United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
JEFFREY COLE, Magistrate Judge.
The plaintiff, Alistair Mack, seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner ("Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration ("Agency") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2), and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). Mr. Mack asks the court to reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision, while the Commissioner seeks an order affirming the decision. For the reason stated below, Mr. Mack's motion is granted and this matter is remanded to the Commissioner.
Mr. Mack's Impairments
As this case presents only legal issues regarding the ALJ's decision, we will dispense with the usual recounting of the medical evidence. Suffice it to say that Mr. Mack suffers from the effects of HIV/AIDS, hypertension, and depression. He also has a history of substance abuse. (R. 22). As a result, he experiences migraine headaches and diarrhea on a daily basis. (R. 42-43, 46-47). Neuropathy causes him to lose feeling in his legs and feet, mainly on his right side. (R. 43). His legs go out when he walks, especially up stairs. (R. 44). He suffers from fatigue that adversely affects his memory and concentration. (R. 45-46). He gets dizzy. (R. 46). He uses a cane to maintain his balance. (R. 48). He is being treated for depression but the medication he was given increased his numbness. (R. 52-53).
The ALJ found that Mr. Mack suffered from the following severe impairments: "[a] history of HIV positive; hypertension; depression; a history of substance abuse; a history of migraine headaches; and a history of peripheral neuropathy." (R. 22). He further found that Mr. Mack did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled a listed impairment. (R. 22-23). Specifically, the ALJ found that his mental impairments did not meet listings 12.04 and 12.09 because he had only mild restrictions in his daily activities, mild restrictions in his social functioning, moderate restrictions in his concentration, persistence, or pace, and no episodes of decompensation. (R. 23).
The ALJ then determined that Mr. Mack retained the capacity to perform sedentary work that was further limited to simple, unskilled work. (R.23). The ALJ went on to discuss the medical evidence. There was not a great deal of evidence documenting any physical limitations. Generally, examinations revealed normal strength and range of motion and no abnormal neurological findings. (R. 24-25). Mr. Mack could ambulate without a cane. (R. 25). A consultative examining physician opined that he could perform light work. (R. 25). As for Mr. Mack's mental status, his treatment center rated his depression as a mild to moderate impairment. (R. 26). A consulting psychologist who evaluated Mr. Mack felt he was moderately limited in his ability to make judgments in or out of a work setting, and moderately limited in his ability to understand and remember complex instructions. (R. 26). The ALJ then formulaically concluded that Mr. Mack's "medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms; however, [Mr. Mack's allegation] concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely credible to the extent they are inconsistent with the above residual functional capacity assessment." (R. 26-27).
The ALJ then determined that Mr. Mack could no longer perform his past work as a stocker, cook/maintenance worker, or auto mechanic because those jobs were more demanding than sedentary work. (R. 27). The ALJ then considered Mr. Mack's age - 36 - high school education, and work experience and applied the Medical Vocational Guidelines, to find Mr. Mack not disabled under the Act. The ALJ explained that if Mr. Mack had only exertional limitations, the Guidelines would direct a conclusion of "not disabled." The additional non-exertional limitation to simple, unskilled work, according to the ALJ, had little or no effect on the occupational base of unskilled sedentary work. (R. 27). As a result, there were other jobs that Mr. Mack could perform and he was not entitled to disability benefits. (R. 27-28).