United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
NADINE A. GASIOR, 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 Nadine A. Gasior'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, Gasior's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 15] is granted in part and denied in part.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On August 11, 2009, Gasior filed claims for both Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, alleging disability since February 1, 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 February 11, 2011. Claimant personally appeared and testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. Vocational expert Glee Ann Kehr also testified.
On April 14, 2011, the ALJ denied Gasior's claims for both Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, finding her not disabled under the Social Security Act. The Social Security Administration Appeals Council then denied Claimant'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
Claimant was born on January 30, 1966 and was forty-five years old at the time of the ALJ hearing. She alleges disability due to spinal impairments, depression, chronic pain, and obesity. She has undergone a number of treatments for her impairments, including physical therapy, epidural injections, medication, and surgery. She also has received mental health treatment.
Gasior testified that pain limited her ability to perform many physical activities, and she could only sit for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, sit for one and a half hours in a workday, and stand for forty-five minutes in a workday. Gasior stated that her most comfortable position was propped up on the couch, leaning on her side, with a pillow behind her back. She also claimed that her pain and depression caused her to lack concentration and focus. Plaintiff testified that she experiences several crying spells each week, for a few hours each time. Her therapist, Dr. Theresa Finn, has opined that she is suicidal, hopeless, helpless, distracted, and perseverative; experiences flights of ideas; has poorly organized thoughts; and experiences auditory hallucinations.
B. Vocational Expert Testimony
The ALJ asked Vocational Expert ("VE") whether a hypothetical person with the same age, education, and work experience as Plaintiff, and a residual functional capacity ("RFC") limiting her to sedentary work, with the ability to alternate sitting and standing every fifteen minutes, with additional postural limitations as well as a limitation on simple, unskilled work with a flexible pace that does not involve quotas, could perform any types of work. The VE said that available jobs included order clerk (approximately 8, 800 jobs in the statistical area), telephone clerks (4, 700 jobs), and account clerks (3, 900 jobs). According to the VE, the number of available jobs was reduced by fifty percent in light of the need for a sit/stand option. The VE acknowledged that the Dictionary of Occupational Titles does not address the availability of jobs with the sit/stand option, and her conclusion that the total number of positions would be reduced by half was based upon her experience. The ALJ then asked if there would be any jobs available to the hypothetical person if she needed one-hour naps approximately three times a day, and the VE replied that all work would be precluded. The VE also stated that all competitive employment would be precluded if she was off task more than fifteen percent of a workday for any reason.
D. ALJ Decision
The ALJ found at step one that Gasior had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her onset date of February 1, 2009. At step two, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had severe impairments of back problems, depression, pain, and obesity. The ALJ concluded at step three that the impairments, alone or in combination, do not meet or medically equal a Listing. The ALJ then determined that Claimant retained the RFC to perform sedentary work, with additional limitations of only occasionally climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or crawling; alternating between sitting or standing every fifteen minutes for thirty minutes at a time; and moderate limitations on concentration and pace, specifically that the work be simple and routine, not involve quotas, and be at a flexible pace. At step five, based upon the VE's testimony and Claimant's ...