United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Rowland United States Magistrate Judge.
Mary G. filed this action seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) under
the Social Security Act (the Act). The parties consented to
the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 636(c). For the reasons stated
below, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment  and denies the Commissioner's motion for
summary judgment . The case is remanded for further
proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
applied for DIB on February 5, 2015, alleging that she became
disabled on October 28, 2008. (R. at 16). The application was
denied initially and on reconsideration, after which
Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id.
at 56- 57). On June 7, 2017, Plaintiff, represented by
counsel, testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ). (Id. at 1292-1324). The ALJ also heard
testimony from James E. Lanier, a vocational expert (VE).
(Id. at 1326). The ALJ denied Plaintiff's
request for benefits on November 9, 2017. (Id. at
16-27). Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process,
the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity between her alleged onset date
of October 28, 2008 and date last insured of September 30,
2013. (Id. at 18). At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had severe impairments of degenerative disc disease
of lumbar spine, post laminectomy syndrome, and major
depressive disorder. (Id.). At step three, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of any of the enumerated listings in the
regulations. (Id. at 20). Concluding that
Plaintiff's mental impairment did not meet or equal a
listing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had mild limitations in
understanding, remembering or applying information, mild
limitation in interacting with others and in adapting or
managing oneself, moderate limitations in concentration,
persistence, and pace. (Id.) The ALJ then assessed
Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity
(RFC) and determined that Plaintiff has the RFC
to perform light work. In addition:
She could lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently. She could stand and/or walk for about 6
hours total in an 8hour workday. She could sit for about 6
hours total. She could frequently kneel, crouch and crawl.
She could occasionally climb ramps and stairs. She could not
climb ladders, ropers or scaffolds. She needed to avoid
concentrated exposure to temperature extremes and unprotected
heights. She could understand, remember and carry out tasks
at the semi-skilled level, defined as involving Specific
Vocational Preparation (SVP) levels of 3 or 4. She could make
work-related decisions and tolerate workplace changes at such
levels. She could tolerate routine interaction with
supervisors, workers, and the public. She could persist in
such activities with adequate pace and perseverance.
(Id. at 21). Based on Plaintiff's RFC and the
VE's testimony, the ALJ determined at step four that
Plaintiff was able to perform past relevant work as a
receptionist and billing clerk. (Id. at 27).
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a
disability, as defined by the Act, from the alleged onset
date of October 8, 2008 through September 30, 2013.
(Id.). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on July 18, 2018. (Id. at 5-7).
Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's
decision, which stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558,
561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's final decision is authorized
by § 405(g) of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Court may not engage in its own
analysis of whether the plaintiff is disabled nor may it
“reweigh evidence, resolve conflicts in the record,
decide questions of credibility, or, in general, substitute
[its] own judgment for that of the Commissioner.”
Young v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 995, 1001 (7th Cir.
2004). The Court's task is “limited to determining
whether the ALJ's factual findings are supported by
substantial evidence.” Id. Substantial
evidence “must be more than a scintilla but may be less
than a preponderance.” Skinner v. Astrue, 478
F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). In
addition, the ALJ must “explain his analysis of the
evidence with enough detail and clarity to permit meaningful
appellate review.” Scrogham v. Colvin, 765
F.3d 685, 695 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations and
Court accords great deference to the ALJ's determination,
but “must do more than merely rubber stamp the
ALJ's decision.” Scott v. Barnhart, 297
F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal quotations and
citation omitted). The deferential standard “does not
mean that we scour the record for supportive evidence or rack
our brains for reasons to uphold the ALJ's decision.
Rather, the ALJ must identify the relevant evidence and build
a ‘logical bridge' between that evidence and the
ultimate determination.” Moon v. Colvin, 763
F.3d 718, 721 (7th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). “If a
decision ‘lacks evidentiary support or is so poorly
articulated as to prevent meaningful review,' a remand is
required.” Kastner v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 642,
646 (7th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). Reversal and remand
may be required “if the ALJ committed an error of law,
or if the ALJ based the decision on serious factual mistakes
or omissions.” Beardsley v. Colvin, 758 F.3d
834, 837 (7th Cir. 2014) (internal citations omitted).
request for reversal or remand, Plaintiff challenges the
ALJ's decision on several grounds. The Court agrees with
Plaintiff that the RFC did not properly account for her
non-exertional limitations, particularly in concentration,
persistence, or pace. Therefore the Court cannot conclude that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusions about
Plaintiff's work-related limitations and her
determination that Plaintiff can perform her past work.
is the most an individual can do despite her limitations. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). In this case, the ALJ did not
build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to her
conclusion about Plaintiff's mental RFC. See Spicher
v. Berryhill, 898 F.3d 754, 757 (7th Cir. 2018) (an ALJ
must “build an accurate and logical bridge from the
evidence to her conclusion”) (citations and quotations
omitted). The ALJ found that Plaintiff's mental
impairment resulted in moderate limitations to her ability to
concentrate, persist, or maintain pace. (R. at 20).
Nevertheless the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform
tasks at the semi-skilled level; she could “make
work-related decisions and tolerate workplace changes at such
levels”; “tolerate routine interaction with
supervisors, workers, and the public”; and
“persist in such activities with adequate pace and
perseverance.” (Id. at 21).
Commissioner argues that the ALJ “reasonably
accommodated” Plaintiff's mental limitations in
restricting her to semi-skilled work. (Dkt. 24 at 10). The
Court disagrees. The Seventh Circuit has held that
individuals who are “mildly to moderately
limited” in concentration, persistence, or pace are
able to perform “simple and repetitive light
work.” Simila v. Astrue, 573 F.3d 503, 521-22
(7th Cir. 2009) (citing Sims v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d
424, 431 (7th Cir. 2002)). Even limiting a plaintiff to
“simple, routine tasks and limited interactions with
others” does not “adequately capture
temperamental deficiencies and limitations in concentration,
persistence, and pace.” Yurt v. Colvin, 758
F.3d 850, 859 (7th Cir. 2014). See also Mack v.
Berryhill, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122322, at *11 (N.D.
Ill. July 23, 2018) (“The ALJ himself determined that
Claimant had moderate difficulties in concentration,
persistence, or pace, and, therefore, he was required to
account for such difficulties in assessing Claimant's
RFC.”); Klein v. Colvin, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
6926, at *13 (S.D. Ill. Jan. 18, 2017) (“If, as is
established by Seventh Circuit precedent, a limitation to
unskilled work does not adequately account for a moderate
limitation in concentration, persistence or pace, it is
difficult to see how a limitation to semi-skilled work would
to this settled law, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
moderately limited in concentration, persistence and pace but
could perform semi-skilled ...