United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. JENSEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Esther H. brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
seeking a remand of the decision denying her social security
benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a
United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below,
the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and this case is
January 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff alleged a disability
beginning on March 15, 2011, because of diabetes, migraines,
fibromyalgia, knee pain, back injury, neck pain, tendinitis
in the right arm, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat,
and depression. R. 161. Plaintiff reported that she stopped
working on her alleged onset date due to her conditions. R.
27, 2016, Plaintiff, represented by an attorney, testified at
a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ'). Plaintiff was then 63 years old. Plaintiff
testified that she could no longer work because she was
always in pain. R. 49. She could stand for only 15 to 20
minutes at a time before she needed to sit down and rest for
15 to 20 minutes. R. 49. Plaintiff could sit for a couple of
hours at a time before the pain in her leg would require her
to lie down for 20 minutes. R. 49-50.
Plaintiff's back surgery in July 2014, Plaintiff felt
better at first but within the year her back issues returned.
R. 50-51. Plaintiff testified to memory issues and the need
to write things down. R. 56. Plaintiff took medication for
depression, which was prescribed by her primary care
physician. R. 55. Plaintiff was not seeing a counselor,
noting that counseling was expensive. R. 55. Plaintiff also
testified that her diabetes was not well controlled even with
her medications. R. 57-58.
Plaintiff's work history, she was a dispatcher for 23
years. R. 43. The VE classified this job as skilled work with
a specific vocational preparation (“SVP”) of
R. 60. Plaintiff testified that she left that job because she
was eligible to retire and noticed her cognitive skills
starting to decline. R. 43, 46. Plaintiff explained that it
was nothing “life threatening, but to me, you can't
have any kind of errors. You're responsible for
lives.” R. 46. Plaintiff was never disciplined for any
errors. R. 47.
next four years, Plaintiff worked as a medical assistant. R.
41. Although the VE classified this job as skilled work with
an SVP of 6, Plaintiff was not concerned about her cognitive
decline because the doctor was in the room with her while she
worked. R. 47, 60. In 2011, Plaintiff stopped working as a
medical assistant because she was on her feet most of the day
and worked long hours. R. 41.
also heard testimony from Linda Gels, a vocational expert
(“VE”). The VE identified Plaintiff's past
work as a dispatcher, Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) 379.362-018, as skilled work and
sedentary, but light as performed by Plaintiff. R. 60. The VE
testified that a person with Plaintiff's RFC would be
able to perform the dispatcher job as generally performed,
namely sedentary. R. 61-62. However, the VE testified that if
Plaintiff were limited to simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks, she would not be able to perform work as a dispatcher.
R. 63. The VE also testified that there was no tolerance for
errors that would put a person or situation in jeopardy. R.
ultimately denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. The
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: fibromyalgia, hypertension, degenerative disc
disease, left knee osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus, and
obesity. R. 17. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment. R. 20. The ALJ concluded that through March 31,
2015, the date last insured, Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work with certain restrictions. R. 21. The ALJ also
determined that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant
work as a dispatcher as generally performed. R. 27.
Standard of Review
reviewing court may enter judgment “affirming,
modifying, or reversing the decision of the [Commissioner],
with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.”
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). If supported by substantial
evidence, the Commissioner's factual findings are
conclusive. Id. Substantial evidence consists of
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019).
Accordingly, the reviewing court is not to “reweigh
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Burmester v. Berryhill, 920
F.3d 507, 510 (7th Cir. 2019).
the Seventh Circuit has emphasized that review is not merely
a rubber stamp. Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593
(7th Cir. 2002) (a “mere scintilla” is not
substantial evidence). A reviewing court must conduct a
critical review of the evidence before affirming the
Commissioner's decision. Eichstadt v. Astrue,
534 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2008). Even when adequate record
evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision,
the decision will not be affirmed if the Commissioner does
not build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to
the conclusion. Berger v. Astrue, 516 F.3d 539, 544
(7th Cir. 2008). Moreover, federal courts cannot build a
logical bridge on behalf of the ALJ. See Mason v.
Colvin, No. 13 C 2993, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152938, at
*19-20 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 29, 2014).