United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. WILKERSON UNITED STATES 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) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 423.
applied for benefits in April 2015, alleging disability
beginning on January 29, 2015, the day after a prior
application had been denied. She later amended the onset date
to September 1, 2015. (Tr. 10, 196). After holding an
evidentiary hearing, an ALJ denied the application on March
20, 2018. (Tr. 10-22). 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 issues:
1. Whether the ALJ erred by failing to account for moderate
deficits of concentration, persistence, or pace in the
residual functional capacity finding;
2. Whether the ALJ erred by cherry-picking evidence and
equating minimal activity with a capacity to perform
substantial gainful activity.
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). 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.
She determined that plaintiff had not been engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset
date. She was insured for DIB through December 31, 2015. The
ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, anxiety disorder, affective
disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
personality disorder, which did not meet or equal a listed
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to do light work, with physical and mental limitations.
Only the mental limitations are in issue here. The ALJ found
that plaintiff was limited to simple repetitive tasks and
applying simple information, occasional simple
decision-making, occasional changes in routine, and
occasional superficial contact with co-workers and
supervisors performing tasks not requiring direct interaction
with the general public.
on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not able to do her past relevant work as a Unit
Clerk (medical secretary), receptionist, merchandise
displayer, retail manager, or bartender. 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. In view of
plaintiff's arguments, the Court will omit a discussion
of plaintiff's physical impairments.
was born in 1977 and was 38 years old on the alleged date of
onset. (Tr. 328). She alleged disability due to a brain
injury, bad back, depression, PTSD, and panic disorder. (Tr.
317). She last worked from December 2007 through January 2011
as a medical secretary. (Tr. 318).
2015, plaintiff reported that she was unable to retain new
information and could no longer concentrate on one thing. She
had panic attacks when stressed and was afraid to go outside
most of the time. (Tr. 348). She had to be ...