Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Henderson v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

February 9, 2016

SHAWNETTA D. HENDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          RICHARD MILLS, U.S. District Judge

         This is an action for judicial review of a final decision of the Defendant, Commissioner of Social Security, in determining that Plaintiff was no longer disabled as of April 1, 2010, under the Social Security Act.

         Pending are Motions for Summary Judgment filed by both parties.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On March 21, 2005, the Defendant found that Plaintiff Shawnetta Henderson was disabled and had been so since August 1, 2002, due to metastatic thyroid cancer. On July 27, 2007, it was determined that her disability continued. In December 2009, her claim was again reviewed as part of the continuing disability review process and, on April 23, 2010, the Defendant determined that Plaintiff was no longer disabled due to medical improvement. The Plaintiff's initial appeal was denied and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), which was held by video on January 10, 2012. The Plaintiff appeared pro se.

         ALJ Diane Flebbe issued a written decision on April 2, 2012, affirming the cessation determination. The Plaintiff obtained counsel and appealed. The Appeals Council declined the Plaintiff's request for review on May 29, 2013. This appeal followed.

         II. ALJ's DECISION

         The ALJ noted that the most recent favorable medical decision finding that Plaintiff was disabled is the decision dated March 21, 2005. This is known as the “comparison point decision.” At the time of the comparison point decision, the Social Security Administration determined that Plaintiff was disabled due to thyroid cancer.

         The ALJ found that through April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity as defined by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(f)(1). As of April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments included hypothyroid and hypoparathyroid, hypertension, congestive heart failure, obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, obesity and diabetes mellitus with blurred vision. Since April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments which met or medically equaled the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Para. 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Listing of Impairments). The ALJ found that medical improvement as defined by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1594(b)(1) occurred as of April 1, 2010.

         The ALJ noted that as of April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff's thyroid cancer had decreased in medical severity to the point the Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced amount of sedentary work. The Plaintiff's medical improvement was related to her ability to work because it resulted in an increase in her residual functional capacity. As of April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff had severe impairments that caused more than minimal limitations in her ability to perform basic work activities. The ALJ found that based on the impairments present as of April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work involving only occasional climbing of ramps or stairs; only occasional postural activities; no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights; and no concentrated exposure to extreme cold, fumes, odors, dust, gases or other environmental irritants.

         The ALJ noted that as of April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work. At the time, the Plaintiff was a younger individual. The Plaintiff has a high school education and is able to communicate in English. As of April 1, 2010, considering the Plaintiff's age, education, work experience and residual functional capacities based on the impairments present as of April 1, 2010, the Plaintiff was able to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy.

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff's disability ended as of April 1, 2010.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Plaintiff alleges the ALJ committed error in several respects. First, the Plaintiff did not knowingly and intelligently waive her right to counsel. Second, the ALJ did not adequately develop the record in considering the claim of an unrepresented individual. Third, the ALJ's residual functional capacity analysis at Step 8 is flawed.

         A. Standard of review

         When, as here, the Appeals Council denies review, the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Schaaf v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 869, 874 (7th Cir. 2010). The Act specifies that “the findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence” is defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Yurt v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 850, 856 (7th Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). Although the Court's task is not to re-weigh evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ, the ALJ's decision “must provide enough discussion for [the Court] to afford [the Plaintiff] meaningful judicial review and assess the validity of the agency's ultimate conclusion.” Id. at 856-57.

         A “continuing disability review” process is one that periodically evaluates whether a claimant's impairments still qualify the claimant for benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1589; Johnson v. Apfel, 191 F.3d 770, 773 (7th Cir. 1999). The eight step process in determining whether a person, disabled by administrative determination, has medically improved to the point of becoming no longer disabled is as follows:

(1) Is the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity? If so the claimant is not disabled; if not the inquiry moves to step 2;
(2) Does the claimant's impairment meet or medically equal one of Social Security's listed impairments? If so, the claimant is still disabled; if not the inquiry moves to step 3;
(3) Has there been medical improvement? If not, the disability continues; if so, the inquiry proceeds;
(4) Is the medical improvement related to an ability to work? If not, the disability continues; if so, the inquiry continues;
(5) Does an exception to medical improvement apply? If so, the disability ceases; if not, the inquiry proceeds;
(6) Does the claimant still suffer from severe impairments? If not, the disability has ceased; if so the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.