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United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

James SOSINSKI, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Andrew M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 19-2931

Decided: July 01, 2020

Before FRANK H. EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge DAVID F. HAMILTON, Circuit Judge MICHAEL Y. SCUDDER, Circuit Judge Daniel A. Skaar, Attorney, Skaar Law, Grapevine, TX, for Plaintiff - Appellant Emily S. Cohn, Attorney, Eric Schepard, Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Region V, Chicago, IL, Brian E. Pawlak, Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Milwaukee, WI, for Defendant - Appellee


James Sosinski applied for social security disability benefits, alleging that he could not work because he suffers from severe leg pain, back pain, and headaches. After the Social Security Administration denied his application, Sosinski requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. The ALJ applied the five-step process specified in the Social Security Act's implementing regulations (see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520) and concluded that Sosinski was not disabled. Sosinski then sought judicial review, and the district court upheld the ALJ's decision.

The district court's opinion recounts the pertinent facts in detail. Suffice it here for us to observe that the ALJ found that Sosinski suffered from two severe impairments—carpal tunnel syndrome and degenerative disc disease—but that neither impairment met or equaled a per se disability listing. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)–(e). The ALJ then determined Sosinski's residual functional capacity or RFC—his ability to do physical and mental work activities on a sustained basis despite his limitations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). After considering the testimony of a vocational expert, Sosinski's own testimony, and the opinions of two state agency physicians, the ALJ found that Sosinski retained the ability to perform “light work”—a term of art the Social Security Administration uses to categorize jobs that require, among other things, lifting up to 20 pounds and “a good deal of walking or standing.” Id. § 404.1567(b). The VE testified that a person with Sosinski's RFC could work as a mail clerk, rental clerk, and picker, and that those positions existed in significant numbers in the national economy. Relying on this testimony, the ALJ denied Sosinski's application for benefits. The district court affirmed.

Like the district court, our review asks whether the ALJ's decision finds support in substantial evidence in the administrative record. See L.D.R. by Wagner v. Berryhill, 920 F.3d 1146, 1151–52 (7th Cir. 2019) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). Substantial evidence is not a demanding requirement. It means “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill, ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 1148, 1154, 203 L.Ed.2d 504 (2019) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. of N.Y. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938) ).

The ALJ's decision satisfies this deferential standard of review. The district court reached the same conclusion, and we adopt its reasoning and decision. Only one additional point warrants discussion. On the eve of oral argument, we decided Jeske v. Saul, 955 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2020). Jeske supports our affirmance here in two ways.

First, Sosinski contends that the ALJ improperly decided that his impairments did not meet Listing 1.04A (back disorders) because the ALJ had to “discuss the listing by name and offer more than perfunctory analysis of the listing.” Barnett v. Barnhart, 381 F.3d 664, 668 (7th Cir. 2004). But even if the ALJ does not offer such an analysis, we do not reverse if the claimant fails to show that he meets the criteria for that listing, as Sosinski did here. See Maggard v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 376, 379–80 (7th Cir. 1999); see also Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 369–70 (7th Cir. 2004). We reaffirmed this precise principle in Jeske. See 955 F.3d at 589–91.

Second, Sosinski argues that the ALJ failed to assess his RFC on a function-by-function basis—in other words, to independently address his ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push, and pull—before determining that he could perform “light work.” But several circuits have held that an ALJ's omission of an explicit function-by-function analysis does not necessarily warrant remand. See, e.g., Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 636 (4th Cir. 2015); Hendron v. Colvin, 767 F.3d 951, 956–57 (10th Cir. 2014); Cichocki v. Astrue, 729 F.3d 172, 177 (2d Cir. 2013) (per curiam). In Jeske we agreed and joined those circuits in so holding. See 955 F.3d at 595–96. And here the ALJ adequately considered Sosinski's exertional capacity, including the seven strength functions, in reaching the conclusion that he could perform “light work.” See id. at 596–97.

For these reasons, we AFFIRM.

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Docket No: No. 19-2931

Decided: July 01, 2020

Court: United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

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