United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
CARLA J. S., 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 her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
filed an application for both DIB and SSI in October 2015,
alleging disability as of October 14, 2015. After holding an
evidentiary hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)
denied both applications on January 29, 2018. (Tr. 17-27).
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
raises the following point:
The ALJ did not adhere to 20 C.F.R. § 416.927 when she
failed to accord adequate weight to the opinion of
plaintiff’s treating physician, Dr. Cumberledge.
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.
affirmative answer at either step 3 or step 5 leads to a
finding that the plaintiff is disabled. Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001). A negative
answer at any step, other than at step 3, precludes a finding
of disability. Ibid. The plaintiff bears the burden
of proof at steps 1–4. Ibid. Once the
plaintiff shows an inability to perform past work, the burden
then shifts to the Commissioner to show the plaintiff’s
ability to engage in other work existing in significant
numbers in the national economy. Ibid.
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).
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
Decision of the ALJ
followed the five-step analytical framework described above.
She determined that plaintiff had not worked at the level of
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
The ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, cervical
spondylosis, obesity, and ulcerative colitis.
found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(RFC) to perform work at the sedentary exertional level,
limited to no climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds;
occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; occasional
balancing, stooping, crouching, crawling, and kneeling; and
occasional exposure to vibration and hazards. The ALJ stated
that plaintiff should work in an environment in which a
restroom is easily accessible. Based on the testimony of the
VE, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was unable to do her
past relevant work, while also making an alternative finding
that she was able to do other jobs at the sedentary
exertional level which exist in significant numbers in the