United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division
MARILYN R. Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL,  Defendant.
DARROW, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Marilyn R. filed an application for disability insurance
benefits. The Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) (“the
Commissioner”) denied her application. Marilyn seeks
judicial review of this decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Compl., ECF No. 1. Before the Court are Marilyn's
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 10, the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Affirmance, ECF No. 14,
and Magistrate Judge Jonathan Hawley's Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”), ECF No. 17, which
recommends denying Marilyn's motion and granting the
Commissioner's motion. For the reasons that follow, the
R&R is ADOPTED. Marilyn's Motion for Summary Judgment
is DENIED and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary
Affirmance is GRANTED.
Report and Recommendation
magistrate judge considers a pretrial matter dispositive of a
party's claim or defense, he must enter a recommended
disposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(1). Parties may object within
fourteen days of being served with a copy of the recommended
disposition. Id. 72(b)(2).
district judge considers de novo the portions of the
recommended disposition that were properly objected to, and
may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition, or
return it to the magistrate judge for further proceedings.
Id. 72(b)(3). If no objection, or only partial
objection, is made, the district judge reviews the unobjected
portions of the recommendation for clear error. Johnson
v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999).
Marilyn filed objections to the R&R, but they were filed
more than fourteen days after the R&R was entered.
See Objections, ECF No. 18. The deadline for filing
objections to a magistrate judge's recommended
disposition is not jurisdictional, however, so the Court is
not barred from considering Marilyn's objections. See
Kruger v. Apfel, 214 F.3d 784, 786-87 (7th Cir. 2000).
Although she provides no explanation for not meeting the
deadline, the objections were only two days late and no
prejudice would result from the Court's consideration of
the late objections. See Id. at 787 (noting that
courts should consider whether the late objections caused any
prejudice to the opposing party and whether the objections
were filed “egregiously late” (quoting Hunger
v. Leininger, 15 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 1994))).
Therefore, the Court will consider Marilyn's objections.
R&R sets forth the relevant procedural background,
including an overview of the administrative law judge's
(“ALJ”) decision, so the Court will not repeat
that discussion here. See R&R 1-9. It also sets
forth the three arguments Marilyn makes in her summary
1) as a matter of law, the agency denial which is the final
agency action, the ALJ's unfavorable decision, is not
valid and must be vacated because the ALJ was not properly
appointed and therefore lacked legal authority to decide the
case; 2) in determining Marilyn's RFC, the
Defendant's ALJ did not follow correct legal standards
evaluating expert medical opinion evidence, and as a result,
her decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the
record as a whole, and is actually inconsistent with the
record evidence; and 3) the Defendant's ALJ failed to
credit Marilyn's statements, including sworn statements,
and did not explain good reasons.
Id. at 9. Judge Hawley recommends rejecting all
three arguments and affirming the ALJ's decision.
Id. at 23.
has three objections to the R&R. First, she objects to
Judge Hawley's finding that she forfeited her challenge
to the ALJ's appointment. Objections 1-2.
she objects to Judge Hawley's conclusion that the ALJ did
not reversibly err in considering the medical opinion
evidence. Id. at 2-3. And third, she objects to
Judge Hawley's conclusion that the ALJ did not reversibly
err in discounting her statements about her limitations.
Id. at 3-4. The Court considers these issues de
novo. The Court has reviewed the remainder of the R&R for
clear error and found none.
court reviews a decision denying benefits to determine only
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standard and
whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.
Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir.
2004). Substantial evidence means “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” McKinzey v. Astrue, 641
F.3d 884, 889 (7th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks omitted). On
review, the court cannot reweigh the evidence, decide
questions of credibility, or substitute its own judgment, but
must “nonetheless conduct a critical review of the
evidence.” Id. The ALJ does not have “to
provide a complete and written evaluation of every piece of
testimony and evidence, but must build a logical bridge from
the evidence to his conclusion.” Minnick v.
Colvin, 775 F.3d 929, 935 (7th Cir. 2015) (quotation
marks omitted). The court must “be able to trace the
path of the ALJ's reasoning from evidence to
conclusion.” Aranda v. Berryhill, 312
F.Supp.3d 685, 689 (N.D. Ill. 2018). If the ALJ's
decision lacks adequate discussion of the issues, the court
must remand for further proceedings. Villano v.
Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 562 (7th Cir. 2009). If the
ALJ's errors are harmless, however, the court will not
remand. See, e.g., McKinzey, 641 F.3d at
892 (“[A]dministrative error may be harmless: we will
not remand a case to the ALJ for further specification where
we are convinced that the ALJ will reach the same
result.”); Musgrove v. Berryhill, No. 17 CV
50117, 2018 WL 1184734, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 7, 2018)
(“The harmless error analysis looks to evidence in the
record to see if the court can predict with great confidence
what the result will be on remand.”).