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Thompson v. Colvin

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

June 10, 2015

RODNEY E. THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GARY FEINERMAN, District Judge.

In September 2011, Rodney Thompson filed a claim for disability insurance benefits with the Social Security Administration. Doc. 7-1 at 140-147. The Commissioner denied the claim, and then denied Thompson's request for reconsideration. Id. at 73-77, 81-84. Thompson sought and received a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.914. Doc. 7-1 at 79-80, 85-99. The ALJ denied the claim, id. at 33-41, and the Social Security Appeals Council denied Thompson's request for review of the ALJ's decision, id. at 7-10, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See Scrogham v. Colvin, 765 F.3d 685, 695 (7th Cir. 2014). Thompson timely sought judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Doc. 1. For the following reasons, Thompson's motion to reverse or remand (Doc. 15) is granted, the Commissioner's summary judgment motion (Doc. 16) is denied, and the case is remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Background

The following facts are taken from the administrative record.

A. Factual Background

Thompson, who was 53 years old in December 2012 (the date he was last insured), injured his left leg in a motorcycle accident in 2000. Doc. 7-1 at 37. A 2001 x-ray revealed either a healed fracture or a torus fracture-also known as a "buckle" fracture, which is an "incomplete fracture[] of the shaft of a long bone that is characterised by bulging of the cortex, " Aditya Shetty et al., "Torus Fracture, " Radiopaedia, http://radiopaedia.org/articles/torus-fracture-1 (visited June 3, 2015)-in that leg. Doc. 7-1 at 180. Thompson worked as a laborer and gravestone monument setter, which often required him to lift and move heavy gravestones. Id. at 40. He stopped working in 2007 because of back, hip, and knee pain. Id. at 52, 143.

Thompson applied for disability insurance benefits in September 2011. Id. at 140. On November 28, 2011, state agency physician Dilip Patel examined Thompson and found his musculoskeletal system largely "normal, " except for some "mild synovial thickening" in the left knee and "slightly reduced range of movement" in the left knee and hip. Doc. 7-1 at 175-176. Thompson reported "mild pain" in his left knee, hip, and back, id. at 176, though he also claimed to be "[u]nable to walk more than [a] two block distance, " id. at 174. Another state agency physician, upon reviewing Thompson's medical records, concluded in December 2011 that he could occasionally lift up to 50 pounds, frequently lift up to 25 pounds, and stand, walk, or sit (with normal breaks) up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. Id. at 203.

In May 2012, Thompson complained to Dr. Sherif Milik about lower back, hip, and leg pain. Id. at 37, 226. Dr. Milik remarked that Thompson appeared to be "in significant pain and distress, " but did not note any objective evidence of a cause for these symptoms and sent him to the emergency room for x-rays. Id. at 227-228. At a June 4, 2012 follow-up appointment, Dr. Milik concluded that the x-rays "showed only mild degeneration in both hip joints, " id. at 222, and he prescribed Flexeril to help relieve Thompson's pain, id. at 224.

B. The Administrative Hearing

On January 10, 2013, Thompson, appearing with counsel, testified at an administrative hearing before the ALJ. His testimony occupies a little less than five pages of the hearing transcript; here are the first two-and-a-half pages:

EXAMINATION OF CLAIMANT BY ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE:
Q Okay. Where did you go to high school?
A In Jacksonville, Arkansas.
Q Jacksonville, Arkansas. And you graduated in 1978, correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q Okay. You worked as a laborer, is that correct?
A Yes, sir.
Q Okay. And did you work for Gast Monuments?
A Yes, sir.
Q Yeah. They're very famous for making... ...

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