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Goth-Costner v. Colvin

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

November 18, 2014

KARIN GOTH-COSTNER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

SUSAN E. COX, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment seeking judicial review of a decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Defendant seeks summary judgment to affirm the final decision. For the reasons provided, plaintiff's motion for Summary Judgment is granted [15] and defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied [20].

STATEMENT

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C ยง 405(g), plaintiff Karin Goth-Costner seeks judicial review of a decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff seeks a judgment reversing the final decision or remanding it for a new administrative hearing. Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), seeks summary judgment to affirm the final decision. For the reasons provided, plaintiff's motion for Summary Judgment is granted [15] and defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied [20]. This case is remanded to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed for disability benefits on June 17, 2010, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2007.[1] The application was first denied on September 14, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on January 10, 2011. [2] Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") and on October 25, 2011, appeared and testified at a hearing before ALJ Janice M. Bruning in Oak Brook, Illinois. James Breen appeared and testified at the hearing as a vocational expert.[3] On February 9, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision.[4] On June 20, 2013 the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.[5]

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on June 15, 1959 and was 54 years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff completed high school and obtained a cosmetology certificate, and worked as a hair stylist from November 1996 until August 2011. Plaintiff alleges disability due to neurofibromatosis type 1, a genetic disorder of the nervous system, muscles, bones and skin that causes the formation of multiple pedunculated soft tumors and cafe au lait spots.[6] Effects of neurofibromatosis range from hearing and cardiovascular complications to complications caused by tumor growth that compresses nerves.[7] In addition, plaintiff suffers from trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve, which carries sensation from the face to the brain.[8] Plaintiff has also been diagnosed with depression due to complications from her neurofibromatosis and trigeminal neuralgia.[9] Plaintiff shows records of treatment for neurofibromatosis going back to September 9, 1992, with two treating physicians, Ahmed Elborno, M.D., and Mehrukh Subhani, M.D.[10] Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for pain twice in 2010.[11]

Plaintiff began seeing Dr. Elborno as her pain management specialist in 2004.[12] The records from October 2004 to November 2010 show consistent complaints of pain in the back, legs, face, neck, arms and hands.[13] Dr. Elborno ordered several MRI's during the course of treatment, including an initial test in October 2004, and another in April 2008, both indicating neurofibromas, which led to a diagnosis of multiple neurofibromatosis.[14] Plaintiff was prescribed a variety of oral and external patch pain medications such as Lidocaine, Fentanyl, Dilaudid and Hydromorphone, and eight nerve block treatments over that time period.[15]

Plaintiff also saw Dr. Subhani as her primary care physician, with treatment notes going back to April 2010, documenting complaints of pain and depression.[16] Dr. Subhani completed a psychiatric report in August 2010 for purposes of her disability application, indicating a diagnosis of neurofibromatosis, bilateral degenerative arthritis of the knees and depression, and that due to these factors plaintiff could not perform repeated movements and had serious limitations to perform tasks on a sustained basis.[17] In a letter from October 2011, also for the purposes of her disability application, Dr. Subhani diagnosed plaintiff with neurofibromatosis and depression, opining that due to the high level of narcotic medications used to control chronic back, elbow and knee pain, that plaintiff was unable to work.[18]

For the purpose of her disability application, two non-treating, non-examining state agency physicians completed medical reviews of plaintiff. Vidya Madala, M.D., conducted a residual functional capacity assessment in which he found plaintiff "has the residual functional capacity for a range of medium work, " citing "a lack of medical evidence of any neurological deficits."[19] Terry Travis, M.D., completed a psychiatric review of plaintiff, indicating that her depression was in remission and that her impairment was not severe, also indicating only mild restrictions of activities of daily living.[20]

In the decision given on February 9, 2012, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: neurofibromatosis and trigeminal neuralgia.[21] The ALJ also found that the plaintiff had the nonsevere mental impairment of depression, which causes no more than mild limitation.[22]

III. ANALYSIS

We find the two most relevant issues in this case are the ALJ's credibility determination of the plaintiff, and the weight ...


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