United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
FAWN M. LOOSE, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Fawn Loose alleges she has been disabled since November 3,
2011 (Tr. 39) and “is unable to work due to a
combination of her impairments, ” which include both
physical and mental impairments (Tr. 46). In August 2012 she
applied for supplemental security income. (Tr. 185-90.) After
her application was denied initially (Tr. 90-104) and upon
reconsideration (Tr. 105-18), a hearing was held before an
administrative law judge (ALJ) on May 27, 2015 (Tr. 60-89).
On August 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision
concluding Loose was not disabled. (Tr. 39-53.) The Appeals
Council denied Loose's request for review on November 18,
2016. (Tr. 13-15.) This action followed. All parties have
consented to the full jurisdiction of a magistrate judge (ECF
Nos. 6, 13), and this 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 Loose “has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 1, 2012,
the application date[.]” (Tr. 41.)
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). An impairment is severe if it significantly
limits a claimant's physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1522(a). The ALJ
concluded that Loose has the following severe impairments:
“obesity, history of right carpal tunnel syndrome
surgery, cervical spine disc protrusion, patellofemoral
chondromalacia, affective disorder, anxiety disorder, pain
disorder, and alcohol/substance abuse disorder[.]” (Tr.
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, 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 twelvemonth 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 then proceeds to the next step. The ALJ
found that Loose “does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments[.]” (Tr. 42.)
between steps three and four the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC),
“which is [the claimant's] ‘ability to do
physical and mental work activities on a regular basis
despite limitations from her impairments.'”
Ghiselli v. Colvin, 837 F.3d 771, 774 (7th Cir.
2016) (quoting Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1121
(7th Cir. 2014)). 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. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 412 (7th Cir. 2008).
The ALJ concluded Loose has the RFC
to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a)
except: [Loose] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds,
and no more than occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
balance, stoop, crouch, crawl, kneel, bend, or twist. [Loose]
must avoid concentrated exposure to workplace hazards such as
unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery.
[Loose]requires a sit-stand option allowing her to stand for
1-2 minutes after sitting for 30 minutes. [Loose] can reach
no more than frequently with both upper extremities, and use
her right hand no more than frequently to handle, finger, and
feel. [Loose] is limited to understanding, remembering and
carrying-out simple routine tasks, with no public contact for
work-related purposes and no more than occasional contact
with co-workers and supervisors. [Loose] cannot have hourly
quotas but can do work that is measured by what is completed
by the end of the workday.
determining the claimant's RFC, the ALJ at step four must
determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the
requirements of her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1526, 416.965. Loose's past relevant
work was as a janitor and order picker. (Tr. 51.) The ALJ
determined that Loose “is unable to perform any past
relevant work[.]” (Id.)
last step of the sequential evaluation process requires the
ALJ to determine whether the claimant is able to do any other
work, considering her RFC, age, education, and work
experience. At this step the ALJ concluded that,
“[c]onsidering [Loose's] age, education, work
experience, and [RFC], there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that [Loose] can
perform.” (Tr. 51.) In reaching that conclusion, the
ALJ relied on testimony from a vocational expert (VE), who
testified that a hypothetical individual of Loose's age,
education, work experience, and RFC could perform the
requirements of occupations such as address clerk, accounts
clerk, and bench sorter. (Tr. 52.) After finding that Loose
could perform work in the national economy, the ALJ concluded
she was not disabled. (Id.)
court's role in reviewing an ALJ's decision is
limited. It must “uphold an ALJ's final decision if
the correct legal standards were applied and supported with
substantial evidence.” L.D.R. by Wagner v.
Berryhill, 920 F.3d 1146, 1152 (7th Cir. 2019) (citing
42 U.S.C. § 405(g)); Jelinek v. Astrue, 662
F.3d 805, 811 (7th Cir. 2011). “Substantial evidence is
‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Summers v. Berryhill, 864 F.3d 523, 526 (7th Cir.
2017) (quoting Castile v. Astrue, 617 F.3d 923, 926
(7th Cir. 2010)). “The court is not to ‘reweigh
evidence, resolve conflicts, decide questions of credibility,
or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.'” Burmester v. Berryhill,
920 F.3d 507, 510 (7th Cir. 2019) (quoting Lopez ex rel.
Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003)).
“Where substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
disability determination, [the court] must affirm the
[ALJ's] decision even if ‘reasonable minds could
differ concerning whether [the claimant] is
disabled.'” L.D.R. by Wagner, 920 F.3d at
1152 (quoting Elder, 529 F.3d at 413).
argues that the ALJ erred (1) by failing to evaluate the
“[f]unctional [i]mpact” of Loose's angry
outbursts; (2) in improperly dismissing her sleep apnea; and
(3) by not supporting her ...