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Schmitto v. Colvin

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

January 7, 2015

WILLIAM V. SCHMITTO, JR. Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN,

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

IAIN D. JOHNSTON, District Judge.

William V. Schmitto, Jr. filed this appeal seeking the reversal of a decision denying him disability benefits. For the reasons given below, the defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied, the plaintiff's motion is granted, and the case is remanded.

BACKGROUND

I. Procedural History

Mr. Schmitto filed concurrent applications for disability benefits under Title II (Disability Insurance Benefits or "DIB") and Title XVI (Supplemental Security Income or "SSI") of the Social Security Act ("SSA"), alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 2008, due to a heart condition. R. 135, 175. The applications were denied initially on October 29, 2008, R. 39-40, and on reconsideration on January 26, 2009, R.41-42. Mr. Schmitto filed a timely request for a hearing, which occurred on January 28, 2011. R. 24.

The ALJ issued a decision on May 26, 2011, denying the claims for benefits. R. 10-17. On June 22, 2011, Mr. Schmitto filed a timely request for a review of the ALJ's decision. R.133-34. On September 11, 2012, the Appeals Council denied the review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. R. 1-3. Mr. Schmitto then initiated this appeal. See 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g).

II. Hearing Testimony

Mr. Schmitto appeared at the hearing with counsel, and was the only witness who testified. He stated that he completed the eleventh grade, received a driver's license, and previously worked as a mechanic. R. 31. He described his multiple heart attacks for which he received multiple stents and, finally, quadruple bypass surgery in October 2010. R. 31, 33. He also received a pacemaker. R. 35. He testified that he was laid off from his last job before his June 2008 heart attack. R. 30.

Mr. Schmitto stated that before his bypass surgery he experienced a lot of chest discomfort including a burning sensation. R. 34. After his surgery, he testified that he felt a "little wheezy yet but every day gets a little better." R. 33. He stated that he got dizzy when sitting down or standing up too fast and was unable to drive for seven to eight months. R. 36-37. He also testified that he leaves his home two to three times a week only for medical appointments or to accompany his wife shopping. R. 32-33. He stated that other than watching television or building models, his wife "don't let me do anything." R. 32. He testified that walking the fifty to sixty feet to his mailbox takes him four to five minutes and leaves him short-winded, requiring a few minutes' rest before he can return. R. 35-36. He stated that he can walk only fifteen to twenty minutes before needing a break. R. 36.

Mr. Schmitto testified that as of the hearing date, he had not yet participated in any cardiac rehabilitation, and that he had missed a call to set up an appointment. R. 34. He stated that he had received no post-surgery instructions. R. 34.

III. Medical Evidence

The medical evidence presented revealed that Mr. Schmitto suffered four heart attacks. The first occurred in 2002 and was treated by placement of a stent in the left anterior descending coronary artery. R. 422. The second occurred in 2006 and was treated by placement of a stent in his right coronary artery. R. 232. On June 1, 2008, Mr. Schmitto suffered a third heart attack while chopping a downed tree. R. 266. In response, doctors placed another stent in his right coronary artery. R. 301. After he recovered from surgery, his doctors planned to assess whether he had ongoing ischemia and suspected he would eventually need "staged coronary artery bypass grafting." R. 306.

In July 14, 2008, treating cardiologist Dr. Paul Christensen determined that Mr. Schmitto had "[s]evere global functional impairment with ejection fraction 24%." R. 316. On July 25, 2008, Dr. Christensen noted Mr. Schmitto's "ischemic cardiomyopathy, without ongoing ischemia, " an ejection fraction of 30%, and although Mr. Schmitto was "asymptomatic with all the activities around his home, " recommended that he apply for permanent medical disability. R. 317-20.

On August 18, 2008, Dr. Christensen reported that Mr. Schmitto's ejection fraction was 30%, that he walked one-and-a-half miles without symptoms, but that he got ...


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