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Eckermann v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

August 19, 2014

PAUL ECKERMANN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

SARA DARROW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Paul A. Eckermann appeals the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner"), denying his applications for Child's Insurance Benefits ("CIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. This matter comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 11, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Affirmance, ECF No. 14. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES Defendant's Motion for Summary Affirmance.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

Eckermann began psychiatric treatment in April 2004, at the age of 17, for paranoid schizophrenia and extreme anxiety symptoms. R. 22, 41. Despite his mental difficulties, with the help of special accommodations for students with disabilities, he graduated college a semester early with a degree in business management. R. 41-42. He played varsity tennis for one year while in college, sometimes traveling with the team. R. 45-46. He had two hospital stays for psychotic breakdowns during this period. R. 22. Eckermann claims his symptoms worsened following graduation, and he found himself taking additional medication to combat more severe anxiety. R. 50-51. The medication caused daytime drowsiness, but Eckermann eventually switched to a medication with fewer side effects, and his fatigue lessened. R. 51.

After graduation, he was hired to work as an item manager at the Rock Island Arsenal for the U.S. Department of Defense. R. 42-43. He left that job after about three months because he found the job "overwhelming" and "stressful" and felt that he was not performing well enough. R. 52. He then worked part-time at the front desk of a tennis club, but quit after about a month due to finding it "very stressful" and experiencing "trouble dealing with the large groups of people sometimes that would come in." R. 45. Eckermann claims that increased responsibilities exacerbate his anxiety, causing rapid thoughts, confusion, and feelings of being overwhelmed. R. 52-53. Eckermann also worked part-time as a tennis instructor from June 2003 to June 2004, a library page for a few weeks in August 2005, a bank teller trainee for a few days in January 2005, a grocery clerk in training for a day in March 2008, and an usher at a movie theater for a few weeks in December 2005. R. 276-87. He claims he left these positions due to anxiety, discomfort around crowds, and fear of other workers. See R. 286-87.

According to Dr. Collin Andrew Lodico, a psychologist who has been treating Eckermann since high school, Eckermann successfully controls his active delusions and hallucinations through medication. R. 54-57. However, Eckermann still has a poverty of speech attributable to his schizophrenia, as well as anxiety that interferes with his focus, concentration, and work pace, and leads-when outside a supportive environment like his home-to ruminative and obsessive thoughts and anxiety-related behaviors such as agitation. R. 61-63. The psychologist claims that Eckermann's symptoms become more pronounced in work settings, especially in the absence of constant reassurance. R. 62-63.

II. Procedural History

Eckermann's father filed for CIB on his behalf on July 1, 2010. R. 153-156. Eckermann also protectively filed a SSI claim on September 8, 2010. R. 160-164. Eckermann claimed that his ability to work was limited by schizophrenia/generalized anxiety disorder beginning April 1, 2004. R. 22. His applications were denied on August 25, 2010. R. 91. Eckermann requested reconsideration and was denied a second time on October 21, 2010. R. 92. Eckermann requested a hearing, which was held via video conference on January 19, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Diane R. Flebbe. R 18-31. ALJ Flebbe found that Eckermann has two severe impairments: schizophrenia and generalized anxiety disorder. R. 21. The ALJ found that these impairments or combination thereof did not meet or medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926) ("Listing of Impairments"). Id .

The ALJ then found that Eckermann retained the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to perform:

A full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: he requires unskilled work that is routine and repetitive, and requires no production paced activities; he requires employment that has no work interaction with the general public and only occasional and superficial work interaction with co-workers and supervisors, other than additional supervision of 2-3 minutes per hour to provide assistance by supervisors with redirection and remaining on task; [he] is limited to only occasional decision making and only within the context of simple and routine tasks described above; and, finally, [he] requires work that avoids all exposure to hazardous work environments such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights.

R. 22. Based on the testimony of a vocational expert, Alfred Walker, ALJ Flebbe found that there were a significant number of jobs in the local and national economy that Eckermann could perform, such as housekeeper, laundry worker, and marker. R. 84-85. As a result of this analysis, the ALJ found that Eckermann was not disabled between April 1, 2004, and February 21, 2012. R. 31. On December 4, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Eckermann's request for review, making the ALJ's decision final. R. 1. Eckermann filed the instant action on April 10, 2013, requesting the Court's review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

I. District Court Review of the ...


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