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William Rodriguez v. Michael J. Astrue

November 30, 2012

WILLIAM RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF-CLAIMANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeffrey T. Gilbert Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Claimant William Rodriguez ("Claimant") brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking reversal or remand of the decision by Defendant Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), in which the Commissioner denied Claimant's application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. This matter is before the Court on Claimant's motion for summary judgment or remand [Dkt.#15], and the Commissioner's opposing motion for summary judgment [Dkt.#17]. Claimant raises the following issues: (1) whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in failing to analyze Claimant's seizure disorder in his Listing Analysis; (2) whether the ALJ failed to properly analyze evidence of Claimant's limitations when determining his Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC"); and (3) whether the ALJ improperly determined Claimant's credibility. For the following reasons, Claimant's motion for summary judgment is granted, and the Commissioner's motion is denied. This case is remanded to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

I.BACKGROUND

A.Procedural History

Claimant initially filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on May 27, 2008 alleging a disability onset date of September 5, 2007. R. 56. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Claimant's applications on September 23, 2008. R. 56. Claimant then filed a request for reconsideration, which the SSA denied on February 13, 2009. R. 56. On March 23, 2009 Claimant requested a hearing before an ALJ. R. 56.

On September 17, 2009, the ALJ presided over a hearing at which Claimant was represented by an attorney. Only Claimant and a vocational expert William J. Schweihs testified. R. 56. No medical testimony was heard. R. 56. Post-hearing, Claimant's counsel forwarded to the ALJ additional evidence which was added to the record. R. 56.

On March 4, 2009, the ALJ rendered a decision finding that Claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. R. 56-65. Specifically, the ALJ determined that Claimant "has the residual capacity to perform light work, as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), subject to postural limitations precluding climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or more than occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; and also a limitation against more than frequent handling and fingering with right upper extremity and a need to avoid concentrated exposure to work hazards, such as unprotected heights or dangerous moving machinery." R. 60-61. The ALJ also found that a significant number of jobs existed in the national economy such that one of Claimant's age, education, work experience, and RFC would be able to "transfer his knowledge of electronics components to 3,000-4,000 sales attendant jobs in the Chicago area." R. 64.

Claimant filed a request for review by the Appeals Counsel. R. 11. On July 1, 2011 the Appeals Counsel denied that request. R. 1. That left the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. On November 2, 2011 Claimant filed this action for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g).

B.Hearing Testimony -- March 9, 2010

1. Claimant William Rodriguez

At the time of the hearing, Claimant was 52 years old. He is divorced from his wife and has two children ages 25 and 18. R. 20. Claimant graduated from high school and then graduated from DeVry Institute of Technology Trade School. R. 20. At one time, Claimant was licensed by the State of Illinois for commercial alarm installation. R. 21. Claimant also took courses in advanced digital theories and alarms. R. 21.

Claimant testified that most of his past work experience was as an industrial electrician. R. 22. The job consisted of repairing industrial equipment and included heavy lifting. R. 22, 38. Claimant testified that he sometimes had to move by himself equipment that weighed 300 or 400 pounds. R. 38. Claimant also testified that he left his job as an industrial electrician on September 5, 2007 because of the mental breakdowns he was having during the job and the physical pain that was impeding him from doing his work. R. 23. Claimant testified that his bosses and some of the workers said that there was something wrong with him and that he was not mentally fit to do the job. R. 23. After leaving the job, Claimant went to see the neurologist Dr. Wang. R. 23. He testified that the doctor helped him in some ways but that he had limited access to doctors because he lacked insurance. R. 24.

Claimant testified that in the last 15 years he had a number of jobs similar to his job as an industrial electrician. R. 24. The lightest job he did was troubleshooting computer systems but it required a lot of thought and strained his mind. R. 38. When he worked at UPS as a maintenance electrician, he was hired to troubleshoot about the first half of a new facility in Willow Springs.

R. 39. The ALJ reminded Claimant that he also worked as a maintenance worker for a cleaning contractor, but Claimant testified that he could not remember that job. R. 24. When the ALJ asked Claimant if there was any reason why he had so many jobs, Claimant replied that it was due to his drug addiction. R. 24. Claimant testified that he has not used drugs in three and a half years. R. 24.

Claimant testified that since he left his job as an industrial electrician he has not done any work. R. 21. He tried doing lawn work a month prior to the hearing which involved cutting the grass and mowing. R. 21-22. He worked for two and a half hours and then his wrists swelled up and his lower back started hurting. R. 22. Claimant testified that he tried lawn mowing three or four times in the past year. R. 22.

Claimant testified that he still gets seizures and that they are happening more frequently. R. 25. He used to get a seizure once a week, but in the year before the hearing, they increased to three a week. R. 25. Claimant also stated that even though he takes the medicine he still gets his seizures. R. 25. In June 2009, Claimant's medical records at the Greater Elgin Family Care Center reveal that Claimant reported he was having seizures two to four times a week. R. 468.

(R. 62 at ALJ's decision).

Claimant testified that he can't always remember when he gets his seizures but friends

that live around him tell him that he still gets seizures. R. 25. Claimant testified that some seizures are like a short circuit in his brain during which he sees nothing but a red circle and sun and all his memory is blocked out. R. 26. Sometimes he can't see anything. R. 26. Claimant testified that if he goes into a store where there is a lot of light he can lose his balance and his eyesight. R. 26. Claimant testified that he also can get a seizure when he is under a lot of stress and then he blanks out and is like a zombie. R. 26. Claimant testified that after he gets a seizure it takes him about 15 minutes to recuperate and to get back to what he was doing before. R. 36.

