United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
KIMBERLY A. C.,  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 Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
applied for disability benefits in November 2012, alleging
disability as of September 15, 2010. After holding an
evidentiary hearing, an ALJ denied the application in
February 2015. (Tr. 12-19). Plaintiff sought judicial review,
and the case was remanded to the agency by agreement of the
parties. (Tr. 1376-1380). On remand, the same ALJ again
denied the application in July 2016. That decision is the
final agency decision. (Tr. 1325-1333). Administrative
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 ALJ erred in weighing the medical opinions.
3. The testimony of the vocational expert (VE) was not
supported by substantial evidence.
qualify for 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. § 423(d)(1)(a).
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 never worked at the level of
substantial gainful activity. She was born in 1967 and was 49
years old on the date of the ALJ's
found that plaintiff had severe impairments of joint
dysfunction with residuals of left total knee replacement;
obesity; cor pulmonale; degenerative disc disease; and
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 scaffolding; no
kneeling, squatting, or crawling; occasional stooping,
crouching, reaching overhead, and climbing ramps and stairs;
no concentrated exposure to extreme temperatures or pulmonary
irritants; and no exposure to moving machinery, unprotected
heights, or uneven surfaces. She needed a sit/stand option at
will provided it would not cause her to be off-task more than
10% of the workday. She also had mental limitations which are
not in issue here.
had no past relevant work. Based on the testimony of a
vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not
disabled because she 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 ...