United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
C. WILSON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff C. Wilson
seeks judicial review of the final agency decision denying
her application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
applied for benefits in June 2014, alleging a symptom onset
date of March 2011. Following a few denials of Wilson's
application, an administrative law judge held a hearing on
Wilson's request and again denied her application. The
Social Security Agency's appeals council affirmed that
administrative judge's decision-rendering it the final
decision of the agency-and Wilson filed a timely complaint
here. She makes one argument: that the administrative law
judge failed to consider her diagnosis of panic disorder and
the corresponding medication.
qualify for benefits, a claimant must be
“disabled” pursuant to the Social Security Act.
The Act defines a “disability” as the
“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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). The physical or mental impairment must result
from a medically demonstrable abnormality. 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(3). Moreover, the impairment must prevent the
plaintiff from engaging in significant physical or mental
work activity done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. §
Security regulations require an ALJ to ask five questions
when determining whether a claimant is disabled. The first
three questions are simple: (1) whether the claimant is
presently unemployed; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
physical or mental impairment; and (3) whether that
impairment meets or is equivalent to one of the listed
impairments that the regulations acknowledge to be
conclusively disabling. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4);
Weatherbee v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 565, 569 (7th Cir.
2011). If the answers to these questions are “yes,
” then the ALJ should find that the claimant is
times, an ALJ may find that the claimant is unemployed and
has a serious impairment, but the impairment is neither
listed in nor equivalent to the impairments in the
regulations-failing at step three. If this happens, then the
ALJ must ask a fourth question: (4) whether the claimant is
able to perform his or her previous work. Id. If the
claimant is not able to, then the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to answer a fifth and final question: (5)
whether the claimant is capable of performing any
work within the economy, in light of the claimant's age,
education, and work experience. If the claimant cannot, then
the ALJ should find the claimant to be disabled.
Id.; see also Simila v. Astrue, 573 F.3d
503, 512-13 (7th Cir. 2009); Zurawski v. Halter, 245
F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001).
claimant may appeal the final decision of the Social Security
Administration to this Court, but the scope of review here is
limited: while the Court must ensure that the ALJ did not
make any errors of law, the ALJ's findings of fact are
conclusive as long as they are supported by
“substantial evidence.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable person
would find sufficient to support a decision.
Weatherbee, 649 F.3d at 568 (citing Jens v.
Barnhart, 347 F.3d 209, 212 (7th Cir. 2003)). The Court
takes into account the entire administrative record when
reviewing for substantial evidence, but it does not reweigh
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute its own judgment for that of the ALJ.
Brewer v. Chater, 103 F.3d 1384, 1390 (7th Cir.
1997); Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1121 (7th
Cir. 2014). But even though this judicial review is limited,
the Court should not and does not act as a rubber stamp for
the Commissioner. Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920,
921 (7th Cir. 2010).
argument is simple, but it fails hard and fast. She says that
the administrative law judge erred by ignoring Wilson's
panic disorder diagnosis-specifically because the judge gave
“great weight to the opinions of state agency
consultants” whom both misstated that Wilson has no
history of any psych diagnosis or medication. But the
judge's written decision shows the exact opposite. The
judge dedicated two pages of her decision to Wilson's
panic disorder diagnosis and why it does not amount to a
severe limitation, and the judge did not rely on the state
agency consultants in that section whatsoever. (Tr. 13-14.)
Wilson, however, ignores that, and instead cites to the
judge's later discussion of Wilson's
physical limitations-wherein the judge
relied on the allegedly questionable agency consultants-and
says that the judge's reliance on the consultants there
was somehow problematic to the judge's earlier discussion
regarding Wilson's mental limitations. (Tr. 18-19.) That
argument misstates the administrative law judge's written
here, the judge's decision makes very clear that she
considered Wilson's panic disorder diagnosis and built a
logical bridge from that evidence to her conclusion: an
ultimate denial of Wilson's application for benefits.
Myles v. Astrue, 582 F.3d 672, 678 (7th Cir. 2009);
Getch v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 473, 480 (7th Cir. 2008).
Because this is Wilson's only argument, any other
argument that she could potentially have made-including the
ones that the agency addresses in their response brief out of
an abundance of caution-are waived. Gonzales v.
Mize, 565 F.3d 373, 382 (7th Cir. 2009).
careful review of the record, the administrative law judge
committed no errors of law and her findings are supported by
substantial evidence. The Court accordingly
AFFIRMS the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Wilson's
application for ...