United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
THOMAS J. FITZGERALD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Thomas J. Fitzgerald alleges he has been disabled since
December 15, 2011, due to depression, anxiety,
attention-deficit disorder, and polysubstance
abuse/dependence. (Tr. 91, 106.) In August 2013 he applied
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. (Tr. 204-07, 211-16.) After his applications were
denied initially (Tr. 91-122) and upon reconsideration (Tr.
123-48), a hearing was held before an administrative law
judge (ALJ) on October 26, 2016 (Tr. 30-90). On February 17,
2017, the ALJ issued a written decision concluding Fitzgerald
was not disabled. (Tr. 13-23.) The Appeals Council denied
Fitzgerald's request for review on January 18, 2018. (Tr.
1-3.) This action followed. All parties have consented to the
full jurisdiction of a magistrate judge (ECF Nos. 4, 7), and
the matter is now ready for resolution.
determining whether a person is disabled an ALJ applies a
five-step sequential evaluation process. At step one, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant has engaged in substantial
gainful activity. The ALJ found that Fitzgerald “has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December
15, 2011, the alleged disability onset date.” (Tr. 15.)
analysis then proceeds to the second step, which is a
consideration of whether the claimant has a medically
determinable impairment or combination of impairments that is
“severe.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c). “In order for an impairment to be
considered severe at this step of the process, the impairment
must significantly limit an individual's ability to
perform basic work activities.” Moore v.
Colvin, 743 F.3d 118, 1121 (7th Cir. 2014). The ALJ
concluded that Fitzgerald has the following severe
impairments: “anxiety disorder, affective disorder, and
substance addiction disorder.” (Tr. 15.)
three, the ALJ is to determine whether the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments is of a severity to
meet or medically equal the criteria of the impairments
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 4, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(d), 416.1526, 416.920(d) and 416.926)
(called “The Listings.”) If the impairment or
impairments meets or medically equals the criteria of a
listing and also meets the twelve- month duration
requirement, 20 C.F.R. § 416.909, the claimant is
disabled. If the claimant's impairment or impairments is
not of a severity to meet or medically equal the criteria set
forth in a listing, the analysis proceeds to the next step.
The ALJ found that Fitzgerald “does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments[.]” (Tr. 15.)
between steps three and four the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), which is
the claimant's ability to perform both physical and
mental work-related activities on a regular and continuing
basis despite her impairments. Moore, 743 F.3d at
1121. In making the RFC finding, the ALJ must consider all of
the claimant's impairments, including impairments that
are not severe. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529; 416.929; SSR
96-4p. In other words, the RFC determination is a
“function by function” assessment of the
claimant's maximum work capability. Elder v.
Asture, 529 F.3d 408, 412 (7th Cir. 2008). The ALJ
concluded that Fitzgerald has the RFC
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: he is limited
to understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple
instructions; he is limited to simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks; the claimant is limited to no contact with
the public and occasional contact with supervisors and
determining the claimant's RFC, the ALJ at step four must
determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the
requirements of his past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1526, 416.965. Fitzgerald's past
relevant work was as a construction worker, sales attendant,
and stock clerk. (Tr. 21.) The ALJ concluded he is unable to
perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 20.)
last step of the sequential evaluation process requires the
ALJ to determine whether the claimant is able to do any other
work, considering his RFC, age, education, and work
experience. At this step the ALJ concluded that, considering
Fitzgerald's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Fitzgerald can perform. (Tr. 21.) In
reaching that conclusion, the ALJ relied on testimony from a
vocational expert (VE) who testified that a hypothetical
individual of Fitzgerald's age, education, work
experience, and RFC could perform the requirements of a
marker, garment sorter, and classifier. (Tr. 21-22.) After
finding that Fitzgerald could perform work in the national
economy, the ALJ concluded that he is not disabled. (Tr.
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 the claimant is
disabled. Rather, the court must affirm the ALJ's
decision if it is supported by substantial evidence.
Moore, 743 F.3d at 1120. 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 ...