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Jannson v. Colvin

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

April 17, 2015

LATOSHA M. JANNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GERALDINE SOAT BROWN, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Latosha Jannson brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 421, 423. (Compl.) [Dkt 1.][1] Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment. (Pl.'s Mem.) [Dkt 19.] The Commissioner opposes Plaintiff's motion and has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. (Def.'s Mem.) [Dkt 23.] Plaintiff has replied. (Pl.'s Reply.) [Dkt 24.] The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Dkt 25.] For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is granted, and the Commissioner's motion is denied.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff first applied for benefits in March 2010, alleging a disability beginning in February 2010. (R. 102-12.) After the agency denied her claims initially and on reconsideration (R. 58-65), Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. 91-92.) That hearing occurred in January 2012. (R. 24.) The ALJ then issued a decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits on March 12, 2012. (R. 9-17.) Because the Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for review (R. 1-3), the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner. See Villano v. Astrue, 556 F.3d 558, 561-62 (7th Cir. 2009).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for benefits at age 33, alleging that she was disabled because of a cogenital deformity of her left hand and carpal tunnel syndrom. (R. 102, 131.) Before the alleged onset of her disability, Plaintiff worked for more than ten years as a customer-service representative for various companies. (R. 32.) Those positions primarily involved using a computer to perform data entry. (R. 31-32.) She is a high-school graduate and attended some college but did not graduate. (R. 30, 132.)

Medical History

Plaintiff was born with a deformed left hand with only a thumb and fifth finger, with webbing in between. (R. 139, 264.) Dr. Mangala Yeturu has been Plaintiff's treating physician since 1999. (R. 177.) As early as 2007, Plaintiff complained to Dr. Yeturu of "bilateral hand numbness and paresthesia."[2] (R. 240.) Because of the paresthesia in both arms, she was diagnosed with possible carpal tunnel syndrome. (R. 239.) Dr. Yeturu referred Plaintiff to a neurologist, Dr.Arthur Itkin, who performed an electromyogram ("EMG") of Plaintiff's right hand. (R. 240.) The test did not reveal any abnormalities in Plaintiff's right hand, but Dr. Itkin noted that, on physical exam, Plaintiff's hand showed signs of possible carpal tunnel syndrome. ( Id. )[3]

Throughout 2009 and 2010, Plaintiff continued to see Dr. Yeturu for pain and paresthesia in her left hand, which especially hurt when she used a computer at work. (R. 243-50.) She was diagnosed with tendinitis and encouraged to change to a job that involved less typing. (R. 243-45, 249.) She also received steroid shots four times per year to help with the tendon problem. (R. 246.)

On March 1, 2010, Dr. Yeturu completed a "return to work/school verification" form for Plaintiff indicating that Plaintiff had been unable to work because of medical treatment from February 19 to March 3, 2010. (R. 260.) On March 16, 2010, Dr. Yeturu extend this time frame to June 13, 2010, explaining that Plaintiff had been referred to orthopedics for treatment of the pain in her left wrist. (R. 261.) Dr. Yeturu's referral note, however, lists the "reason for referral" as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis in the right hand. (R. 262.)

In May 2010, Plaintiff completed a "function report" describing her limitations. (R. 139-46.) She described how she could prepare cereal and sandwiches but otherwise had difficulty handling food because of pain and "constantly dropping things" and "causing injury to self when attempting to cook." (R. 141.) She said that she took care of her three daughters by herself and helped them get ready for school daily, but had trouble combing her and her daughters' hair and dressing herself. (R. 140.) She also described not being able to wash dishes, sweep, do yard work, or physically handle money. (R. 142.) That same month Plaintiff and her daughters moved in with Plaintiff's mother, who began helping Plaintiff with childcare and dressing herself. (R. 48-49.)

In August 2010, state agency physician Dr. Vidya Madala assessed Plaintiff's limitations based on a review of her medical records. (R. 263-70.) Dr. Madala concluded that Plaintiff "can be considered a one armed individual based on pain and deformity of the left hand" and cannot use her left arm to push or pull hand controls or "handle and finger." (R. 264, 266.) The doctor also opined, however, that Plaintiff's right upper extremity "is not limited." (R. 264, 266.)[4] Dr. Madala's opinion was affirmed in September 2010 by Dr. Ernst Bone, who simply explained that Plaintiff's condition had not changed. (R. 280-82.)

Also in September 2010, Dr. Yeturu noted that the pain in Plaintiff's left hand and wrist had radiated to her left shoulder despite treatment with steroid shots, physical therapy, and pain medication. (R. 271, 274-75.) Those treatments had only provided temporary relief. (R. 271.) She was advised to avoid repetitive work because it was causing reinjuring and excerbating her left-hand tendinitis. (R. 271, 274.) Dr. Yeturu noted that Plaintiff could not keep up with the pace of her data-entry job because of her pain and had been terminated from that position. (R. 274.)

In June 2011, Plaintiff complained to Dr. Yeturu of pain, tingling, and numbness in her right hand and wrist. (R. 182.) She reported that the pain sometimes traveled up her arm, though she denied weakness resulting from the condition. ( Id. ) Plaintiff again showed signs of possible carpal tunnel syndrome, and Dr. Yeturu prescribed a splint, diagnostic tests, and pain medication. (R. 183.) Six months later, in December 2011, plaintiff underwent a second EMG of her right hand and forearm per Dr. Yeturu's instructions. (R. 283.) Dr. Juan Valdez reviewed the EMG results and concluded that they were consistent with "cervical ...


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