United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Juliann Cook alleges she has been disabled since July 30,
2009, a date she later amended to September 3, 2013. (Tr.
13.) In February 2014 she applied for disability insurance
benefits (Tr. 199-202) and for supplemental security income
benefits (Tr. 203-07). After her applications were denied
initially (Tr. 69-90) and upon reconsideration (Tr. 91-110),
a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (ALJ)
on January 26, 2017 (Tr. 39-68). On June 22, 2017, the ALJ
issued a written decision concluding Cook was not disabled.
(Tr. 13-28.) The Appeals Council denied Cook's request
for review on June 29, 2018. (Tr. 1-3.) This action followed.
All parties have consented to the full jurisdiction of a
magistrate judge (ECF Nos. 3, 4), 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 Cook “has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 3,
2013, the amended alleged 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). 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 Cook has the following severe impairments:
“borderline intellectual functioning, depression,
anxiety, mood disorder and obesity[.]” (Tr. 16.)
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 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 proceeds to the next step. The ALJ
found that Cook “does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments[.]” (Tr. 16.)
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 that Cook has the RFC
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: [Cook] (1) can
occasionally climb stairs and ramps; (2) can never climb
ladders and scaffolds; and (3) must avoid concentrated
exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving
mechanical parts. Further, [Cook] can (1) understand,
remember and carry out simple instructions; (2) have
occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers and the
public; (3) only make simple, work-related decisions; and (4)
only tolerate occasional change in work location.
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. Cook's past relevant work
was as a hand packager. (Tr. 26.) The ALJ concluded that Cook
“is unable to perform any past relevant work[.]”
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 [Cook's] age, education, work
experience, and [RFC], there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that [Cook] can
perform[.]” (Tr. 27.) In reaching that conclusion, the
ALJ relied on testimony from a vocational expert (VE), who
testified that a hypothetical individual of Cook's age,
education, work experience, and RFC could perform the
requirements of occupations such as a small parts assembler,
electronics worker, and laundry folder. (Id.) After
finding that Cook could perform work in the national economy,
the ALJ concluded that she was not disabled. (Tr. 28.)
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 ...