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Goyco v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 14, 2014

LISA M. GOYCO, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Lisa Goyco has appealed the decision of the Social Security Administration (SSA) to deny her applications for Supplemental Security Income benefits and Social Security Disability benefits. An administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that Goyco was not disabled pursuant to the definition set forth in the Social Security Act. Both Goyco and the Acting Commissioner of Social Security have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Commissioner's motion and affirms the denial of benefits.


Goyco is a thirty-two year old woman with a high school education. R. 45. Her past relevant work was as a sales clerk, an admissions advisor, a phone salesperson, and a general office clerk. R. 97-98. Goyco filed an application for Social Security Disability benefits on August 11, 2010, alleging she had been disabled since January 25, 2008. R. 250. Goyco alleges that back and neck pain, as well as mental health issues, render her disabled. She also applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits on August 18, 2011. R. 293. On June 15, 2012, the ALJ found that Goyco was not disabled. R. 13-32.

1. Physical health

Goyco was injured in two motor vehicle accidents on January 25, 2008 and May 12, 2008. R. 461, 409. She visited Erie Family Health Center complaining of back pain on July 25, 2008 and was prescribed medication. R. 501-02. A MRI of her lumbar spine on June 26, 2008 revealed a herniated disc with no evidence of nerve root impingement and no focal deficits. R. 919-20. Goyco returned to Erie Family Health Center complaining of back pain on October 21, 2008, and May 19, 2009. R. 498, 495.

Goyco received chiropractic treatment for her back pain from February 6, 2008 to December 8, 2008. R. 851. The chiropractor noted that Goyco had reached maximum medical improvement with her lower back by July 1, 2008, R. 409, and maximum medical improvement for her neck injury by December 8, 2008.

On July 16, 2010, a lumbar MRI revealed mild degenerative changes with degenerative disc desiccation, a mild disc bulge, and a right annular tear. R. 486. Goyco received an injection of Kenalog (a corticosteroid) in her back to treat her lower back pain on November 23, 2010. R. 541. Goyco saw a certified physician assistant, Pat Maier, on February 11, 2011, again complaining of back pain. R. 580, 1040. Maier diagnosed her with lower back pain and sciatica with numbness in the lower back. R. 580. On December 10, 2011, Goyco returned to Maier, who noted that Goyco was alternating between standing and sitting and stretching her back. R. 1040.

On October 16, 2010, Dr. ChukwuEmeka Ezike examined Goyco at request of the SSA. R. 503-07. Dr. Ezike reviewed the disability report from the SSA, medical records from Erie Family Health Center, and the lumbar MRI report from July 16, 2010, and he also examined Goyco. R. 503. He observed a full range of motion and mild paralumbar tenderness. R. 505. Dr. Ezike diagnosed Goyco with lumbar degenerative disc disease. R. 505.

Dr. Laura Rosch, an internist, testified at the hearing before the ALJ. Dr. Rosch had not examined Goyco; she based her opinion of Goyco's disability on a review of Goyco's medical records. R. 80. Dr. Rosch testified that Goyco has longstanding chronic back pain with a herniated disc and an annular tear at L5-S1. R. 81, 84. She estimated that Goyco could lift 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, stand or walk for only four hours per eight-hour work day, and sit for six hours per work day. R. 86. Dr. Rosch stated that Goyco would require breaks every two hours, could never use ladders, ropes, or scaffolding, could occasionally stoop, and should not work around heavy machinery or unprotected heights. R. 86-87.

Goyco testified at the hearing that she has constant pain in her low back that increases when she stands or sits for more than 20 to 30 minutes and causes shooting pain and a burning sensation in her legs. R. 58, 64. She also stated that some of her medications cause inability to use the bathroom, drowsiness, and "mind rushes." R. 62, 65. Goyco testified that she drives every day, goes out to eat, takes care of three children, shops for groceries, cooks, and vacuums. R. 47-51. She attempted to work as a cashier part-time, but she stated that she was unable to focus due to her back pain. R. 56.

2. Mental health

At the hearing, which was held in April 2012, Goyco testified that she had gone to the emergency room following a panic attack a bit more than a year before the hearing. Since that time, she stated, she had experienced panic attacks "[a]lmost every day." R. 68. She stated that therapy had helped with this.

Goyco started seeing psychiatrist Dr. Carlos Nunez on January 26, 2011. This was the first occasion on which she sought treatment for mental health issues. Goyco began seeing Dr. Nunez for a monthly psychiatry appointment and attending counseling biweekly. R. 588. She told Dr. Nunez that she was struggling with decreased appetite, decreased sleep, low energy, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, poor concentration, low self-esteem, memory impairment, hopelessness and a depressed mood. R. 594. Dr. Nunez diagnosed Goyco with moderate depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic ...

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