United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
Dr. B., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
G. WILKERSON, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the pro se plaintiff
seeks judicial review of the final agency decision denying
her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 423.
applied for DIB and SSI in January 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of September 1, 2013. After holding an
evidentiary hearing, an ALJ denied the application on
November 16, 2016. (Tr. 16-24). 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 administrative remedies
and filed a timely complaint with this Court.
Raised by Plaintiff
filed a short brief at Doc. 25. She says that she is
“neither getting better nor younger.” She says
she is working as a substitute teacher, but that job is too
qualify for DIB or 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.
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).
important to recognize that the scope of judicial 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, 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 worked part-time but not at
the level of substantial gainful activity since the alleged
onset date. She was insured for DIB through December 31,
2016. The ALJ found that plaintiff had severe impairments of
non-ischemic cardiomyopathy and status post-surgery for
uterine fibroids with associated anemia.
found that plaintiff had the RFC to do light work, limited to
low stress work defined as having only occasional
decision-making and occasional changes in work setting. The
ALJ specified that the stress restriction resulted from her
cardiovascular impairment and was not related to her mental