The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MASON, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, John Baker ("Baker" or "plaintiff"), has brought a
motion for summary judgment seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration ("Commissioner" or "defendant"), who denied
Baker's claim for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the
Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d),
1381a.*fn1 Defendant Barnhart filed a cross-motion for
summary judgment asking that we uphold the decision of the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). We have jurisdiction to hear
this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For
the following reasons, we grant plaintiff's motion and deny
defendant's motion, remanding this case to the ALJ for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Prior to January 1, 1997, plaintiff received SSI benefits based
on an alcohol related disability. (R. 116). Baker's benefits were
discontinued on that date due to the enactment of Public Law 104-121. Public Law 104-121, known as the
"Contract With America Advancement Act of 1996", eliminated SSI
benefits for persons whose "alcoholism or drug addiction would be
a contributing factor material to the Commissioner's
determination that the individual is disabled."
18 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(c). Aware that his SSI benefits were about to be
terminated, on August 6, 1996, plaintiff filed an application for
disability benefits based on grounds other than alcoholism. His
application was denied both initially and upon reconsideration.
On February 26, 1997, Baker requested, and was granted, a hearing
before ALJ Alvin Liebling. (R. 114-20). ALJ Liebling issued an
opinion denying Baker's August 6, 1996 application for benefits
on January 1, 1997. (R. 120). Plaintiff filed an appeal with the
Appeals Counsel, which was denied initially. (R. 206-209).
Subsequently, the Appeals Counsel vacated its original order,
remanding Baker's case for further proceedings. (R. 207).
ALJ John K. Kraybill conducted a subsequent administrative
hearing on November 9, 2000. Plaintiff, his neighbor, Donna
Quince, and a medical expert ("ME"), Dr. Kenneth Kessler,
testified at the hearing. (R. 37). At the conclusion of the
hearing, ALJ Kraybill left the administrative record open to
allow for post-hearing psychological testing. Thereafter, ALJ
Kraybill conducted a follow-up hearing on June 2, 2001,*fn2
at which plaintiff, Dr. Kessler, and vocational expert ("VE"),
GleeAnn Kehr, testified. (R. 81). On June 25, 2001, ALJ Kraybill
issued a written decision denying plaintiff's application for SSI
benefits. (R. 19-25). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review and ALJ Kraybill's decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner. See Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881 (7th
Cir. 2001); Reg. § 416.1481. Plaintiff now appeals that decision
to this court.
Mr. Baker has been diagnosed with a right clavicle fracture
that healed in a deformed and displaced manner, peripheral
neuropathy of the left wrist, and a history of chronic alcohol
abuse.*fn3 The medical evidence plaintiff presented to the
ALJ included medical records from Silver Cross Hospital,
treatment notes from Dr. Joyce Allen, both physical and
psychological consultative examination reports, and a physical
residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment.
On December 10, 1996, Disability Determination Services ("DDS")
physician Dr. Rito Maningo examined plaintiff. (R. 160-64).
During the examination, Baker complained of pain in his right
shoulder, numbness in the fingers on his left hand, and
occasional pain in his left wrist. Dr. Maningo noted that Baker
fractured his right clavicle in a car accident in the mid 1990s,
had a medial orbital fracture of the right orbit in April 1996,
and had surgery on his left wrist to repair severed nerves. He
also noted that Baker was right-handed and, without any problem,
could use his right hand to button and unbutton his shirt and tie
and unties his shoes.
Dr. Maningo did not note any evidence of acute inflammatory
conditions in Baker's left wrist or right clavicle. (R. 163). He also found
that plaintiff did not display atrophy or hypertrophy of the
muscles and that his gait and weight-bearing were normal. (R.
163). Ultimately, Dr. Maningo diagnosed Baker with chronic pain
in the right shoulder, peripheral neuropathy in his left wrist,
and a history of chronic ethanol abuse, currently in short-term
remission. (R. 164).
A physical RFC assessment dated December 17, 1996, reported
that Baker could lift up to fifty pounds occasionally, and
twenty-five pounds frequently. (R. 167). According to the RFC,
Baker could stand and/or walk about six hours in an eight-hour
day and could sit for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour
day. (R. 167). His ability to push and/or pull was unlimited and
he had no postural, visual, communicative, or environmental
limitations. (R. 168-71). However, plaintiff's ability to reach
in all directions with his right extremity was limited, but there
were no manipulative limitations for his left extremity. (R.
On July 9, 1998, Dr. James Ahstrom, an arthroscopic surgeon,
examined Baker. Dr. Ahstrom opined that plaintiff had an obvious
deformity in his right clavicle and that the right clavicle
fragments were significantly displaced. He also noted a limited
range of motion in Baker's right arm and shoulder. As for Baker's
left wrist, Dr. Ahstrom found limited motion and diminished
sensation over the tips of digits 2-5 on plaintiff's left hand
Dr. Ahstrom did not find any muscle atrophy, or real lack of
motion in the left hand However, he did note that Baker could
not touch his thumb to his pinky finger on his left hand and that
his grip was stronger with his right hand than with his left
On August 27, 1998, William Hilger, Jr. Ph.D., at the request
of the DDS, performed a consultative psychological examination of
Baker. (R. 181-83). During the examination, Baker reported that he was not taking any
medications on a regular basis. (R. 181). Dr. Hilger opined that
plaintiff showed poor levels of general knowledge, judgment,
calculational ability, conceptual reasoning, and abstract
reasoning. He considered plaintiff suitable for very simple and
routine work duties under close supervision. Dr. Hilger suggested
that plaintiff might be able to perform simple sedentary factory
jobs under fairly close supervision. (R. 183). Dr. Hilger
regarded plaintiff's reasoning ability as low, ability to make
occupational adjustments as minimal, ability to make personal
adjustments as normal, and ability to make social adjustments as
fair. (R. 184). Dr. Hilger also noted that plaintiff's last
regular employment was in 1978 as a laborer for GAF Corporation.
(R. 182). Plaintiff worked at GAF for four years until he was
terminated because of his alcohol use and poor attendance. (R.
182). Baker has not had any regular employment since his
termination in 1978. (R. 182). Dr. Hilger opined that plaintiff
would be unable to properly manage any benefit payments in view
of his low levels of judgment and calculational skills as well as
his propensity to use any benefit payments to pay for his alcohol
habit. (R. 183). Dr. Hilger did not regard plaintiff as limited
in his daily activities and did not note any deterioration in
personal habits. (R. 185).
On October 20, 2000, Dr. Joyce Allen completed a form for the
Township of Joliet's Community Work and Training Program. Based
on four separate visits with Baker, she opined that Baker's
severe degenerative joint disease and history of clavicle
fracture were disabling, although she did not know whether these
conditions were permanently disabling. (R. 251). She further
opined that plaintiff could not do any lifting or carrying. (R.
251). On January 31, 2001, Erwin Baukus, Ph.D., performed
consultative psychological testing, including intelligence
testing and memory testing, on Baker. (R. 262-65). Dr. Baukus
reported good motivation and good persistence and considered the
test results valid. (R. 264). Baker has an eleventh-grade
education, however he can only read at the fifth-grade level. (R.
262, 264). Plaintiff tested at the borderline level of
intellectual functioning, but Dr. Baukus did not regard plaintiff
as having severe functional restrictions based on intelligence.
(R. 265). Plaintiff was also well-oriented to person, time, and
place. (R. 264-65). Dr. Baukus regarded plaintiff as having a
good ability to perform ...