United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
GORDON L. M.,  Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER of SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. WILKERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff,
represented by counsel, seeks judicial review of the final
agency decision denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
filed an application for DIB that was denied initially on
November 1, 1994. Plaintiff did not appeal that
determination. (Tr. 161). Plaintiff filed another application
for DIB in December 2015, alleging disability as of September
3, 1992. Plaintiff was last insured on December 31, 1997.
(Tr. 54, 138-141). After holding an evidentiary hearing, the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied the application on
November 7, 2016. (Tr. 19-27). The Appeals Council denied
review, and the decision of the ALJ became the final agency
decision. (Tr. 1). Administrative remedies were exhausted and
a timely complaint was filed in this Court.
October 23, 2017, Senior United States District Judge J. Phil
Gilbert reversed the ruling of the ALJ and remanded to the
Commissioner for rehearing and reconsideration of the
evidence. After holding another evidentiary hearing, the ALJ
denied the application again on July 9, 2018. (Tr. 620-633).
Administrative remedies have been exhausted and a timely
complaint was filed in this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following point:
The ALJ erred in failing to consider evidence in his step 3
analysis to determine whether plaintiff met a Listing.
the Social Security Act, a person is disabled if she 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). To 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.
affirmative answer at either step 3 or step 5 leads to a
finding that the plaintiff is disabled. Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001). A negative
answer at any step, other than at step 3, precludes a finding
of disability. Ibid. The plaintiff bears the burden
of proof at steps 1-4. Ibid. 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. Ibid.
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