United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MARILYN J. VANCE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MARIA VALDEZ, Magistrate Judge.
This action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff Marilyn J. Vance's claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons that follow, Vance's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 16] is granted in part and denied in part.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On July 27, 2009, Vance filed claims for both Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, alleging disability since July 21, 2009. The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on March 8, 2011. Vance personally appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. Vocational expert Jill Radke also testified.
On May 27, 2011, the ALJ denied Vance's claims for both Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income and found Vance not disabled under the Social Security Act. The Social Security Administration Appeals Council then denied Lampkin's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner and, therefore, reviewable by the District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Vance was born on November 9, 1966 and was 44 years old at the time of the ALJ hearing. She lived in an apartment with her 18 year-old daughter. Vance previously worked for twenty-one years as a nursing assistant for the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, where her duties included passing out water, checking vital signs, making beds, escorting patients, and taking bodies to the morgue. She occasionally had trouble with the work due to back pain, and she was frequently put on light duty, which involved sitting at a computer and inputting patient data. While on light duty, Vance claims she needed to alternate between sitting and standing due to pain. Vance is five feet tall, and as of the date of the hearing, Vance last weighed 272 pounds, and she had been gaining weight. During the relevant time frame, her weight was as low as 253 pounds.
Vance was widowed in 2006 when her husband died of a heart attack. A month after her husband's death, Vance was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment due to suicidal and homicidal ideation. In October 2009, Vance was found eligible for a Federal Employees Retirement System disability pension based on depression and stress.
Vance drove about two to three times a week and tried to walk daily but her back pain would interfere. She testified she could walk a half block before needing to rest for ten minutes and could only lift five to ten pounds. She could not estimate how long she could comfortably sit or stand, other than to say "not long." Vance's daughter helped with housework, including bringing helping Vance downstairs to the laundry room and bringing the laundry back upstairs when it was done. Vance cooked meals, and her daughter would go grocery shopping with her. She occasionally socialized with a cousin, but she liked to be alone.
B. Medical Evidence
Plaintiff has tried various treatments for her back pain, including physical therapy and medication, which sometimes works and sometimes does not. She received health care coverage due her status as a veteran's widow.
In around April 2009, Vance saw counselor Vinnie Crawford. Soon thereafter, Vance began treatment with Dr. Roueen Rafeyan, a psychiatrist, whom she saw approximately once a month. Dr. Rafeyan prescribed Vance with Lexapro and Ativan. Vance felt that therapy was beneficial, and she noted she felt better after she stopped working, because she no longer had to ...