United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
DANIEL E. T.,  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 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for SSI in June 2015, alleging a disability onset
date of October 1, 2014. After holding an evidentiary
hearing, an ALJ issued a partially favorable decision on
February 28, 2018. (Tr. 16-29). The Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's
decision the final agency decision. (Tr. 1). Plaintiff
exhausted administrative remedies and filed a timely
complaint with this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following issues:
1. The ALJ erred in weighing the medical opinions.
2. The ALJ failed to consider plaintiff's use of a cane
3. The ALJ's analysis of plaintiff's subjective
complaints was erroneous.
qualify for 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. § 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.
The ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of lumbar
spondylosis, chronic moderate lung obstruction, hypertension,
obesity, and chronic deformity of T12, which did not meet or
equal a listed impairment.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to do work at the light exertional level, with
nonexertional physical limitations consisting of (1)
occasional climbing of ladders, ropes, scaffolding, ramps,
and stairs; (2) occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling; and (3) no concentrated exposure to pulmonary
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 through September 2, 2017, because he was
able to do other jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy. Plaintiff turned 55 on September 3,
2017 and was deemed disabled as of that date under the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines (“Grids”) 20 C.F.R.
Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 2, Table 2.
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.
said he was disabled because of back problems and lung
issues. He was 5' 9” tall and weighed 205 pounds.
He said he stopped working on March 6, 2015, because he was
slowing down due to back pain and his employer said he was
too slow for the job. He had past employment as a ...