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,
represented by counsel, 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 disability benefits in April 2015, alleging
disability as of January 25, 2011. She later amended her
onset date to January 1, 2014. After holding an evidentiary
hearing, an ALJ denied the application on October 3, 2017.
(Tr. 206-219). 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
argues that the ALJ's assessment of her subjective
statements was erroneous because he relied on misrepresented
facts and ignored probative information.
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 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.
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 three or step five leads to
a finding that the plaintiff is disabled. A negative answer
at any step, other than at step three, precludes a finding of
disability. The plaintiff bears the burden of proof at steps
one through four. Once the plaintiff shows an inability to
perform past work, the burden then shifts to the Commissioner
to show that there are jobs existing in significant numbers
in the national economy which plaintiff can perform.
Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir.
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.
She was insured for DIB through December 31, 2017.
found that plaintiff had severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; migraine
headaches; lower extremity deep vein thrombosis;
fibromyalgia; multiple sclerosis; hypertension; depression;
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the sedentary exertional level
limited to no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; only
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks where supervision is
simple, direct, and concrete for the worker and SVP [specific
vocational preparation] 1 or 2 that can be learned in 30
days; no interaction with the public; and not more than
occasional changes in the workplace setting.
on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded
that plaintiff was not able to do her past work as a store
manager or customer service representative, but she was able
to do other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary
record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The
following summary of the record is directed to
was born in 1975. She was 42 years old on the date of the
ALJ's decision. A prior claim had been denied as of March
17, 2014. (Tr. 466-467).
September 2015 plaintiff reported that she was unable to work
because she was unable to stand or sit for very long, she
dropped things, and headaches made it impossible to
concentrate or even keep her eyes open for long. Her husband
did the cooking, housework, and yard work. She had to use a
cane or walker at all times. They were prescribed by a doctor
in March 2015. She ...