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Adam G. Sprinkle v. Michael J. Astrue

February 28, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge


Monday, 28 February, 2011 12:02:01 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This matter is now before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Reversal and the Commissioner's Motion to Affirm. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Reversal [#12] is DENIED, and the Commissioner's Motion to Affirm [#15] is GRANTED.


Plaintiff, Adam Sprinkle ("Sprinkle"), was 29 years' old at the time of his administrative hearing. (R86) He is not married but lives with his girlfriend in a trailer. (R30) Sprinkle has the ability to drive, but was driven to the hearing by his mother after losing his driver's license following a DUI conviction. (R27, R30) He stated that he had not used alcohol or drugs since he went into custody. (R28) He has a high school diploma and can read and write in the English language, although he sometimes does not comprehend or remember everything he reads. (R33, R36) Sprinkle has worked as a fast food worker, a janitor, a garbage collector, a machine operator, and a bookcase assembler. (R37-38)

Sprinkle claims that he is unable to work because he has asthma and mental deficiencies. On June 15, 2006, he applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI"), alleging disability that began on October 1, 2000. (R86-88, R100). His application was denied both initially and on reconsideration. Sprinkle requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). A hearing was held before ALJ John Dodson on July 23, 2008, at which Sprinkle, who was represented by counsel, and vocational expert ("VE") Dennis Gustafson appeared and gave testimony. Shortly before the hearing, Sprinkle amended his date of onset to February 1, 2007. (R165) This amendment essentially rendered his DIB claim moot, as the date of onset was after his date last insured. Accordingly, the ALJ proceeded only with respect to the SSI claim. (R10)

At the time of the hearing, Sprinkle was not taking prescription medications for his conditions. (R32) He testified that although he had been prescribed an Albuterol inhaler for his asthma, he hadn't taken it for a long time because he didn't need it and really couldn't afford it. (R28) Sprinkle reported feeling depressed lately because his grandmother had passed away a week before the hearing; however, there is nothing in the record indicating that he was suffering from a more lasting condition or that he was diagnosed with any type of depressive disorder. (R32-33) He also testified that he took Tylenol for migraines "every once in a while" but not as often as he had in the past. (R35-36)

On a typical day, Sprinkle testified that he doesn't get up until about 9:00 or 10:00am. (R30) He fixes breakfast and watches a little TV before getting up to do his daily chores of dishes and yard work. Id. He mows the yard, makes sure the yard is picked up, takes the garbage out, and mops the floor. (R30-31) Sprinkle collects Hot Wheels cars and likes to watch wrestling on TV. (R31) He plays card games on occasion and likes to play video games but doesn't socialize much because of his desire to isolate himself away from substance abuse. (R31-32, R34) He testified that he has no trouble taking care of himself and maintaining his own personal hygiene. (R32) Sprinkle is able to prepare simple meals for himself and can also shop for groceries or clothing. (R220) He is also capable of following the directions in notes left for him by his mother each day. (R112, R129)

The ALJ posed a hypothetical question to the VE:

Q: I want you to assume a person the same age, education and work experience as claimant, who can perform the full range of medium work. And assume further this person is limited to simple one and two-step tasks of a routine, repetitive nature. Also assume this person could only have occasional contact with the public, co-workers, and supervisors. And also he's to avoid extreme heat and cold and concentrated exposure to environmental irritants such as dust and fumes. Would the claimant be able to perform his prior relevant work? A: Based upon that hypothetical, Your Honor, the claimant could return to the past work of a janitor and the machine operator, machine tender.

Q: [W]ould there be other jobs available in the local, regional or national economy?

A: You'd have DoT 920.587-018, which is a medium physical demand hand packager, 6,900 positions; DOT 920.687-018, which is a light physical demand hand packager, 13, 500; DOT 920.685-026, is a packaging machine tender, 10,200, and that's at light physical demand. That would be representative, Your Honor. (R40-42) Sprinkle's attorney asked if the response would be any different if the VE assumed that the claimant could only occasionally understand even simple one or two-step instructions and operations in a work setting. (R41) The VE responded that this limitation would eliminate all work. Id. Sprinkle's attorney then inquired whether the limitation on avoiding temperature extreme and concentrated exposure to irritants would limit a person's occupational base, to which the VE answered that it would limit it somewhat. Id.

On November 4, 2008, the ALJ issued his decision. (R19) The ALJ found that Sprinkle has severe impairments of borderline intellectual functioning and asthma. (R12) The ALJ determined, however, that Sprinkle does not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in or medically equal to one listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. After considering the medical evidence in the record and relevant credibility factors as a whole, the ALJ found that Sprinkle retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium work except that he is limited to simple one and two step tasks of a routine and repetitive in nature with only occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors, or the public and which does not require concentrated exposure to fumes, dusts, or extreme heat. (R16) The ALJ concluded that Sprinkle's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to produce the alleged symptoms. Id. However, his assertions regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms were found to be not credible to the extent that they are inconsistent with the RFC assessment. Id.

Past relevant work was found to be precluded. (R17) Based on a consideration of his age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, the ALJ concluded that although Sprinkle's ability to perform work on the medium exertional levels has been compromised by non-exertional limitations, the testimony of the VE established that he was capable of making a successful adjustment to work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy and that he was not under a disability as defined under the Social Security Act at any time since his alleged onset in February 2007. (R18)

Sprinkle submitted a Request for Review of Hearing Decision. (R5) On August 28, 2009, the Appeals Council declined review of his claim, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (R1-4) This appeal followed. The Court has ...

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