Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Joseph J. L. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 16, 2019

JOSEPH J. L., JR., [1] Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER of SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DONALD G. WILKERSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         In 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) and Supplemental Income Security (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.

         Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for disability benefits in September and October 2014, alleging disability as of October 15, 2007. After holding an evidentiary hearing, an ALJ denied the application on November 7, 2017. (Tr. 15-30). 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.

         Issues Raised by Plaintiff

         Plaintiff raises the following points:

1. Did the ALJ err by independently crafting his own RFC after effectively rejecting every medical opinion of record?
2. Did the ALJ err by impermissibly playing doctor and interpreting medical evidence in the course of formulating his RFC determination?
3. Did the ALJ err in his analysis of Dr. Workman's opinion?
4. Did the ALJ err by omitting important evidence and, relatedly, failing to consider the combined effect of plaintiff's impairments?

         Applicable Legal Standards

         To qualify for DIB or SSI, a claimant must be disabled within the meaning of the applicable statutes.[3] 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. § 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. § 404.1520.

         An 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. 2001).

         This 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 citations omitted).

         In 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.

         The Decision of the ALJ

         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. He was insured for DIB only through September 30, 2009.

         The ALJ found that, prior to the date last insured, plaintiff had no severe impairments. Since the date in October 2014 when he filed his claim for SSI, plaintiff had severe impairments of degenerative disc disease; osteoarthritis affecting the right foot, ankle, knee, hand, hips, and shoulders; coronary artery disease with arrhythmia, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia; diabetes with neuropathy; level one obesity; carpal tunnel syndrome; and headaches.

         The ALJ found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform work at the sedentary exertional level limited to standing/walking for a total of two hours a day; frequent reaching, handling, and fingering bilaterally; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasional climbing of stairs and ramps; and occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not able to do his past work ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.