United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
JESSICA L. C. T.,  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 plaintiff Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) benefits until August 13, 2015, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 423.
applied for SSI in March 2014, alleging disability as of
March 9, 2009. After holding an evidentiary hearing, an ALJ
issued a partially favorable decision on April 23, 2018. (Tr.
14, 30-31). The Appeals Council agreed with the ALJ decision,
and the decision of the ALJ became the final agency decision.
(Tr. 1). Administrative remedies have been exhausted and a
timely complaint was filed in this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
raises the following point:
1. The ALJ erred by cherry-picking the evidence in the course
of his analysis of medical records from Banning Mental
qualify for SSI, a claimant must be disabled within the
meaning of the applicable statutes and
regulations. Under 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).
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 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 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.
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). The Supreme
Court defines substantial evidence as, “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill,
2019 WL 1428885, at *3 ( S.Ct. Apr. 1, 2019) (internal
reviewing for “substantial evidence, ” this Court
takes the entire administrative record 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 not worked at the level of
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
found that plaintiff had severe impairments of obesity,
hypertension, bipolar disorder not otherwise specified,
generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder,
and borderline personality disorder.
found that, prior to August 13, 2015, the established onset
date, plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
lift and carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five
pounds frequently. She could sit, stand, or walk about six
hours each day in an eight-hour work day. She could push and
pull as much as she could lift and carry. She could
occasionally climb ramps or stairs but could never climb
ladders, ropes or scaffolding. She could never work at
unprotected heights or around dangerous, moving machinery.
She could never operate a motor vehicle as part of her job
duties. She could perform the basic mental demands of
semi-skilled work where she had limited interpersonal
interactions. On a sustained basis, she could understand,
remember and carry out simple and semi-skilled tasks. She
could occasionally interact with supervisors, coworkers, or
found that, as of August 13, 2015, plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity to lift and carry fifty pounds
occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently. She can sit,
stand, or walk about six hours each in an eight-hour work
day. She can push and pull as much as she can lift and carry.
She can occasionally climb ramps or stairs but can never
climb ladders, ropes or scaffolding. She should never work at
unprotected heights or around dangerous, moving machinery.
She should never operate a motor vehicle as part of her job
duties. She can perform the basic mental demands of
semi-skilled work. She can understand, remember and carry out
simple and semi-skilled tasks. However, she cannot respond
appropriately to supervisors, coworkers, or the public.
found plaintiff could not perform any past relevant work.
Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ
concluded that plaintiff was disabled, with the onset date
being August 13, 2015 as opposed to March 9, 2009, because no
jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that she can perform.
Court has reviewed and considered the entire evidentiary
record in formulating this Memorandum and Order. The
following summary of the record is directed to
was born in 1980 and was 37 years old on the date of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. 196). Between 2006 and 2012, she
worked as a retail stocker, and was self-employed ...