United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Louise Verhasselt alleges she has been disabled since August
29, 2010. (Tr. 16.) She was last insured on December 31,
2013. (Tr. 16.) Following a hearing before an administrative
law judge (ALJ), the ALJ on May 19, 2016, concluded that
Verhasselt had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since her alleged onset date and that she suffers from the
following severe impairment: “osteoarthritis of the
bilateral hands, status post bilateral carpometacarpal (CMC)
joint arthroplasty.” (Tr. 18.) The ALJ concluded that
Verhasselt’s anxiety was not a severe impairment. (Tr.
found that Verhasselt’s impairments did not meet or
medically equal a listing under in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 19.) The ALJ concluded that,
between August 29, 2010 and August 29, 2015, Verhasselt had
the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work
“except she is limited to occasional handling and
fingering with her bilateral upper extremities.” (Tr.
20.) A vocational expert testified that, with these
limitations, Verhasselt would be capable of performing
various jobs, including hostess, rental clerk, counter clerk,
or machine tender. (Tr. 23.)
the ALJ concluded that Verhasselt became disabled on August
29, 2015, her 55th birthday, when she transitioned from the
“individual closely approaching advanced age” to
the “advanced age” category under the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 2. (Tr. 16-17, 22); see also
Medical-Vocational Rule 202.04.
she was previously represented by counsel, Verhasselt is now
representing herself. In her filings with the court she
expresses frustration at the ALJ’s decision and argues
that it is unfair that she is not able to recover under SSDI
when she has been found disabled, worked for years, and was
forced to quit her job because of her impairments, which
started years before the date on which the ALJ found that she
became disabled. (ECF Nos. 16, 20.) She also argues, without
providing specifics, that the ALJ “overlooked my
medical reports and took things I said out of context.”
(ECF No. 16 at 1.) She argues she was limited to sedentary
work before her date last insured and therefore is disabled.
(ECF No. 16 at 2.)
court’s role in reviewing an ALJ’s decision is
limited. It does not look at the evidence anew and make an
independent determination as to whether or not the claimant
is disabled. Rather, the court must affirm the ALJ’s
decision if it is supported by substantial evidence.
Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120 (7th Cir.
2014). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. at 1120-21 (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
Thus, it is possible that opposing conclusions both can be
supported by substantial evidence. Scheck v.
Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 699 (7th Cir. 2004).
not the Court’s role to reweigh evidence or substitute
its judgment for that of the ALJ. Moore, 743 F.3d at
1121. Rather, the court must determine whether the ALJ
complied with his obligation to build an “accurate and
logical bridge” between the evidence and his conclusion
that is sufficient to enable a court to review the
administrative findings. Beardsley v. Colvin, 758
F.3d 834, 837 (7th Cir. 2014); Thomas v. Colvin, 745
F.3d 802, 806 (7th Cir. 2014). If the ALJ committed a
material error of law the court cannot affirm the ALJ’s
decision regardless of whether it is supported by substantial
evidence. Beardsley, 758 F.3d at 837; Farrell v.
Astrue, 692 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2012).
Verhasselt is representing herself, she must direct the court
to specific points she believes the ALJ got wrong. “A
generalized assertion of error is not sufficient to challenge
an adverse ruling, and undeveloped or unsupported contentions
are waived.” Cadenhead v. Astrue, 410 Fed.
Appx. 982, 984 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).
criticisms of the ALJ’s decision are generally
insufficiently specific and outside the scope of this
court’s review. Therefore, the court focuses on one
specific error Verhasselt alleges-that she was actually
limited to sedentary work. If Verhasselt was limited to
sedentary work when she was “closely approaching
advanced age,” i.e., 50 to 54 years old, she would be
disabled based upon her education and previous work
experience. See Medical-Vocational Rule 201.12;
see also SSR 96-09p.
is no dispute that Verhasselt was unlimited in her ability to
sit, stand, or walk. Therefore, the dispute over whether
Verhasselt was capable of light work comes down to whether
Verhasselt was capable of the lifting demands of light work.
“Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at
a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing
up to 10 pounds.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b).
“Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds
at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like
docket files, ledgers, and small tools.” 20 C.F.R.
support of his conclusion that Verhasselt was capable of the
lifting demands of light work, the ALJ pointed to a December
2009 letter (or perhaps more accurately described as a file
memorandum) of Dr. David A. Toivonen (Tr. 434), the surgeon
who performed the ...