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WILLIAMS v. APFEL

May 6, 1999

AMOS L. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KENNETH S. APFEL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morton Denlow, United States Magistrate Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, diagnosed as mentally retarded, spent twenty-one years moving refrigerators in a warehouse. He now seeks disability benefits claiming a bad back, bad feet and mental impairments. The doctors who examined Plaintiff all supported his claim. However, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied it. This Court now reverses.

Plaintiff Amos L. Williams ("Plaintiff" or "Williams") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his claim for Social Security disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The ALJ found that under the Social Security Act ("Act"), Williams was not considered disabled under 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A) and that he was not entitled to a period of disability insurance under 42 U.S.C. § 416(i) and 42 U.S.C. § 423.

This matter comes before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. The issue to be decided is whether substantial evidence in the record supports the ALJ's finding that Williams is not disabled under the Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Court reverses the ALJ's decision and grants summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Williams was born on March 4, 1951 and was 46 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. at 27.) He filed an Application for Disability Insurance Benefits and for Social Security Income on November 9, 1993 alleging that he had been disabled since July 1, 1991. (R. at 27-34, 51.)

A. Williams' Testimony

Williams worked for General Electric from 1969 through 1990. (R. at 114.) His job duties included moving refrigerators and parts-retrieval, but he ceased this work when the factory at which he was employed closed down. (R. at 114, 185-86.) He worked at National Casting for two weeks in 1992. (R. at 186.) In 1993, Williams filed for disability insurance benefits, claiming he had a disability since 1991, which prevented him from working. (R. at 27.) In Williams' disability report, he claimed his disabling condition was the result of arthritis in his legs, a 1975 gunshot wound, alcohol and drug addiction, high blood pressure, depression, and a back injury. (R. at 51.) According to this report, Williams' disabling condition prevents him from working due to pain and the effects of his substance abuse addictions. (R. at 51.)

According to Williams, his back and side pain prevent him from lifting objects off the ground. (R. at 191.) He also has problems walking and standing because when he does so his legs swell up and his feet begin to hurt. (R. at 191-92.) He believes his foot pain is caused from years of work in a warehouse with concrete floors. (R. at 192.) Though he admits to abusing alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine for almost twenty years, he testified at his hearing that he had been clean and sober for almost two years. (R. at 188.)

B. Medical Testimony

During the years surrounding Williams' disability application, several doctors examined the claimant. In December of 1993, Dr. James Runke, a medical reviewer at the Illinois Department of Public Aid, diagnosed Williams with hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder ("COPD"), and a substance abuse problem. (R. at 108.) The doctor recommended medication for Williams' high blood pressure. (R. at 112.)

Regarding Williams' complaints of leg and foot pain, Dr. Runke found that Williams had a normal range of motion in his joints and that the claimant did not complain of any tenderness, swelling, or stiffness. (R. at 109-10.) However, Dr. Runke stated that Williams had a 20% to 50% reduced capacity to climb, push, and pull and a ten pound weight limitation for repeated lifting. (R. at 112.)

Also on December 28, 1993, Dr. Rochelle Hawkins of the Lake Shore Medical Clinic, Ltd., performed a thirty-five minute consultative examination of Williams. (R. at 115-18.) Plaintiff's physical examination was normal; he had a full range of motion in his spine and joints and had normal manipulation of both his hands. (R. at 116-17.) The doctor found Williams alert and orientated despite his assertion that he drank two or three fifths of alcohol daily and used cocaine and marijuana. (R. at 115, 117.) It was Dr. Hawkins' clinical impression that Williams had fairly "well-controlled" high-blood pressure and a substance abuse problem. (R. at 117.)

In January of 1994, Dr. Donald Henson, Ph.D., on behalf of the State Agency, diagnosed the Plaintiff with a substance abuse and personality disorder which would limit ...


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