United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MATTHEW E. B.,  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) and Supplemental Income Security
(SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for disability benefits in April 2014, alleging
disability as of February 15, 2012. After holding an
evidentiary hearing, an ALJ denied the application on
December 4, 2017. (Tr. 20-36). The Appeals Council denied
review, and the decision of the ALJ became the final agency
decision. (Tr. 1).
remedies have been exhausted and a timely complaint was filed
in this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following points:
1. The ALJ erred in assessing the reliability of
plaintiff's subjective allegations.
2. The RFC assessment was erroneous in that both the mental
and physical limitations were not supported by substantial
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 he 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 his
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. He
was insured for DIB only through December 31, 2014.
found that plaintiff had severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease status post compression fractures, obesity,
COPD/asthma, hypertension, generalized anxiety disorder,
depression, and history of polysubstance abuse.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the light exertional level limited
to occasional climbing of ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and
scaffolding; frequent balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling; and no concentrated exposure to
pulmonary irritants. Mental limitations were that he was
limited to understanding, remembering, and carrying out
instructions for simple tasks on a sustained basis in a work
setting that does not require interaction with the general
public, and is able to respond appropriately to simple
changes in routine work settings.
had no past relevant work. Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not
disabled because he was able to do jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy.
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 1987 and was 30 years old on the date of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 304). He worked as a
“helper” for a ...