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Anthony House v. Michael J. Astrue

September 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge


This action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff Anthony House's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons that follow, House's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 45] is denied, and the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 52] is granted.



House originally applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on July 6, 2005, alleging a disability since November 29, 2001 due to osteoarthritis in the feet and back strain. (R. 73.) The application was denied on August 30, 2005 and upon reconsideration on September 13, 2006. (R. 73-79, 81.) House filed a timely request for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on April 16, 2008. (R. 22-72.) House personally appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. (Id.) House's wife and a vocational expert also testified at the hearing. (Id.)

On October 20, 2008, the ALJ denied House's claim for benefits and found him not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 12-21.) The Social Security Administration Appeals Council denied House's request for review on May 8, 2009, (R. 1-3), leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner and therefore reviewable by the District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).


A. Background

House was born on May 30, 1957, and was fifty years old at the time of the ALJ hearing. (R. 26, 113.) He is five feet nine inches tall and weighs around 180 pounds. (R. 26.) House lives with his wife and three children. (R. 277.) He dropped out of school in the eleventh grade and did not obtain a GED. (R. 26, 29-30, 277.) He was in the Army Reserve for three months in 1975 and received an honorable discharge. (R. 30-31, 276.) House was previously employed as a security guard and a custodian. (R. 129.) His prior employment in custodial work involved maintenance, loading and unloading, and lifting as much as 100 pounds or more.

(R. 130-33.)

House alleges a disability onset date of November 29, 2001 due to various impairments including lower back pain, foot pain, chest pain, Type 2 diabetes, cellulitis, and headaches. (R. 183-88, 194-97, 218, 228, 277.) In his form seeking reconsideration of the initial denial of benefits, House added that he had been afflicted with mental illnesses since 2005. (R. 147.) House has taken or is taking Vicodin, aspirin, Lasix, and medications for arthritis and high blood pressure. (R. 47-48.)

B. Testimony and Medical Evidence

1. House's Testimony

House testified that he has problems with both feet, dating from 2001, when he had surgery to remove a bone from his foot. (R. 33-34, 37.) He also complained of swelling and arthritis in his neck, feet, and hands. (R. 33-34.) House claims he has a problem with a disc in his back, and sometimes when he bends down he cannot get back up. (R. 35.)

House reported that he has aching and burning pains all over his body, and nothing relieves the pain. (R. 43-44.) Approximately three times a day, when his foot starts to get hot, he gets headaches that sometimes last three hours. (R. 47.) When he gets headaches, he takes aspirin, Vicodin, or arthritis pills. (R. 47-48.) House also takes Lasix for high blood pressure and another pill for diabetes. (R. 48-49.) He cannot carry anything heavier than a gallon of milk, and when he does carry something, it will fall out of his hands. (R. 35, 44.) Over an eight-hour time period, House cannot walk more than thirty minutes, stand more than twenty-thirty minutes, or sit for thirty minutes. (R. T4-45.)

For about eight months prior to the hearing, House had been seeing a physician who gave him an ultrasound test, performed blood work, and treated House's high blood pressure. (R. 36.) The doctor did not refer House to any specialists. (Id.)

In a typical day, House gets out of bed at 6:00 a.m. and drinks coffee. He walks around for as long as he can, then sits on the couch and sometimes watches movies. (R. 38-39.) He can dress, shower, and shave himself, and he can make something simple to eat. (R. 40.) House does not shop for groceries, nor does he do any chores around the house such as laundry, vacuuming, or dishes. (Id.) He is no longer able to play basketball or work on cars, and he does not do any kind of exercise. (R. 40-41.) He attends church every Sunday and has no problem getting along with people there. (R. 42-43.) House claims to have problems with his memory; for example, if he puts his keys down, he cannot find them. (R. 43.)

House reported "see[ing] things in strange places," and stated that in a workplace setting, people would think he was crazy and "wouldn't understand." (R. 41.) He says that at night, he sees "[o]ther places in other worlds." (R. 50-51.) He does not sleep very well and is tired as a result. (Id.) He was not receiving and had received no treatment for a mental impairment. (R. 41.)

2. Elizabeth House's Testimony

Plaintiff's wife of eighteen years, Elizabeth House, testified at the hearing. (R. 58.) She is a Certified Nursing Assistant and works from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (R. 65.) Elizabeth stated that before Plaintiff got sick, they were active, going to the park and restaurants, visiting family, and exercising, but he no longer can do those things. (R. 58.) She does most of the household chores, and her sons perform maintenance in the home. (R. 59.)

Elizabeth testified that House's memory is not good, and he cannot remember to keep doctors' appointments if she does not remind him. (R. 60.) She said that after drinking his coffee, House will lie down on the couch for fifteen to thirty minutes. (R. 61.) House is able to sit ...

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