United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
G. WILKERSON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff seeks
judicial review of the final agency decision denying his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 423.
applied for DIB in June 2015, alleging a disability onset
date of February 21, 2012. After holding an evidentiary
hearing, an ALJ denied the application on November 22, 2017.
(Tr. 22-31). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final
agency decision subject to judicial review. (Tr. 1).
Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies and filed a
timely complaint with this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following issues:
1. The ALJ failed to consider the effects of diabetes, Dr.
Cahill's opinion regarding same, and the effects of
2. The ALJ failed to adequately assess Dr. Cahill's
3. The ALJ's analysis of plaintiff's subjective
complaints is not based upon substantial evidence.
4. The ALJ failed to consider the effects of obesity.
5. The ALJ's assessment of Listing 1.02 was insufficient.
6. The ALJ failed to reconcile obvious conflicts between the
vocational expert's testimony and the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles (DOT).
qualify for DIB, 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 her
former occupation? and (5) Is the plaintiff unable to perform
any other work? 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.
affirmative answer at either step 3 or step 5 leads to a
finding that the plaintiff is disabled. A negative answer at
any step, other than at step 3, precludes a finding of
disability. The plaintiff bears the burden of proof at steps
1-4. 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. Zurawski v.
Halter, 245 F.3d 881, 886 (7th Cir. 2001).
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.
She first noted that a prior application had been denied by a
different ALJ on January 21, 2014 and found no basis to
reopen the prior denial. Therefore, plaintiff is deemed not
disabled up to January 21, 2014.
determined that plaintiff had not worked at the level of
substantial gainful activity since January 21, 2014. He was
insured for DIB only through December 31, 2017. The ALJ found
that plaintiff had severe impairments of obesity and
cardiomyopathy, which did not meet or equal a listed
impairment.She found that his type 2 diabetes and COPD
were nonsevere impairments.
found that plaintiff had the RFC to do light work, limited to
standing for no more than 4 hours in an 8-hour workday;
walking for no more than 4 hours in an 8-hour workday;
occasional operation of foot controls, balancing, and
stooping; no kneeling, crouching, or crawling; no exposure to
workplace hazards, humidity, wetness, or extreme
temperatures; no operation of commercial motor vehicles; rare
climbing of ramps and stairs; and no climbing of ladders,
ropes or scaffolds.
on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was not able to do his past relevant work. However,
he was not disabled because he was able to do other 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 the points
raised by plaintiff.
was born in 1965 and was 52 years old on the date of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 266). He said he was disabled
because of diabetes, COPD, cardiomyopathy, thick heart walls,
high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, acid
reflux, dysfunction of left knee, and obesity. He was 5'
10” tall and weighed 293 pounds. He stopped working in