United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JEFFREY COLE, Magistrate Judge.
Richard Kendzion 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. Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). Mr. Kendzion asks the court to reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision, while the Commissioner seeks an order affirming the decision.
Mr. Kendzion applied for SSI on November 10, 2010, alleging that he had become disabled on December 1, 2009, due to arthritis in his spine and a learning disability. (Administrative Record ("R.") 119, 143). His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration (R. 51-52, 67-71), and Mr. Kendzion continued pursuit of his claim by filing a timely request for a hearing. An administrative law judge ("ALJ") convened a hearing at which Mr. Kendzion, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. In addition, James Radke testified as a vocational expert. (R. 27-49). On February 22, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Mr. Kendzion was not disabled because he could perform medium work that did not involve any climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; more than occasional climbing of stairs and ramps, balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling, or crawling; and that was limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, plus tasks learned by demonstration with no requirements for reading on the job. (R. 11-21). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Mr. Kendzion's request for review on May 7, 2013. (R. 1-6). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955; 404.981. Mr. Kendzion 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 EVIDENCE OF RECORD
The Vocational Evidence
Mr. Kendzion was born on September 19, 1956, making him fifty-five years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. 158). He is 5'8" tall and weighs 160 pounds. (R. 143). He got no further than eighth grade in school and is illiterate. (R. 35, 178). He worked for a towing company from 2007 to 2010, but was laid off and has not been able to find work due to his illiteracy and limited intellect. (R. 36, 144). Since then he has tried to make ends meet by doing odd jobs in his neighborhood - mowing lawns, raking leaves, washing cars, etc. (R. 38, 166).
The Medical Evidence
The evidence begins with Mr. Kendzion's grammar school records from 1970, which indicate that he had a Wechsler IQ test in August 1970 and scored a 62. (R. 189). The disability agency arranged a consultative psychological examination for Mr. Kendzion with Michael Stone on January 10, 2011. Dr. Stone noted that Mr. Kendzion arrived at the exam accompanied by a friend. Mr Kendzion reported that he was taking no medication and received daily assistance from his friend in things like cooking, shopping, travel, and money management. (R. 200). Mr. Kendzion appeared mildly depressed. He had problems maintaining a consistent level of attention ad concentration throughout the exam. (R. 201). He exhibited impairment in his ability to perform simple calculations and in his fund of general knowledge. His judgment was adequate. He exhibited concrete thinking - he was unable to interpret proverbs. Dr. Stone estimated his intelligence was borderline to low average. His symptoms were indicative of adjustment disorder and his prognosis was guarded. (R. 203). He would be unable to manage any funds. (R. 203).
That same day, Dr. Rochelle Hawkins conducted a consultative physical exam. Mr. Kendzion told her he thought he had arthritis but had not seen a doctor about it. He rated his pain as 5-6 on a scale of 10. (R. 205). Upon examination, there was no limitation of motion or reduction of strength in his upper or lower extremities. Sensation was normal. He had no difficulty getting off and on the exam table, tandem walking, heel/toe walking, hopping, squatting or rising. There was no limitation of motion in the spine. (R. 206). Dr. Hawkins concluded that Mr. Kendzion was able to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, speak, hear, without difficulty. (R.207).
Elizabeth Kuester reviewed the record on behalf of the disability agency on January 28, 2011. (R. 215). She found Mr. Kendzion moderately limited in his ability to understand and remember detailed instructions, the ability to carry out detailed instructions, the ability to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods, and the ability to set realistic goals and plan without the help of others. (R. 213-14). He had mild restrictions in daily activities and social functioning and moderate restrictions in concentration, persistence, and pace. (R. 233). Dr. Kuester opined that Mr. Kendzion could perform simple routine, tasks adequately with ordinary supervision, relate acceptably, make work decisions, and cope with work demands. (R. 215).
On March 8, 2011, Mr. Kendzion went to Stroger Hospital regarding his lower back pain. Range of motion was full, and physical examination was essentially normal. (R. 239). X-rays showed evidence of disc and facet disease: disc osteophytes, with disc narrowing at L5-S1, L1-2, and facet joint hypertrophy greatest at L5-S1. There was also spasm and mild chronic T12 compression deformity. (R. 240). Musculoskeletal exam - range of motion, strength, etc. - remained normal on June 23, 2011. (R. 244-45).
On January 27, 2012, Mr. Kendzion's attorney sent him for a psychological exam with psychologist Nicolette Puntini. He arrived with his friend, stating that he did not travel alone fearing he will get lost in unfamiliar locations. (R. 254). He said he lived with his parents until they died but could not remember when that was. (R. 255). Dr. Putini noted that he appeared to be intellectually slow. (R. 255). She performed a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale test. Mr. Kendzion scored 61 on verbal comprehension - worse than 99% of his peers - falling into the mentally retarded range. (R. 256-57). He scored 69 on perceptual reasoning, also in the mentally retarded range. (R. 257). His working memory score was 60, showing that his ability to sustain concentration and attention was worse than 98% of his peers. (R. 257). Processing speed was 74, which fell into the borderline range. (R. 258). His full scale IQ of 60 was worse than 98% of his peers and also in the mentally retarded range. (R. 258). The doctor concluded that Mr. Kendzion was suffering from mild mental retardation and illiteracy. (R. 259).
The Administrative Hearing ...