United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MARIA VALDEZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
denying Plaintiff Camerin R.'s claims for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons
that follow, Plaintiff's request to reverse the
Commissioner's decision and remand for further
proceedings is granted.
8, 2014, Plaintiff filed a claim for DIB, alleging disability
since December 7, 2013 due to rheumatoid arthritis and mental
impairments. The claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, after which she timely requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which
was held on July 14, 2016. Plaintiff personally appeared and
testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel.
Vocational expert (“VE”) Linda M. Gels also
February 15, 2017, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim for
benefits, finding her not disabled under the Social Security
Act. The Social Security Administration Appeals Council then
denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the
ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner
and, therefore, reviewable by the District Court under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v. Barnhart, 416
F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).
found at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of
December 7, 2013. At step two, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff had severe impairments of rheumatoid arthritis and
obesity and non-severe impairments of hypothyroidism,
depression, and anxiety. The ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff's claim of lupus, being supported by no medical
signs or findings in the record, was not medically
determinable during the relevant period. The ALJ concluded at
step three that her impairments, alone or in combination, do
not meet or medically equal a Listing. Before step four, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform
medium work except occasional climbing ladders and no
climbing ropes or scaffolds.
four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is capable of
performing her past relevant work as a retail store manager
and area supervisor, leading to a finding that she is not
disabled under the Social Security Act.
ALJ LEGAL STANDARD
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). In order 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. § 416.920(a)(4).
affirmative answer at either step 3 or step 5 leads to a
finding that the Plaintiff is disabled. Young v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386,
389 (7th Cir. 1992). A negative answer at any step, other
than at step 3, precludes a finding of disability.
Id. The Plaintiff bears the burden of proof at steps
1-4. Id. 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.
405(g) provides in relevant part that “[t]he 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). Judicial review
of the ALJ's decision is limited to determining whether
the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence
or based upon legal error. Clifford v. Apfel, 227
F.3d 863, 869 (7th Cir. 2000); Stevenson v. Chater,
105 F.3d 1151, 1153 (7th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971);
Skinner v. Astrue, 478 F.3d 836, 841 (7th Cir.
2007). This Court may not substitute its judgment for that of
the Commissioner by reevaluating facts, reweighing evidence,
resolving conflicts in evidence, or deciding questions of
credibility. Skinner, 478 F.3d at 841; see also
Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008)
(holding that the ALJ's decision must be affirmed even if
“‘reasonable minds could differ'” as
long as “the decision is adequately supported”)
is not required to address “every piece of evidence or
testimony in the record, [but] the ALJ's analysis must
provide some glimpse into the reasoning behind her decision
to deny benefits.” Zurawski v. Halter, 245
F.3d 881, 889 (7th Cir. 2001). In cases where the ALJ denies
benefits to a Plaintiff, “he must build an accurate and
logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion.”
Clifford, 227 F.3d at 872. The ALJ must at least
minimally articulate the “analysis of the evidence with
enough detail and clarity to permit meaningful appellate
review.” Briscoe ex rel. Taylor v. Barnhart,
425 F.3d 345, 351 (7th Cir. 2005); Murphy v. Astrue,
496 F.3d 630, 634 (7th Cir. 2007) (“An ALJ has a duty
to fully ...