70).
30, 2017, the ALJ denied Claimant's claim for SSI after
considering his limitations as both a child and an adult, (R.
13-28). In assessing Claimant as a child, the ALJ followed
the three-step evaluation process required by Social Security
regulations for individuals under the age of 18. See
20 C.F.R. § 416.924(a). At step one, the ALJ found that
Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the date his application was filed on October 1, 2014.
(R. 17). At step two, the ALJ found that prior to turning 18
years old, Claimant had the following severe impairments
under 20 C.F.R. 416.924(c): intellectual disability, autism
spectrum disorder/Asperger syndrome, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder.
(R. 18). At step three, due to the absence of medical records
before Claimant turned 18, the ALJ determined that Claimant
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. 416.920(d), 416.924, 416.925, and 416.926. (R. 18).
After assessing six domains, the ALJ also found that Claimant
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
functionally equaled the listings in 20 C.F.R. 416.924(d) and
416.926(a). (R. 19-25). The six domains were as follows; (1)
acquiring and using information, (2) attending and completing
tasks, (3) interacting and relating with others, (4) moving
about and manipulating objects, (5) caring for yourself, and
(6) health and physical well-being. (R. 19-25). The ALJ
concluded that Claimant did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that resulted in either
"marked" limitations in two domains of functioning
or "extreme" limitation in one domain of
functioning. Because of this determination at step three, the
ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled under the Act prior
to attaining the age of 18. (R. 25).
finding Claimant not disabled as an adult, the ALJ's
opinion followed the five-step evaluation process required by
Social Security regulations for individuals over the age of
18. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). At step one,
the ALJ found that Claimant had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the date his application was filed on
October 1, 2014. (R. 17, 27). At step two, the ALJ found that
since turning 18 years old, Claimant has continued to have a
severe impairment or combination of impairments as defined by
20 C.F.R. 416.9290(c). (R. 25). At step three, the ALJ
determined that since attaining the age of 18, Claimant has
not had an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R.
25-26). The ALJ then found Claimant had the residual
functional capacity ("RFC") to:
"perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(c)
except he is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks
that are performed in a work environment free of fast-paced
production requirements that involve only simple work-related
decisions with few, if any, work place changes. He should
only have brief and superficial interaction with supervisors
and co-workers and no interaction with the public. Further,
he must be reminded of tasks twice a day, which are quick
reminders, not a re-demonstration."
26). Based on this RFC, the ALJ found at step four that
Claimant had no past relevant work. (R. 27). Finally, at step
five, the ALJ concluded that there were jobs that existed in
significant numbers in the national economy that Claimant can
perform, such as laundry worker, janitor, and store laborer.
(R. 27-28). Because of this determination at step five, the
ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled under the Act as an
adult. (R. 28). The Appeals Council declined to review the
matter on June 5, 2018 (R. 1-3), making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner and,
therefore, reviewable by this Court. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
see, e.g., Smith v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1765, 1775
(2019); Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th
decision by an ALJ becomes the Commissioner's final
decision if the Appeals Council denies a request for review.
Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000). Judicial
review is limited to determining whether the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record
and whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards in
reaching his or her decision. See Nelms v. Astrue,
553 F.3d 1093, 1097 (7th Cir. 2009). The reviewing court may
enter a judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or
without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C.
evidence "means - and means only - 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 quotations omitted);
see also, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). A "mere scintilla" of evidence is not
enough. Biestek, 139 S.Ct. at 1154; Scott v.
Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002). Even where
there is adequate evidence in the record to support the
decision, the findings will not be upheld if the ALJ does not
"build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence
to the conclusion." Berger v. Astrue, 516 F.3d
539, 544 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted). In
other words, if the Commissioner's decision lacks
evidentiary support or adequate discussion of the issues, it
cannot stand. See Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558,
562 (7th Cir. 2009). Though the standard of review is
deferential, a reviewing court must "conduct a critical
review of the evidence" before affirming the
Commissioner's decision. Eichstadt v. Astrue,
534 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations
omitted). The reviewing court may not, however,
"displace the ALJ's judgment by reconsidering facts
or evidence, or by making independent credibility
determinations." Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408,
413 (7th Cir. 2008).
confines his arguments on appeal to the ALJ's findings
after he attained the age of 18. To that effect, Claimant
argues that the ALJ erred in four of his conclusions, none of
which, according to Claimant, were harmless error. [ECF No.
12]. With respect to the RFC assessment and the ALJ's
hypothetical to the VE, Claimant argues that neither
adequately accommodated Claimant's limitations in
concentration, persistence, and pace. Claimant further
contends that the following two conclusions in the RFC were
not supported by substantial evidence: (1) that Claimant
required only quick reminders, not re-demonstrations, twice a
day, and (2) that Claimant could perform work that involved
Level 2 reasoning despite his ...