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GIBSON-JONES v. CHATER

May 14, 1996

BETTY GIBSON-JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
SHIRLEY CHATER, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,1 Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BUCKLO

 Plaintiff, Betty Gibson-Jones, applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income Benefits on April 28, 1992. After a hearing in October, 1993, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Charles N. Bono ruled that Ms. Gibson-Jones retained a residual functional capacity for sedentary work which enabled her to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. He therefore denied her request for benefits. The Appeals Council denied Ms. Gibson-Jones' request for review. On February 10, 1995, Ms. Gibson-Jones brought the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Health and Human Services ("Commissioner"). Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion is granted, and Ms. Gibson--Jones' motion is denied.

 Facts

 Ms. Gibson-Jones testified to the following facts, as they existed at the time of the hearing before the ALJ. She was twenty-seven years old and had three small children. Tr. 46-47. She was separated from her husband. Tr. 66. Ms. Gibson-Jones completed high school and had also obtained approximately two years of college credit. Tr. 47. Ms. Gibson-Jones was in the United States Army from January of 1985 to April of 1992. Tr. 47. Although Ms. Gibson-Jones stated that she became disabled in August of 1990, she was able to remain in the army for twenty months longer in "patient hold" status. Tr. 48. During her time in "patient hold," Ms. Gibson-Jones remained in the service at her full salary, though she did not do her regular job. Tr. 48. Ms. Gibson-Jones did not receive a medical discharge from the army but instead was "bought out" for $ 17,000 under the Service Selective Benefits program. Tr. 49-50.

 Ms. Gibson-Jones's health problems began in November of 1987 when she gave birth to her first child by cesarean section. Tr. 52. After this birth she experienced pain, fainting spells, and bleeding. Tr. 52. In September of 1990, Ms. Gibson-Jones underwent a laparoscopic tubal ligation during which the surgeon discovered that her uterus had been lacerated and sutured onto her abdominal wall. Tr. 271. She was then diagnosed with severe pelvic adhesive disease. Tr. 465. After experiencing chronic pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea and dyspareunia, *fn2" she ultimately had a total abdominal hysterectomy in January of 1991. Tr. 216, 224. Subsequently she had an ultrasound performed which showed a hypoechogenic lesion located immediately superior and slightly anterior to the dome of the urinary bladder. Tr. 496. She continued to experience more pelvic pain and dyspareunia. Tr. 216. Treatment notes from August of 1991 indicate that Ms. Gibson-Jones was restricted from heavy lifting and activities requiring quick movements. Tr. 445.

 In October of 1991, Ms. Gibson-Jones was again hospitalized and diagnosed with severe dysmenorrhea and severe dyspareunia with diffuse, extensive pelvic adhesive disease. Tr. 415. A sonogram revealed a predominately cystic mass in the left lower quadrant and a small mass in the right lower quadrant. Tr. 215.

 In November of 1991, Ms. Gibson-Jones was admitted to the hospital for chronic pelvic pain and diagnosed with endometriosis. Tr. 166-67. She refused a laparoscopy to correct the problem, instead choosing medication. Tr. 167. Thereafter, Ms. Gibson-Jones continued to complain of pain to her doctors. On October 15, 1992, a pelvic ultrasound revealed a small left ovarian cyst. Tr. 346. On May 6, 1993, Ms. Gibson-Jones underwent an exploratory laparotomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. Tr. 322. A benign pelvic mass was removed during the surgery. Tr. 330-31.

 Ms. Gibson-Jones testified that the various surgical procedures she had undergone had not corrected her problems and that she was concentrating, on tier doctors' recommendation, on "pain management." Tr. 53-54. She described her pain as sharp and sometimes intense and stated that it was constantly present. Tr. 54. She stated that to alleviate the pain, she would lie down and take percocet, tylenol-3, and Motrin. Tr. 55. These medications make her dizzy, drowsy, and nauseated to the point that she can barely walk. Tr. 55. She testified that the side effects of the medication lasted approximately two to three hours. Tr. 58. Despite its side effects, she continues to take this medication on a daily basis. Tr. 56. She testified that without the medication, she is in extreme pain. Tr. 58.

 Ms. Gibson-Jones testified that she could sit comfortably for one to one and one-half hours, and could stand comfortably for two to two and one-half hours before needing to change positions. Tr. 60-61. She stated that she needed to lie down with her feet elevated twice a day. Tr. 61. She also complained that she needed help with her three young children and with grocery shopping. Tr. 65. She stated that her cousin was staying with her to provide this help. Tr. 65.

 G. Robert McClellan, a vocational expert, testified at the hearing before the ALJ. Tr. 76. He classified her previous work as skilled. Tr. 76 He stated that Ms. Gibson-Jones had acquired clerical skills in her past work that would transfer to sedentary jobs as a telephone quotation clerk, receptionist, order clerk, cashier, posting clerk, transcript clerk, classification clerk, and credit clerk. Tr. 78. He stated that there would be a minimum of 2,000 such jobs in the region, and there would be over 100,000 such jobs in the nation. Tr. 78. According to Mr. McClellan, these jobs would allow flexibility in changing positions from sitting to standing and walking. Tr. 79. He admitted that if Ms. Gibson-Jones needed to lie down, as she testified, she would not be able to perform such work. Tr. 79.

 Discussion

 A. Standard of Review

 The Social Security Act provides for limited judicial review of final decisions of the Commissioner. The role of this court is only to determine whether the decision of the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence in the record. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Wolfe v. Shalala, 997 F.2d 321, 322 (7th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). "Substantial evidence" means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Pope v. Shalala, 998 F.2d 473, 480 (7th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). In determining whether the Secretary's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the district court may not "reevaluate the facts, reweigh the evidence, or substitute [its] own judgment for that of the [Commissioner]." Luna v. Shalala, 22 F.3d 687, 689 (7th Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). Rather, the court must affirm a decision supported by substantial evidence in the absence of an error of law. Herr v. Sullivan, 912 F.2d 178, 180 (7th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); Edwards v. Sullivan, 985 F.2d 334, 336-37 (7th Cir. 1993).

 After consideration of the entire record, ALJ Bono concluded that Ms. Gibson-Jones was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Tr. 31. He found that Ms. Gibson-Jones retains the residual functional capacity to do sedentary work. Tr. 31. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). The ALJ further concluded that the skills she had acquired in the army would ...


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