Claimant testified that he has orthopedic problems from when he fell 20 feet to the ground in 2004. R. 26. Claimant stated that he fell head first and when he tried to block the fall with this hands he broke his wrist and tore a ligament on both of his elbows. R. 26. Since the fall, Claimant's elbows and wrists swell up and he developed severe arthritis in his wrists. R. 27. Claimant, however, testified that he left his job for mental reasons and because of the seizures. R. 27. Claimant testified that he can lift 10 to 20 pounds but then his right wrist and both elbows swell up and he gets severe lower back pains. R. 28. Claimant also testified that having to bend his back or put strain on his lower back will hurt. R. 35. His back also will hurt if he lifts himself up or if he sits for too long. R. 35. Claimant testified that he discussed his back problems with the doctors at the Greater Elgin Family Care Center. R. 35. Claimant also testified that he went to a doctor prior to that and the doctor did all kinds of x-rays and an analysis. R. 35. Claimant testified that the doctor was the first one that found out that Claimant had back problems, but the doctor was too expensive and Claimant could not afford him anymore because he has no insurance. R. 35-36.

Claimant also testified that he can walk for about 45 minutes but has to rest. R. 28. Claimant stated that he is taking a few medications but, except for Zoloft, he cannot remember their names. R. 28. He testified that he sometimes forgets to take them. R. 28. Claimant testified that the medications give him diarrhea and make him very drowsy. R. 29. Claimant stated that he is not seeing a doctor regularly because he has no insurance. R. 29. When he has medical problems he goes to a free medical clinic, the Greater Elgin Family Care Center, but sometimes it will be a month and a half before he can get to see a doctor. R. 29.

Claimant testified that he lives alone and is able to take care of himself to a certain extent.

R. 29. Once a week someone from the Greater Elgin Center comes to his house to check if he has food, to help him with his medication, to check his apartment, to see if he is drinking or doing any drugs and to see if he needs help with something. R. 34. Claimant testified that his neighbors sometimes invite him to eat in their apartment. R. 35. Claimant testified that he has a difficult time cooking. R. 29. He only makes simple meals because, if he tries to do anything difficult, he makes a mess and gets confused, so he stays away from doing anything that requires a lot of thinking. R. 30. Claimant testified that there is a store four blocks from his home to which he can walk. R. 30. He does not go the store alone to buy groceries, and if he needs to go, his friends will take him. R. 30. Claimant also testified that he is sometimes able to do the laundry but only when the amount is very little because he can't carry a lot. R. 31. Claimant also testified that he once left the stove on. R. 34. He also left the water running which twice flooded the apartment downstairs and he came close to being kicked out of his apartment. R. 34. Claimant testified that he sometimes leaves the doors to his apartment open when he leaves the house. R. 34.

Claimant testified that the government is paying for his housing. R. 31. Claimant also testified that he does not have a driver's license because a few years ago he was caught speeding, and his license was taken away. R. 31. He spends most of his time during the day visiting friends, watching the news and reading the Bible or magazines. R. 31. Claimant testified that only sometimes is he able to get through an article when reading a magazine. R. 34. The majority of the time he just glances through and reads the important parts. R. 34-35. If he reads too much, more than 15 or 20 minutes, he gets bogged down and mentally tired. R. 35. Claimant testified that he takes naps during the day, sometimes three of them, and has problems sleeping at night.

R. 33. He takes naps when he is getting volatile, stressed out and cannot cope. R. 33. Claimant also testified that he has panic attacks when he is in a real stressful situation or when he is being pushed or being yelled at. R. 33.

Claimant testified that he attends counseling about four or five hours a week. R. 32. Although the counseling is helping him try to deal with situations, overall things are getting worse. R. 32. Claimant also testified that he is not able to get the full medical attention that he needs. Claimant testified that he had a difficult time attending the hearing and does not have the access to help that he needs. R. 32-33.

2.Vocational Expert's Testimony

William Schweihs is a vocational expert ("VE") and testified at the hearing. He described Claimant's past relevant work as a skilled worker, essentially a maintenance mechanic for electrical and electronic equipment. R. 41. He also testified that most of Claimant's past work was at the heavy to very heavy range of physical exertion although there was a job or two at the lighter range such as when he worked as a custodian and janitor for the school district. R. 41. The VE testified that within the last 15 years there were only three years (2003, 2004 and 2005) in which Claimant's earnings did not reach substantial gainful activity levels. R. 41. He testified that Claimant had some two dozen jobs early on in the past 15 years. R. 41. Only about a fourth of Claimant's jobs were full time; the rest were part time. R. 41.

The ALJ asked the VE what type of work a person with Claimant's work experience, age, education (three years beyond high school), and residual functional capacity, could perform, if any, with the following limitations: working only in light sedentary work; avoiding climbing ladders, ropes of scaffolds or more than occasional climbing of ramps and stairs; avoiding concentrated exposure to hazard, and only frequent handling and fingering with the right hand.

R. 42-43. The VE testified that based on the hypothetical given by the ALJ, an individual with the limitations described could perform only the cleaning type of work such as the custodian or janitor for a school district. R. 43. Claimant's other past work would have been beyond the light range of physical exertion. R. 43.

The ALJ then asked the VE if there would be any transferable acquired work skills or semi-work skills. R. 43. The VE testified that knowledge of electrical and electronic components and procedures followed within the industries would transfer to semi-skilled positions, such as sales attendant, counter attendant, full-sale and retail hardware and electronic supply stores. R. 43. The VE added that in the ...


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