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McCain v. Colvin

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 4, 2013

KENNETH McCAIN, Plaintiff,


JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kenneth McCain seeks to reverse and remand the Social Security Administration Commissioner's decision denying his claim for disability benefits. Defendant, Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin ("Commissioner"), has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, requesting that the Court affirm the final decision. For the reasons explained below, McCain's Motion [11] is denied; the Commissioner's Motion [23] is granted; and the Commissioner's final decision is affirmed.


In March and April 2009, McCain applied for Child's Insurance Benefits ("CIB") and Supplemental Security Income Benefits ("SSI"), alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 1995. (Administrative Record ("AR") 190-99.) His application was denied by the Commissioner initially and on reconsideration. (AR 105-14, 124-26.) McCain then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on May 2, 2011. On May 25, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding McCain not disabled. (AR 27-39.) The Appeals Council denied further review of McCain's claim on October 4, 2012. Thus, the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner and is ripe for review. See 20 C.F.R. ยง 404.981; Eads v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 983 F.2d 815, 816 (7th Cir. 1993).

Medical and Vocational Background

McCain was born on December 21, 1985. (AR 193.) His mother is an alcoholic, and his father has spent most of his adult life in prison. (AR 260.) McCain has lived with his grandmother since he was born, and she adopted him when he was five. (AR 260.) McCain was found by school officials to have a cognitive disability, and he attended special education classes until he dropped out of school in tenth grade. (AR 50-51, 215, 276.) At age 15, he was reading at a third grade level and attending special education classes or receiving social work services 1, 150 minutes per week. (AR 280.) He has held only one job, which lasted for a week in June 2005 at a fast food restaurant and earned a total of $99.13. (AR 200, 211-12, 332.)

On August 12, 2009, McCain was evaluated by a psychologist, Dr. Robert Neufeld, Ph.D., who diagnosed him with schizoid personality disorder and rated his Global Assessment Function at 60. (AR 333.) Dr. Neufeld did not document any problems associated with anger and stated that McCain "had no psychopathology other than having a rather lackluster personality structure without any well-defined features." (AR 333.) McCain has never received any psychiatric treatment or been prescribed any psychiatric medications. (AR 34.)

Administrative Hearing and Decision

On May 2, 2011, a hearing was conducted before ALJ Regina Kossak in Chicago, Illinois. Four individuals testified at the hearing: McCain; Angela McCain-King, his aunt; Dr. Larry Kravitz, an impartial medical expert; and Richard Hamersa, an impartial vocational expert ("VE"). The ALJ also considered a letter written by McCain's grandmother, as well as other documents about McCain's medical and educational history.

At the hearing, McCain testified regarding his cognitive impairments and limitations. He stated that he cannot read a newspaper and does not have a driver's license because he failed the written test twice. (AR 54-55, 58, 62.) He stated that he does jobs around the house, including raking grass, making his bed, and taking his niece, who lives with him and his grandmother, to school. (AR 57.) He also testified that he does not do his own laundry because he broke the washing machine; that he can make sandwiches, but he does not use the microwave or the stove because he forgets things and they burn. (AR 57, 59, 62-63.) He stated that he plays basketball and plays video games, the latter sometimes for thirty minutes at a time. (AR 61.) He also testified that he did not think he could work because he is "slow at things." (AR 62.) He did, however, testify that he thought he could do an "easy" job like stocking shelves at Jewel. (AR 55, 62.)

His aunt, McCain-King, testified, among other things, that McCain was getting "worse" at following directions and remembering things (AR 71-72); that he can go shopping so long as he used a list (TR 75-76); that she tried to get him a janitor job and a job at McDonald's (AR 72-73); that she gives him little jobs, like washing a car, to make a little money (AR 77); that she did not think he can do a job (AR 81-82); and that she tried to take him to a mental health place but he did not want to wait to see the psychiatrist and did not go back (AR 79-80, 84).

Dr. Kravitz, a psychologist, testified and opined that McCain did not meet or equal the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments 12.02 with the B criteria. (AR 90.) He opined that McCain has a cognitive deficit and characterological personality traits that are maladaptive and dysfunctional in society; however, Dr. Kravitz testified there was little support for a diagnosis of schizoid personality disorder, which was based on a one-time impression by Dr. Neufeld. (AR 86-87.) Based on the record, Dr. Kravitz testified that McCain's impairments cause moderate limitations on concentration, persistence, or pace; moderate limitations on social functions; and mild to moderate limitations with his activities of daily living. (AR 90-91.) Dr. Kravitz further testified that McCain would be limited in the types of work he could do to "fairly simple" tasks. Specifically, Dr. Kravitz said those tasks would need to be routine, consistent, repetitive and predictable, with only incidental public contacts, limited interactions with other employees and instructive supervisory contacts. (AR 94-95.)

Hamersa, the VE, testified that McCain had no past relevant work experience. (AR 96.) The ALJ asked Hamersa hypothetically if there are available jobs for someone with McCain's limitations, including very limited reading, short, simple instructions, limited contact with other employees and the public, limited supervision, and a routine, predictable and consistent environment. Hamersa responded affirmatively and stated that there are available jobs as a janitor, kitchen helper or hand packager. (AR 96-97.)

Following the hearing, on May 25, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding that McCain was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (the "SSA"), from June 1, 1995 through the date of the decision. (AR 27-39.) In making her decision, the ALJ made findings according to the requisite five-step analysis, discussed in more detail below: (1) McCain had not engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) he had a severe impairment in the form of cognitive impairment; (3) his impairment did not meet or equal the criteria of a Listing of Impairments, 20 CFR 404.1520(d), under the SSA; (4) he had residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with certain non-exertional limitations, including ...

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