United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Pinkston is a former Marine who alleges he is unable to work
primarily because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
(Tr. 293.) Although the VA found him to be fifty percent
disabled (Tr. 38) (later increased to seventy percent and, as
of August 1, 2018, one-hundred percent (Tr. 7; see
also ECF No. 13-1 at 1-5)), the Commissioner denied
Pinktson's applications for social security disability
insurance and supplemental security income benefits. Pinkston
asks this court to review that decision. The final decision
of the Commissioner is set forth in the July 2, 2018 decision
of an administrative law judge (ALJ). (Tr. 13-27.)
found that Pinkston suffered from the following severe
impairments: “depressive disorder, history of alcohol
addiction in sustained remission, and anxiety disorders
(including post-traumatic stress disorder).” (Tr. 19.)
These impairments did not meet or medically equal a Listing.
(Tr. 19-21.) Pinkston retained “the residual functional
capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional
levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: he
is limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks, with no
fast-paced work, only simple work-related decisions,
occasional workplace changes, and occasional interaction with
the public, coworkers and supervisors.” (Tr. 21.)
According to a vocational expert (see Tr. 52-55), a
person with this residual functional capacity could perform
jobs that existed in substantial numbers in the national
economy. Therefore, Pinkston was not disabled.
was represented by an attorney at the hearing before the ALJ
but is now representing himself. In support of his claim,
Pinkston submitted a letter in which he explains the nature
of his impairments and how they affect his life. (ECF No.
13.) It does not point to any specific error of the ALJ other
than to argue generally that he erred in finding Pinkston was
court's role in reviewing the 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 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). If the ALJ
committed a material error of law, however, the court cannot
affirm the ALJ's decision regardless of whether it is
supported by substantial evidence. Beardsley v.
Colvin, 758 F.3d 834, 837 (7th Cir. 2014); Farrell
v. Astrue, 692 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2012).
the court reviews the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs more
liberally than those drafted by lawyers, it is not the
court's role to search out or make arguments for an
unrepresented party. Woods v. Colvin, No.
3:14-CV-02020-CAN, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167859, at *6 (N.D.
Ind. Dec. 16, 2015) (citing Small v. Endicott, 998
F.2d 411, 417 (7th Cir. 1993)); see also Herman v.
Berryhill, No. 16 CV 50298, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69634,
at *22 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2018) (“In her briefs,
plaintiff has asked this Court to review the record and find
that she is disabled, but it is not this Court's job to
construct a party's argument for her, and this holds true
even when that party is proceeding pro se.”
(quotation marks and brackets omitted)).
Commissioner in his response noted that Pinkston failed to
point to any specific error in the ALJ's decision.
Pinkston did not reply.
Pinkston has not alleged any specific error in the ALJ's
decision, it would be appropriate to simply deny his
challenge as unsupported. Nonetheless, liberally construing
Pinkston's letter as arguing that the ALJ's decision
was not supported by substantial evidence, the court will
review the ALJ's decision for any apparent error.
appropriately considered whether Pinkston's impairments
met a Listing, most relevantly Listing 12.15, which deals
with “trauma- and stressor-related disorders.”
There was substantial evidence that Pinkston's PTSD did
not satisfy the “paragraph B” criteria:
limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the
following areas of mental functioning (see 12.00F):
1. Understand, remember, or apply information (see 12.00E1).
2. Interact with others (see 12.00E2).
3. Concentrate, persist, or maintain pace (see ...