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RAKE v. CALLAHAN

November 21, 1997

CHRISTINE RAKE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN J. CALLAHAN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


CHARLES RONALD NORGLE, SR., Judge, United States District Court.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE

CHARLES R. NORGLE, SR., District Judge:

 Before the court are cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") and denies the motion of Plaintiff Christine Rake ("Rake").

 I. BACKGROUND

 Rake brings this action pursuant to Section 205 of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g) (1994), for review of the Commissioner's decision, denying Rake Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416 (i), 423, 1381 (1994).

 Rake applied for DIB and SSI on September 14, and 21, 1993, respectively, for lower back pain, urinary incontinence, and numbness and tingling in her hands and feet. Rake alleges that she has been disabled since April 22, 1993. After her application and request for reconsideration was denied, Rake requested an administrative hearing.

 On December 28, 1995, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), James A. Horn, denied her disability benefits. At the hearing, Rake was represented by counsel. The ALJ concluded that Rake's subjective complaints regarding her ailments were not supported by the objective evidence presented at the hearing. Although the ALJ found that Rake presented sufficient evidence to show a "degenerative disc disease," this impairment did not rise to the listing level of severity under 1.05 (c) of 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1 (1996) ("listing") to qualify as a disability under the Act. The ALJ further determined that Rake had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform work-related activities, with the exception of work involving lifting or carrying over twenty (20) pounds. From this determination, the ALJ concluded that Rake could perform her past work as a library clerk. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Rake was not disabled, and therefore, not entitled to disability benefits.

 Rake subsequently filed a request for review with the Appeals Council. On October 9, 1996, the Appeals Council denied Rake's request for review of the ALJ's decision. Because Rake has exhausted her administrative remedies, Rake seeks further review in this court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).

 II. EVIDENCE BEFORE THE ALJ

 Rake was born on December 27, 1950. Rake's most recent past employment was working as a library monitor or clerk. In this capacity, Rake's duties included shelving books, typing, filing, and taking in overdue books. Rake also walked around the library to ensure that the children adhered to library rules. At closing time, Rake checked all the rooms to make sure the doors were locked. According to her testimony, the job at the library entailed lifting or carrying up to twenty-five (25) pounds, sitting for three to four hours, and standing for up to two hours during a normal workday.

 Rake also held two other jobs prior to the library position. In one job, she worked as a housekeeper at Palos Community Hospital. This job required bending and stooping when she mopped and cleaned the hospital. Rake also worked at Howe Developmental Center where she dressed disabled persons and made beds.

 Rake testified that in October 1992, she was injured while lifting a patient. In November 1992, Linda Kastner, trained in physical therapy, reported that Rake had visited her complaining of lower back pain which occasionally radiated down her right leg following prolonged walking. An MRI performed on November 20, 1992, revealed moderately severe degenerative disc disease at L4-L5 with mild spinal stenosis. The scan also indicated degenerative disc disease at L5-S1 and an "equivocal" small posterior mid-line protrusion of the intervertebral disc.

 Dr. Albert Butler began treating Rake in January 1993 for a lumbar herniated disc at L5-S1 and lower back pain. As part of his treatment, Dr. Butler started Rake on a "conservative" treatment program and restricted her from lifting over ten pounds, and bending or twisting. Rake testified that she went to Dr. Butler ten times over the course of the following seven months. After an examination on July 22, 1993, Dr. Butler's report revealed no sensory or reflex loss, muscle atrophy, or loss of motion. Furthermore, the report noted that Rake was "full weight bearing" with no evidence of muscle spasm.

 In October 1993, Dr. James J. Curran evaluated Rake and diagnosed her with carpel tunnel syndrome. Dr. Curran recommended further nerve conduction ("NCV") and electromyography ("EMG") testing, but Rake declined. All other laboratory and examination tests performed by Dr. Curran were negative. Rake also saw Dr. Charles Turk in October 1993, complaining of urinary incontinence. Rake claimed to have a prolapsed bladder which was causing her significant urinary incontinence and a frequent urgency to urinate. However, Dr. Turk's examination revealed nothing which was consistent with Rake's complaints of urgency incontinence. Dr. Turk also ...


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