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Alford v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois

May 1, 2014

JOHN A. ALFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ORDER

JAMES E. SHADID, Chief District Judge.

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 [10] is DENIED, and the Commissioner's Motion to Affirm [12] is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, John Alford ("Alford"), was 51 years' old at the time of his administrative hearing. (R34) He is right-handed, is 5'9" tall, and weighs 200 pounds. (R35) He is married and lives with his wife and son. Id . Alford graduated from high school and attended community college part-time. (R35-36) He is currently taking a correspondence course in computer programming and last worked on October 27, 2009 doing manual labor and driving a truck. (R36, R47)

During his administrative hearing, Alford testified that he can go up and down the stairs in his home because there are rails but cannot do it repeatedly. (R35) He drives himself a couple of times per month. Id . Alford is able to take care of his own personal hygiene, bathe, and dress himself. (R39) He has difficulty being on his feet for more than 20-30 minutes before he has a problem and can't sit for long periods at a time. (R42)

On a typical day, Alford gets up, takes his medication, has toast or cereal for breakfast, and then sits in the living room and reads. (R40) He fixes soup or a sandwich for himself and his son, then lays down for a nap in the afternoon due to the fatigue in his back. Id . Around the house, he needs to rest after mopping the kitchen floor and occasionally does dishes and vacuums the living room floor. (R37, R41) He also helps water flower pots in the yard, but his wife does the mowing. (R42) Alford accompanies his wife to do the grocery shopping and can carry a bag of groceries if it isn't too heavy; he indicated that he was able to lift a bag weighing 10-15 pounds. (R41) He occasionally goes out for lunch with his wife and attends church once a month. (R46) Hobbies include reading and playing around with the computer. Id.

Since his back surgery in October 2009, he has had little follow-up. X-rays were taken, but there was no follow-up MRI. (R44) He has not seen his surgeon, Dr. Kube, or any other back specialist since shortly after his surgery and has only followed up every six months with his family doctor, Dr. Stetter. (R44-45) Alford described his condition as stable, not getting better or worse. (R45) He has walked with the use of a cane since before his back surgery due to numbness in his left foot and balance problems. (R49)

On March 29, 2011, Alford applied for benefits, alleging disability that began on October 28, 2009. The application was denied both initially and on reconsideration. Alford requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). A hearing was held before ALJ John Wood on October 2, 2012, at which Alford, who was represented by counsel, and vocational expert ("VE") James Ragains appeared and gave testimony.

The ALJ posed a hypothetical question to the VE:

Q Are you familiar with the jobs which exist in this region?
A Yes, sir.
Q Could you define the region for us?
A The state of Illinois.
Q And you've reviewed the exhibits in the file that deal with the claimant's past work and heard the testimony today?
A Yes.
Q I know you prepared a work summary at 18-E. What I want to do now is ask you some hypothetical questions. Please disregard any information you may have gathered from reading the file or listening to the testimony other than that which I give you in the hypothetical.
Assume past work same as the claimant's; exertional capacity limited to light work with no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; other postural functions could be performed occasionally; need to alternate sitting and standing periodically during the day, not at will, but when an opportunity would arise so that by the end of the day, the ...

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