United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CORRIE L. LEWIS, ex rel., J.M., a minor for DAISY E. NICHOLSON (Deceased Mother) SSN: XXX-XX-5793, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
SUSAN E. COX, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Corrie E. Lewis ex rel. J.M., a minor, brings this action seeking reversal or remand of the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under Title II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [dkt. 27] is granted. This case is remanded to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Plaintiff Corrie E. Lewis ex rel. J.M., a minor, seeks to overturn the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision denying Daisy Nicholson's application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Because Daisy Nicholson, whose alleged disability is at issue here, is deceased, the plaintiff in this case is her mother, Corrie Lewis, along with J.M., Ms. Nicholson's grandchild. The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). After careful review of the record, the Court now remands the case for further proceedings.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Plaintiff was born July 4, 1963 and was forty-eight years old when the ALJ issued her decision denying disability benefits. Plaintiff, who previously worked as a barber, LPN, and CNA,  had been unemployed since 2005 when she stopped working to care for her ailing daughter who later passed away at the age of twenty-four. Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on March 1, 2010, alleging disability as of June 22, 2007. However, since a prior application for DIB and SSI was rejected on July 30, 2009,  the earliest date of disability onset must be July 31, 2009. In her most recent application for benefits, plaintiff identified depression, anxiety, diabetes, seizures, a prolapsed colon, spinal damage, blurred vision, high blood pressure, and pancreatic issues as the conditions impacting her ability to work. After the hearing before the ALJ, plaintiff passed away on February 17, 2013, at the age of forty-nine as a result of a heart attack.
Plaintiff had only one treating physician, Olalekan O. Sowade, M.D. since June 2006 who she saw on a sporadic basis through August 2011. In addition to visits to Dr. Sowade, plaintiff was also hospitalized on multiple occasions, once under the care of Dr. Sowade and three times for treatment unrelated to plaintiff's disability application. The ALJ references all of these visits and also highlights plaintiff's chronic alcohol abuse throughout her medical history. In June 2010 plaintiff was examined by two state agency physicians,  and her records were reviewed by four additional medical consultants. We will review their assessments of plaintiff's medical history as it was addressed by the ALJ.
A. Treating Physician
Dr. Sowade intermittently saw plaintiff, often in connection with refills for her medications, from 2006-2011. His initial assessments of plaintiff included seizures, hypertension, and other ailments.
Following a period of irregular visits from June 2006 through November 2008, Dr. Sowade saw plaintiff in February 2010 and assessed her with new onset diabetes mellitus. Dr. Sowade prescribed insulin, and continued to check blood glucose levels during visits through August 2011. These visits consistently included notations regarding plaintiff's diabetes mellitus, alcohol abuse, and seizures. In September 2010, Dr. Sowade admitted plaintiff to the hospital due to uncontrolled diabetes with elevated blood glucose. She was seen again after falling in July 2011,  when plaintiff complained of pain in her legs and a lack of balance. On August 23, 2011, five days after the hearing before the ALJ, plaintiff saw Dr. Sowade and again reported pain in both legs. Dr. Sowade assessed plaintiff with diabetic neuropathy.
B. State Consulting Physicians
Plaintiff was examined by two state consulting physicians on June 12, 2010. Norbert De Biase, M.D. conducted a physical examination during which plaintiff complained of numbness in her legs and feet and lower back pain, as well as her history of seizures. Upon examination, Dr. De Biase noted that plaintiff could walk fifty feet unassisted, had normal gait and did not use an assistive device. In addition, X-rays showed minimal degenerative scoliotic changes of plaintiff's lumbar spine. Dr. De Biase's clinical assessments included seizures, diabetes, back pain, and depression. Consulting psychiatrist John Franklin, M.D. also examined plaintiff, and noted plaintiff's reports of a history of depression and seizures, and complaints of chronic pain in her spinal region. Dr. Franklin's diagnoses included major depression and psychosis, "not otherwise specified."
An additional medical consultant prepared a physical residual functional capacity assessment,  and another completed a psychiatric review technique along with a mental residual functional capacity assessment. Several months later, these findings ...