United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
RICHARD D. ELLIOTT, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
RICHARD MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Richard D. Elliot filed a claim for disability insurance
benefits under Sections 216(I) and 223 of the Social Security
Act and now seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) for the denial of his claim at the administrative
are the Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and
Defendant’s motion for summary affirmance.
time of his alleged onset date, the Plaintiff was 44-years
old. He has a 10th grade education and has a combination of
medical problems including right ankle bone fusion and
infection, hernia repair surgery, insomnia, right hip pain,
right knee pain, neck pain, generalized pain and fatigue. He
also has depression and anxiety.
Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income in 2013, alleging
disability beginning in July 2013. After his applications
were denied initially and on reconsideration, the Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). The Plaintiff appeared with counsel and
testified at the hearing in July 2016 before ALJ Stephan
August 2016, the ALJ issued a Decision finding that Plaintiff
had the severe impairments of major depressive disorder;
post-surgical complete ankylosis (fusion) in neutral position
of the right ankle with extensive arthritic changes; right
shoulder impingement; and cervical osteoarthritis. The ALJ
found that none of the Plaintiff’s impairments, alone
or in combination, met or medically equaled the severity of a
listed impairment. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of
sedentary work and could perform a significant number of jobs
in the national economy and was thus not disabled.
2017, the Appeals Council declined review, making the
ALJ’s Decision the final decision for purposes of
judicial review. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the ALJ’s decision.
appeal, the Plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to give
controlling weight to the opinion of his treating physician,
Dr. Jonathan L. Wilford. Moreover, the ALJ failed to give
controlling weight to his treating psychiatrist, Dr. Erin
Humphrey, D.O. The Plaintiff also contends the ALJ’s
residual functional capacity assessment is not supported by
substantial evidence. The Commissioner claims appropriate
weight was given to the medical opinions and the ALJ’s
residual functional capacity determination was reasonable and
supported by substantial evidence.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
as here, the Appeals Council denies review, the ALJ's
decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
See Schaaf v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 869, 874 (7th Cir.
2010). The Act specifies that “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). “Substantial evidence” is
defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Yurt v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 850, 856 (7th Cir. 2014)
(citations omitted). Although the task of a court is not to
re-weigh evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the
ALJ, the ALJ's decision “must provide enough
discussion for [the Court] to afford [the Plaintiff]
meaningful judicial review and assess the validity of the
agency's ultimate conclusion.” Id. at
856-57. The ALJ “must build a logical bridge from the
evidence to his conclusion, but he need not provide a
complete written evaluation of every piece of testimony and
evidence.” Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737,
744 (7th Cir. 2005) (internal citations and quotation marks
evaluation of medical opinions
Plaintiff alleges the ALJ failed to give controlling weight
to the opinion of Dr. Wilford. While treating physicians are
“usually entitled to controlling weight, see
20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); SSR 96-2p,  an ALJ may
discredit the opinion if it is inconsistent with the
record.” Winsted v. Berryhill, 923 F.3d 472,
478 (7th Cir. 2019). An ALJ must provide “good
reasons” for discounting the opinion of a treating
physician. Scott v. Astrue, 647 F.3d 734, 739 (7th
Cir. 2011). When not entitled to controlling weight, an ALJ
assigns a medical opinion appropriate weight after
considering relevant factors, such as whether the opinion was
supported by evidence, whether the opinion was consistent
with the record as a whole, and the specifics of the treating
relationship. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c).
crushing his foot in bad car accident in 1998, the Plaintiff
had six surgeries. He was seen at the Mayo Clinic in 2001 for
a crushed tailor joint. The Plaintiff’s pain is
aggravated by weight bearing and interferes with walking and
daily activities. A CT scan on July 15, 2014 documents
problems with the ankle which include a Varus deformity, a
complex scar, extensive arthritis with two screws across the
medial malleolus, a 6.5 screw across the subtalar joint, a
possible non-union and likely infection.
pain clinic put the Plaintiff in counseling to deal with the
mental health consequences of his chronic pain. In October
2015, he was diagnosed with osteopenia in x-rays at the pain
clinic. The ...