The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
David Corder seeks judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") denying his
application for supplemental security income ("SSI") pursuant to Title II
of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
parties move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
Corder is 45 years old. R. 486. He has been unemployed since 1986 when
he first filed for disability. He filed applications for SSI and
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") on June 1, 1993, amending his onset
date to October 1, 1992. R. 37-40, 41-44. The Commissioner denied his
claims and Corder requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
("ALJ"). Following a hearing, the ALJ denied Corder's claims. The Appeals
Council set this decision aside on April 2, 1997. On remand, the ALJ
issued a second decision finding that Corder was not disabled and was
capable of performing light work with certain non-exertional limitations.
R. 10-27. Once again, Corder sought review. After the Appeals Council
denied Corder's request for review, he filed a complaint in the Northern
District of illinois, This court reversed the Commissioner's final
decision and remanded the matter for further proceedings to make a finding regarding the
extent of Corder's impairments, the extent to which those impairments
impact his ability to work, and the work available given those
limitations. Corder v. Halter, No. 00 C 2714, 2001 WL 477210, at
*1 (N.D. Ill. May 4, 2001). On remand, Corder's claim was assigned to
another ALJ, The ALJ held two administrative hearings; she heard
testimony from Corder and a medical and vocational expert, R. 482-529,
530-48. The ALJ denied Corder's application for SSI, The Appeals Council
declined jurisdiction, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision
of the Commissioner,
1. Physical History
Corder has complained of lower back pain since he was 25 years old. He
completed 10th grade, which is classified as a limited education, R. 476.
His scores on achievement tests administrated during his treatment
suggest his aptitude is lower. Id. Corder has been unemployed
since 1986, but his past relevant employment included factory work and
serviceman. This work involved frequent walking, standing, bending and
lifting, Corder has a history of alcohol abuse. In 1993, he reported that
he drank up to 24 beers a day, R. 112. However, Corder has been sober
since April 1, 1995.
Corder's most significant injury and symptoms arise from lower back and
respiratory problems. At the May 7, 2003 hearing before the original ALJ,
Corder testified that he often has difficulty rising out of bed in the
morning and that it is painful for him to sustain any standing or sitting
activity for more than 15-30 minutes at a time. R. 497-500. He stated
that it is uncomfortable for him to drive or sit for long periods of time
and that he must frequently stand or lie down to relieve the strain on
his back. Id. He also lies down because his pain medication
makes him tired, Id. On a typical day, he would do light housework and
cook. Id. He washes out the tub. Id. He takes walks
outside to the store about three blocks away stopping
along the way due to back symptoms. Id. He can lift and carry 15
pounds. Id. About twice a week, he goes to the grocery store.
Id. During the summertime, he goes fishing approximately every
other day. Id.
Medical evidence supports Corder's complaints. In 1993, an examination
by Dr. Odland revealed a "tender sacroiliac, right greater than left,
straight leg raising at 30 degrees." R. 204. Odland prescribed Naprosyn
and Tylenol #3 for pain, Id. A month later, Odland diagnosed
multiple episodes of lumbosacral pain. An x-ray suggested degenerative
changes. R, 119, Odland opined that Corder's work could not include
lifting, carrying or bending, R. 120. In 1995, another x-ray revealed
"hypertrophic degenerative changes . . . at multiple levels . . .
degenerative changes . . . at multiple levels . . . degenerative disc
space narrowing at L4-L5 with sclerosis of the adjacent vertebral
body end-plates." R. 334.
In 1998, Dr. Irwin Feinberg conducted an orthopedic examination of
Corder at the ALJ's request. R. 380-383. Feinberg reported that Corder's
chief complaints involved asthma, painful lower left back, and a malunion
of a left rib fracture that causes pain on contact, R. 380. Feinberg
found that Corder suffered from symptomatic degenerative arthritis of the
lumbosacral spine, bronchial asthma and degenerative disc disease of the
cervical spine. R, 382. Feinberg noted that Corder's range of motion was
restricted, R. 380-81. In his medical assessment of ability to perform
work-related activities, Feinberg restricted Corder's ability to lift
and/or carry to 10-15 pounds frequently and 15-20 pounds occasionally,
due to lower back pain, R. 384, Feinberg found that Corder's ability to
stand, walk, and sit were unaffected by his impairment. Id. He
stated that Corder could climb, balance, kneel or crawl "occasionally" during an
8-hour day. R. 385. Feinberg noted Corder was capable of frequently
stooping or crouching. Id.
