United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JOHN K. F.,  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 his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 423.
applied for DIB and SSI in June 2014. (Tr. 18). After the
agency's final denial, he sought judicial review. The
case was remanded to the Commissioner by agreement of the
parties. (Tr. 649). Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date
of June 24, 2014. The same ALJ then held a second evidentiary
hearing and denied the application on August 29, 2018. (Tr.
564-579). The August 2018 is the final agency decision
subject to judicial review. Plaintiff exhausted his
administrative remedies and filed a timely complaint with
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following issues:
final agency decision is the product of reversible errors of
law and is not supported by substantial evidence. This Court
should find plaintiff disabled as a matter of law because of
uncontradicted evidence of absence from work due to four to
five gout flare ups annually, each of which requires absence
of at least a week.
final agency decision is not supported by substantial
evidence and is the product of reversible errors of law
because the residual functional capacity for sedentary work
is not supported by the record.
qualify for DIB or SSI, a claimant must be disabled within
the meaning of the applicable statutes. Under the Social
Security Act, a person is disabled if he 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.
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). The Supreme Court's definition of
substantial evidence applies, 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 citations omitted).
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 since the alleged
onset date. Plaintiff was insured for DIB through December
found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
gout/inflammatory arthritis, right foot osteoarthritis,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, obesity,
history of alcohol abuse in remission, history of learning
disorder, adjustment disorder with depressed mood, anxiety,
and depression, which did not meet or equal a listed
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to do work at the sedentary exertional level with a
number of physical and mental limitations. As is relevant
here, he was limited to standing and/or walking for a total
of two hours per workday.
on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not able to do his past relevant work. However,
he was not disabled because he was able to do other jobs ...