United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jeffrey Cummings United States Magistrate Judge
to this Court's order (Dckt. #17), pro se
plaintiff Trina B. (“Claimant”) timely filed an
opening brief in support of her request to reverse the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security that denied
her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIBs”) under 42 U.S.C. §§416(i) and
423(d) of the Social Security Act. The Commissioner
subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment asserting
that the final decision should be upheld because Claimant
does not assert proper grounds for seeking remand under 42
U.S.C. §405(g). For the reasons stated below, the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment [Dckt. #24] is
worked in the fast food industry from January 1989 until
January 2013. (R. 170.) In January 2014, Claimant filed her
initial claim for disability based on the following
conditions: arthritis in back; arthritis in pelvis; kidney
disease; high blood pressure; and blood disease. (R. 74,
152-53.) In her Function Report, Claimant explained that she
could not stand or sit for extended periods of time without
back and leg pain. (R. 190.) During her September 19, 2016
hearing, Claimant testified that she has pain in her back and
swelling in her legs that causes her to lose balance. (R.
40.) Claimant further testified that she is unable to walk,
sit, or stand for a long period of time. (Id.)
October 31, 2016, Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Edward Studzinski issued a twelve-page
decision in which he found that Claimant was not disabled and
denied her application for DIBs. (R. 12-32.) Claimant
requested review by the Appeals Council, which was denied on
October 23, 2017, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-6); Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 883 (7th Cir. 2001). Claimant
subsequently filed a complaint in the District Court seeking
to reverse the Commissioner's decision.
opening brief, Claimant set forth a narrative describing her
physical symptoms and attached five pages of her medical
records that post-date her September 19, 2016 hearing before
the ALJ in support of her argument that she is entitled to
DIBs. Dckt. #18. In his memorandum in support of his motion
for summary judgment, the Commissioner asserts that Claimant
has failed to set forth proper grounds for seeking remand
under 42 U.S.C. §405(g) and criticizes Claimant for
submitting a brief that does not comply with Federal Rule of
Appellate Procedure 28. Dckt. #25. In her reply, Complainant
argues that her prior attorney did not submit all of the
medical evidence to support her claim to the ALJ and she
attached additional pages of medical records which she claims
should be taken into consideration despite the fact that
almost all of these records - - which were created in 2017
and 2018 - - post-date the ALJ's 2016 decision. Dckt.
Claimant has failed to establish that this case should be
remanded for consideration of the medical records that she
has attached to her submissions
Although Claimant's pro se submissions are
“liberally construed, ” Kabele v.
Colvin, No. 12-CV-776-WMC, 2015 WL 1430343, at *4
(W.D.Wis. Mar. 27, 2015) (citing Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), this principle does not relieve
Claimant of her obligation to identify and support
appropriate grounds to reverse the adverse decision by the
Commissioner regarding her application for DIBs. See,
e.g., Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 324 n.6 (3d Cir.
2016) (“unrepresented litigants are not relieved from
the rules of procedure and the requirements of substantive
law.”). In this case, Claimant does not identify any
error by the ALJ nor does she argue that there was a lack of
substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision.
Instead, Claimant describes the physical symptoms that she is
currently experiencing and pins the blame for denial of her
benefits on her former attorney. Dckt. #18, at 1-3; Dckt.
#26, at 2. In particular, Claimant asserts that “I was
denied social security benefits due to my lawyer at the time
who didn't submit all my medical evidence to support my
claim.” Dckt. #26, at 2. Claimant asks this Court to
“please look over all my medical records to make a
decision in my favor, ” and she attached roughly thirty
pages of medical records to her opening brief and reply
submission. Dckt. #18, at 4-8; Dckt. #26, at 3-29.
Court - - as does the Commissioner (Dckt. #2, at 2) - -
construes Claimant's submissions to request relief under
sentence six of 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which provides that
the Court may remand the case to allow for additional
evidence to be presented to the Commissioner upon a showing
that “there is new evidence which is material and that
there is good cause for the failure to incorporate such
evidence into the record in a prior proceeding.”
Id.; Anderson v. Bowen, 868 F.2d 921, 927
(7th Cir. 1989). Claimant bears the burden of proving that
these requirements have been met. See Rudolph v.
Colvin, No. 12-CV-1159, 2013 WL 5945788, at *1 (E.D.Wis.
Nov. 5, 2013); Overcash v. Astrue, No.
5:07-CV-123-RL, 2011 WL 815789, at *3 (W.D. N.C. Feb. 28,
the Court considers whether the evidence is new and material,
it must decide whether there was good cause for failure to
present such evidence earlier.” McGrath v.
Astrue, No. 11 CV 2125, 2012 WL 1204391, at *9 (N.D.Ill.
Apr. 10, 2012). Claimant asserts that her lawyer was
“nervous” and failed to properly answer the
ALJ's questions because the ALJ supposedly did not like
lawyers. Dckt. #26, at 2. Claimant further asserts that she
did not realize that her attorney failed to bring all of her
medical records to the hearing until after the hearing was
over. Id. Even presuming that Claimant's
assertions about her prior attorney's shortcomings are
factually accurate,  they would not provide “good
cause” for a remand. This is so because “[c]ourts
around the country . . . have repeatedly held that
‘[m]istakes by an attorney are not considered to be
‘good cause' for purposes of a remand under
Sentence Six.'” Shaver v. Colvin, No.
3:13-CV-00388-FDW, 2014 WL 3854143, at *4 (W.D. N.C. Aug. 6,
2014), quoting Benton v. Astrue, No.
0:09-892-HFF-PJG, 2010 WL 3419276, at *4 (D.S.C. April 28,
2010); Taylor v. Commissioner of Social Security, 43
Fed.Appx. 941, 943 (6th Cir. 2002) (“there is
absolutely no statutory or decisional authority for [the
plaintiff's] . . . premise that the alleged incompetence
of her first attorney constitutes ‘good cause' in
the Court has found that there was no good cause for failing
to introduce the medical records that Claimant has attached
to her submissions, the Court need not decide whether the
evidence is new and material. Waite v. Bowen, 819
F.2d 1356, 1361 (7th Cir. 1987); Wilson v. Shalala,
7 F.3d 239, 1993 WL 404256, at *3 n.1 (7th Cir. 1993).
Nonetheless, for purposes of completeness, the Court does
address the materiality issue and it finds that the medical
records that Claimant offers for consideration are not
material. “Additional evidence is material if there is
a reasonable possibility that it would have changed the
outcome of the Secretary's determination.”
McGrath, 2012 WL 1204391, at *3. “[N]ew
evidence is material only if it is relevant to the
claimant's condition ‘during the relevant time
period encompassed by the disability application under
review.'” Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d
737, 742 (7th Cir. 2005), quoting Kapusta v.
Sullivan, 900 F.2d 94, 97 (7th Cir. 1990).
all of the medical records that Claimant has attached to her
submissions are immaterial because they were created in 2017
and 2018 and therefore postdate - - and could not
have affected - - the ALJ's October 31, 2016 decision.
See, e.g., Getch v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 473, 484 (7th
Cir. 2008); Schmidt, 395 F.3d at 742;
Kapusta, 900 F.2d at 97; Taylor, 43
Fed.Appx. at 943. The few remaining records that were in
existence at the time of the hearing are likewise
non-material because they concern matters addressed by the
ALJ in his decision and thus do not “constitute
substantive evidence in addition to that already available in
the record.” Jirau v. Astrue, 715 F.Supp.2d
814, 825 (N.D.Ill. 2010). Consequently, Claimant has failed
to meet her burden of showing that a remand is required under
sentence six of 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
The ALJ's decision was supported by ...