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Dellise Marshall v. Michael Astrue

November 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maria Valdez 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 Dellise Marshall's ("Marshall" or "Claimant") 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, Marshall's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 19] is granted in part and denied in part. The Court finds that this matter should be remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings.



Marshall originally applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on May 1, 2009, alleging disability since May 1, 2006. (R. 19.) Her application was denied initially on August 14, 2009 and upon reconsideration on November 6, 2009. (Id.) Marshall filed a timely request for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on January 13, 2011. (Id.) Marshall personally appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. (Id.) A vocational expert also testified at the hearing, as did Marshall's husband William. (Id.)

On February 7, 2011, the ALJ denied Marshall's claim for benefits and found her not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 28.) The Social Security Administration Appeals Council denied Marshall's request for review (R. 1-6), 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

Marshall was born on September 21, 1962. (R. 38.) She married William A. Marshall on June 14, 1997 and they remain married. (R. 152.) She worked as a sales clerk from 1996-97, as a desk clerk at a hotel from 1997-99, and as an in-home caregiver from 2003-06. (R. 186, 208.) She claims disability due to Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis. (R. 40.) Marshall has had arthritis since age sixteen and was diagnosed with Crohn's at age thirty-seven. (R. 202.) She also has cysts on her liver and colitis. (R. 100.)

In her application, Marshall reported that she cannot carry anything over fifteen pounds and cannot walk more than one block at a time without rest. (R. 200.) She cannot squat or kneel for longer than five minutes, cannot sit for more than one hour nor write for more than thirty minutes. (Id.) She relies on a cane to help her walk when her knees swell and uses a sling for her arm when her fingers and hand swell and stiffen. (R. 201.) She can prepare simple meals that take ten minutes, such as coffee, toast and cereal. (R. 197.) Marshall used to cook, but now she requires help to open cans, jars, and bottles, and can no longer hold pots and pans, so her husband makes the dinners. (R. 197, 204.) Her husband takes her shopping once every three weeks. (R. 198.) He also takes her to her doctor's appointments, although she goes alone if she cannot get a ride from her husband, her father, or her friend. (Id.) Her daily activities consist of reading, watching TV, listening to music or the radio, and taking care of her daughter. (R. 195.) She talks to her parents by phone every day. (R. 199.) She leaves the house four times per week, including twice weekly religious meetings, and requires someone to take her there. (Id.)

B. Testimony and Medical Evidence

1. Marshall's Testimony

Marshall testified that at the time period when she claims to have become disabled, she lived with her husband and daughter, who was seven or eight years old at the time. (R. 43.) She stopped driving around that time because her husband needed the car to get to his job. (Id.) At the time, the main problems were in her right knee and her lower back. (R. 42-43.) She continues to walk with a cane because arthritis has made her unstable and she sometimes loses her balance. (R. .) She stated that her husband does the major household chores, including laundry, cleaning, and vacuuming, while Marshall can wipe down the countertops and they do dishes together. (R. 48-49.)

Marshall testified that she regularly attends twice-weekly religious meetings, but misses two or three meetings each month because the cramps from her Crohn's disease become too severe. (R. 50-53.) She takes prednisone, among other medications, but still has pain, fatigue, and inflammation that at times lead her to lie down or take a bath. (R. 46.) She stated that she experiences side effects including nausea, vomiting, and rectal bleeding. (R. 53.) The pain from arthritis is constant, while the Crohn's disease flares up intermittently with severe bouts of cramping, pain, and vomiting. (R. 54.) She testified that the episodes come roughly seven times per month, last for several hours each time, and are "unbearable." (R. 54-55.) When the Crohn's disease flares up, she can no longer read, talk to people, or leave the house. (R. 60.)

Marshall stated that she lost her jobs working at hotels in the late 1990s because she was fired for taking too many bathroom breaks and missing too much work. (R. 62.)

2. William Marshall's Testimony

Claimant's husband William Marshall testified that the claimant's Crohn's disease had been a long-term problem but got worse during the period from 2006-08. (R. 74-75.) He stated that he works for the Chicago Transit Authority and in 2006 he had to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act because he had to miss so much work to care for his wife. (R. 75.) He ...

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