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Parson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

June 3, 2015

VERONICA R. PARSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION

JONATHAN E. HAWLEY, Magistrate Judge.

Now before the Court is the Plaintiff's, Veronica R. Parson's, Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13) and the Defendant's, Commissioner of Social Security's, Motion for Summary Affirmance (Doc. 17). For the reasons stated herein, the Court AFFIRMS the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying Parson's claim for benefits.[1]

I

In February 2010, Parson filed an application for supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning on January 22, 2010. Her claim was denied initially on September 29, 2010, and was denied upon reconsideration on February 15, 2011. On February 25, 2011, Parson filed a request for hearing concerning her application for supplemental security income. A hearing was held before the Honorable Shreese M. Wilson (ALJ) on February 15, 2012, at which time Parson was represented by an attorney. Following the hearing, Parson's claim was denied. Parson's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on April 23, 2013, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Parson filed the instant civil action seeking review of the ALJ's decision on May 8, 2013.

II

At the time she applied for benefits, Parson was a 42 year old married woman living in the Quad Cities. At the time of the hearing on February 15, 2012, Parson was living in a halfway house and was separated from her husband.

At the hearing, Parson testified that she dropped out of school in the 11th grade because she was having babies. She testified that she had no income, and bought her groceries with food stamps. Regarding her past work, Parson testified that she never really had a job that she went to every day because for a major part of her life she always depended upon her husband or a man to take care of her.

Parson also testified that she had been off drugs and alcohol since September 2011, and she regularly saw her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Eric Ritterhoff, for her depression. Parson testified that she was sleeping more than when she was using drugs and alcohol. She testified that her depression messed with her concentration. In regard to her lower left leg fracture, Parson testified that she had a limp and could stand for two to three hours a day as a result of the fracture. She explained that she could stand on her left leg for about a half an hour, then get off of it, and then could stand back up on it. Parson further testified that she elevates her leg every time she sits down for a total of a half hour every day. She explained that she elevated her leg because otherwise, she had sharp pains through her leg when sitting down. Parson also explained that she took Tylenol, as needed, for her leg pain.

Parson testified that she spent her days by watching TV, going to the grocery store, going to doctors' appointments, and going to see her probation officer. She attended AA meetings as well. Parson also stated that she would take the bus to the library to get on the computer, or she would ride the bus around just to get out. She said she liked to be with her grandchildren. Parson further testified that she felt like she was in a zone and did not feel like doing much of anything all the time.

The ALJ then questioned the Vocational Expert (VE), Alfred Walker. The ALJ asked the VE to initially assume an individual who was 44 years old with a limited 10th grade education, previously had some work activity but none that amounted to substantial gainful activity, had no exertional limitations, was limited to performing no more than simple routine tasks that could be learned within 30 days, should be in an environment that was fairly low stress (defined as no more than occasional decision-making or changes in a work setting), and in a job where the tasks and environment were basically unchanging. The ALJ further asked the VE to assume that the individual should have no more than occasional contact with the general public, co-workers, or supervisors. The VE responded with light strength, unskilled jobs including cafeteria attendant, laundry worker, and housekeeper.

The ALJ then asked the VE to assume that the hypothetical individual would need to be in an environment that was free of fast-paced production requirements, in other words, there would not be hourly production quotas for that individual. The ALJ asked the VE if such a limitation would affect the identified jobs. The VE answered in the negative.

The ALJ then asked the VE to assume that the hypothetical individual was limited to performing no more than light and sedentary work activity, that the individual could sit, stand, or walk up to six hours each in an eight hour workday, and that the individual would need the ability to alternate sitting and standing at least once an hour throughout the course of an eight hour workday. The ALJ further articulated that the individual would need to stand if just sitting, would need to sit if just standing, and that the individual would have to remain in the alternated position five minutes. The VE responded that such limitations would not affect the identified jobs.

The ALJ next asked the VE to assume that the hypothetical individual was likely able to show up for work every day, but that the individual was not necessarily going to be able to be productive the whole time at work so that the individual would be off task up to 20 percent of the day. The VE responded that the individual would not be able to perform the identified jobs, and that there would be no other jobs because an employer would not tolerate that much off-task behavior.

Thereafter, Parson's attorney questioned the VE as to whether there were any limitations in the first hypothetical the ALJ presented on maintaining attention, concentration, or ...


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