On December 27, 2002, Dr. Raman Popli examined Corder. Popli noted that
Corder's speech was slightly slurred, but that the slurring did not
interfere with the interview. R. 722. Popli found Corder's joints were
normal with a normal range of motion. R. 723. His examination of Corder's
cervical spine showed a slight reduction of the normal lumbar lordosis.
R. 723. Summarizing Corder's condition, Popli opined that Corder suffered
from some reduction in extension and sideward flexion at the lumbosacral
spine. R, 723. Popli found Corder's physical condition, combined with his
painful symptoms, limited his ability to work. He stated that "as per the
claimant," Corder could carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten
pounds frequently. Popli also noted that according to Corder, his pain
limited his ability to stand and walk to less than two hours per day.
Id. However, Popli noted these restrictions were based on
Corder's "claims of having back pain if he exceeds the limits described
above, There are not any objective findings to back his claims other than
limitation of extension and sideward flexion at the LS spine." R. 725.
Corder's most recent treating physician, Dr. Bowser, noted in January
2003 that Corder's thoracic and lumbar muscles were markedly tender and
that the range of motion of his back was restricted in all directions. R.
731. Bowser reported that Corder complained of pain whenever he was
required to sit or stand for more than 30 minutes at a time, Id.
Bowser also noted that Corder complained of inability to stoop, bend, or
lift because of pain. Id. Based on his medical findings and
Corder's complaints, Bowser opined Corder was unable to sit or stand for
more than 30 minutes, bend, stoop, climb ladders, do overhead work, or
lift more than five pounds. Id. 2. Mental Health History
Corder contends his ability to work is limited by his limited mental
capacity, Corder has been examined by numerous mental health
professionals since filing his disability claim, In 1993, Dr. Diamond, a
psychologist, examined Corder, Diamond reported that Corder was
depressed, R, 159. Diamond administered a WAIS-R IQ test. Corder scored
71 verbal, 76 performance and 72 full scale. Id. His WRAT scores
were also low. Corder was found to possess below third grade reading and
spelling skills. R. 161. Corder had the math skills of a fifth grader.
Id. According to Diamond, Corder possessed poor reasoning skills
and a limited vocabulary, Id. On May 21, 1997, Dr. Mary Gardner
examined Corder and diagnosed him as possessing borderline intellectual
functioning. R. 248-52. Gardner administered the WAIS-R IQ and WRAT
tests. R. 250. The results were similar: 74 verbal; 74 performance; 73
full scale; fourth grade reading; fifth grade math. Id. Gardner
noted that Corder had memory problems. She stated that Corder's ability
to remember locations, work-like procedures and to concentrate was
limited. R. 263.
At the hearing be (ore the second ALJ, Dr. Daniel Schiff, a
psychiatrist, testified as a medical expert. He testified that prior to
1995, Corder was addicted to alcohol. R. 516. Schiff assessed Corder's
intellectual abilities as borderline with IQ scores in the 70's, R. 517.
He stated Corder was capable of one and two-step operations that did not
require intensive concentration or long term memory. Id. Schiff
noted Corder's testimony before the ALJ was precise and that he used
multisyllable words. R. 520.
James Ranke testified as a vocational expert during the May 7 and July
17, 2003 hearings before the second ALJ. R. 521-28, The ALJ posed
familiar hypothetical to Ranke. The ALJ asked Ranke to consider the employment prospects for a 35-45 year-old man
with an eleventh grade education, but who could only read at the third
grade level and perform math at the fifth grade level, with Corder's
previous work experience, who could lift up to 20 pounds occasionally, 10
pounds frequently, and sit, stand, or walk as required with no more than
occasional bending to the floor, R. 522. She added the additional
caveat that the hypothetical employee could not perform detailed
or complex tasks that required more than simple operations, in a setting
with no pulmonary irritants. Id. Ranke responded that a person
with these limitations could perform food preparation jobs, library clerk
positions, mail clerk positions, ...