United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
LARONZO M. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,  Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JEFFREY COLE, District Judge.
The plaintiff, Laronzo Thomas, seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner ("Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration ("Agency") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). Mr. Thomas asks the court to reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision, while the Commissioner seeks an order affirming the decision.
Mr. Thomas applied for SSI on April 10, 2009, alleging that he had become disabled on April 1, 2008, due to a learning disability and asthma. (Administrative Record ("R.") 205-207, 217). His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 105-110, 113-116). Mr. Thomas continued pursuit of his claim by filing a timely request for a hearing. (R. 117-119).
An administrative law judge ("ALJ") convened two hearings, the first on October 1, 2010, and the second on June 10, 2011. At the first, Mr. Thomas appeared and testified, and was represented by counsel. Dr. Larry Kravitz testified as a medical expert, and Thomas Dunleavy testified as a vocational expert. Mr. Thomas's sister also provided some testimony. (R. 65-104). At the second, there was additional testimony from a medical expert, Dr. Oberlander, and a vocational expert, Dr. Hamersma. (R. 37-63).
On November 3, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Mr. Thomas was not disabled and not entitled to SSI because he retained the capacity to perform any exertional level of work that consisted of simple, routine tasks, accommodated for a mild limitation in concentration by allowing him to be off task for 5% of the workday, involved no more than brief contact with co-workers and no more than incidental contact with the public. (R. 10-27). This became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Mr. Thomas's request for review of the decision on March 5, 2013. (R. 1-5). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955; 404.981. Mr. Thomas has appealed that decision to the federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
The Vocational Evidence
Mr. Thomas was born on April 15, 1979, making him thirty-two years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. 205). He was thrown out of high school for fighting during the tenth grade. (R. 70). Prior to that, he was in special education classes, generally got horrible grades, and was habitually absent or tardy. (R. 92, 260, 265-268, 320-325). There were indications from teachers that he was not trying. (R. 325, 326). The record suggests he very briefly held jobs in 2000 and 2005. (R. 210), although he claims he has never worked and does not recall ever looking for work. (R. 38, 75, 217). Other than that, he seems to have occupied himself with crime. He has done two stints in prison, from July 2003 through October 2004, and from May 2006 through May 2007. (R. 343). He has served time for selling crack cocaine and committing aggravated robbery. (R. 51-53, 373, 390).
The Medical ...