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Damit v. Colvin

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

June 24, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

          Sandra Louise Damit, Plaintiff, represented by Howard D. Olinsky, Olinsky Law Group.

          Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant, represented by Kurt N. Lindland, United States Attorney's Office.


          MICHAEL T. MASON, Magistrate Judge.

         Claimant Sandra Louise Damit ("Damit" or "claimant") brings this motion for summary judgment [18] seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). The Commissioner denied Damit's claim for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 416 and 423. The Commissioner has filed a cross-motion [26], asking that this Court uphold her previous decision. This Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons set forth below, claimant's motion for summary judgment is denied and the Commissioner's cross-motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On March 11, 2011, Damit filed an application for disability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning on February 21, 2011. (R. 56.) Her date of last insured was December 30, 2014. ( Id. ) The claim was initially denied on June 14, 2011, and upon reconsideration on October 11, 2011. (R. 117-19.) Damit then requested a hearing, which was held on December 6, 2011 before ALJ Carla Suffi. (R. 82.) On November 2, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Damit's disability claim. (R. 82-94.) The Appeals Council subsequently denied her request for review on December 20, 2013. (R. 1-3.) Damit then filed this action in the District Court.

         B. Medical Evidence and Records

         Claimant seeks disability insurance benefits for the following impairments: mood disorder, mild mental retardation, somatization, diabetes, obsessive compulsive, hostility, interpersonal sensitivity, depression and arthritis. (R. 56.) Because the parties' briefs only raise certain issues regarding her mental impairments, the Court will only recite the facts from the administrative record that are relevant to those issues.

         1. Dr. Terrence McGovern

         Dr. Terrence McGovern, a psychologist, performed a psychological evaluation of claimant on October 5, 2010. (R. 271-77.) He noted that she presented with suspected learning disorders and Type II, non-insulin dependent diabetes. (R. 271.) He also noted her thought process was limited, but she was overall logical, well-ordered and relevant. ( Id. ) Her speech was fluent and she articulated without difficulty. ( Id. ) Her appearance and eye contact were also appropriate. ( Id. ) She reported to him that she had learning problems, and that in school she was placed in regular classes but also received some resource help. ( Id. ) She also received speech therapy due to articulation problems. (R. 272.) She currently takes prescription medications for high blood pressure and cholesterol, and to control her blood sugar and help modify her moods. ( Id. )

         Dr. McGovern administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) test to measure her cognitive ability. (R. 272.) Damit scored in the "borderline range" for verbal comprehension (score of 78) and processing speed (score of 79). ( Id. ) She scored in the "extremely low" range for perceptual reasoning (score of 69) and working memory (score of 66). ( Id. ) Her Full Scale IQ score was also in the "extremely low" range (score of 68). ( Id. ) Dr. McGovern also administered the Wide Range Achievement Test and noted that Damit performed "significantly below expectations on one of the measures based on her aptitude." (R. 274.) She scored a 76 in word reading (5th percentile and grade 5.2), a 74 in sentence comprehension (4th percentile and grade 6.5), an 85 in spelling (16th percentile and grade 7.9), and a 61 in math computation (less than 1st percentile and grade 2.7). ( Id. ) Her "overall ability" score on this test was a 68 and Dr. McGovern opined that these results were "consistent with a diagnosis of learning disorders." (R. 275)

         Dr. McGovern also administered a personality test, and he opined that the results "were consistent with persons who are suffering from a mood disorder." ( Id. ) He believed she should be referred to a psychiatrist to assess the need for medication and supportive counseling. ( Id. ) Dr. McGovern assessed her career interest and noted that she is interested in business related occupations. ( Id. ) The results of her Career Assessment Inventory "revealed a poorly differentiated profile in which she endorsed some interests in the conventional occupational themes, " including office, clerical and food service occupations. ( Id. ) Dr. McGovern opined that she would be suited for some of these occupations but "it is recommended that any career choices should be discussed within the context of appropriate career counseling." (R. 276.) Dr. McGovern also opined that her results as a whole "are consistent with persons who have been diagnosed with mild mental retardation." ( Id. ) His report stated that she is "capable of some further training for jobs that are well-structured and have a minimum of ambiguity." ( Id. )

         2. Dr. John Brauer

         Dr. John Brauer, another clinical psychologist, completed a disability evaluation of Damit. (R. 290-94.) In his report, he summarized Damit's statements about her conditions, including Dr. McGovern's findings. (R. 290.) He noted that Damit was a high school graduate who attended mainstream classes with additional help from the resource center throughout her schooling. ( Id. ) She started community college but she dropped out before the end of the first semester. ( Id. ) She worked as a full time cashier at Walgreens for four years, beginning at the age of 21. ( Id. ) Subsequently, she worked as a cashier at Giant Auto Parts, and at Target as a stocker, cashier and in customer service for three and a half years. (R. 290-91.) After she left Target, she worked at HSBC doing secretarial and office work for nearly 7 years before she was laid off. (R. 291.) She then found a job with another company in accounts receivable where she remained for three years until she was again laid off. ( Id. ) She reported that she had never been fired for performance, an inability to do her job or for mental health issues. ( Id. )

         With respect to her current level of functioning, Dr. Brauer reported that she lives in a house in Joliet, Illinois with her husband and his brother and uncle. ( Id. ) At the time, she was not working and she reported spending her time looking for work, watching television, and making dinner. ( Id. ) She also reported having few hobbies or interests, and she was not very social. ( Id. ) She manages her funds on her own without difficulty. ( Id. )

         Dr. Brauer's observations were as follows: he noted that she arrived on time, had traveled to his office on the bus from approximately 50 miles away without difficulty and she was appropriately groomed and attired. ( Id. ) She was alert, well-oriented and cooperative with the evaluation process. ( Id. ) Her speech was clear and logical, and she appeared to give a strong effort during the evaluation without showing any signs of fatigue, discouragement or other extraneous factors. ( Id. )

         Damit's scaled scores on the WAIS-4 subtests were as follows: Verbal Comprehension - 18, Perceptual Reasoning - 15, Working Memory - 8, Processing Speed - 21 and Full Scale IQ - 62. (R. 292.) These scores placed her in the "extremely low" range of intellectual functioning for working memory, in the "borderline range" for verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning and Full Scale IQ, and in the "average range" with regard to processing speed. (R. 292-93.) He noted that her concentration and attention were poor, and her general fund of knowledge appeared "impoverished." (R. 293.) Her capacity for abstraction was also "very poorly developed, " and she demonstrated limited capacity for classification and categorization. ( Id. ) He noted that Damit's judgment appeared "grossly appropriate for simple situations" but that she was likely to experience difficulties with judgment in situations that were more complex or nuanced. ( Id. ) He also believed she would have difficultly managing funds on her own behalf. ( Id. )

         C. Claimant's Testimony

         Damit testified at the hearing before the ALJ on August 28, 2012. (R. 14-31.) She was represented by counsel. (R. 17.) At the time of the hearing, Damit was 41 years old, she was about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and she weighed about 296 pounds. (R. 21.) She currently lives with her husband and 16-year old step-son. (R. 22.) She does not drive because she never got her license. ( Id. ) She typically gets from place to place on the bus or her husband drives her. (R. 23.) ...

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