United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
EVETTE N. RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. SCHENKIER United States Magistrate Judge.
Social Security appeal, plaintiff Evette Richardson seeks
reversal and remand of the final decision of the Commissioner
of Social Security ("Commissioner") (doc,
# 1 9). For the reasons set forth below, we grant
Ms. Richardson's motion to remand and deny the
Commissioner's motion to affirm (doc. # 20).
Richardson filed for benefits alleging a disability onset
date of November 1, 2008 (R. II). After her claim was denied
initially and on reconsideration, Ms. Richardson appeared and
testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") on December 28, 2011 (R. 57). The ALJ
issued an opinion denying benefits on January 11, 2012 (R.
90-96), but on March 20, 2013, the Appeals Council vacated
the decision and remanded the case to the ALJ (R. 101). The
ALJ obtained additional evidence and held another hearing on
November 21, 2013 (R. 26). He issued a second written opinion
on March 28, 2014, finding that Ms. Richardson was not
disabled from her alleged onset date through September 30,
2013, the date last insured (R. 11-20). The Appeals Council
denied Ms. Richardson's request for review, making the
ALJ's ruling the final decision of the Commissioner.
See Loveless v. Colvin, 810 F, 3d 502, 506 (7th Cir.
address below the evidence from before and after the remand
by the Appeals Council.
Richardson was born on December 21, 1974, and has a tenth
grade education (R. 64). In 1994, she fractured her right
ankle and left knee in an automobile accident (R. 349). Ms.
Richardson underwent surgery on her right ankle and left knee
to repair the fractures, followed by physical and
occupational therapy (Id.).
Richardson stated that she stopped working on September 2,
2008, because she was "unable to stand for any long
period of time" due to pain in her knee and ankle (R.
322-26). She did not seek medical attention for her ankle or
knee pain, but she went to the emergency room on January 3,
2008, and on January 28, 2009, complaining of chest pain (R.
401, 404). On both occasions, Ms. Richardson's pain
resolved, and she was released with no evidence of
cardiopulmonary problems (Id.). The January 2009
hospital report indicates that her chest pain might be
musculoskeletal or related to her dyslipidemia (high
cholesterol) (R. 407).
1, 2010, Ms. Richardson completed a function report for the
Bureau of Disability Determination Services
("DDS"). She wrote that she was "unable to
stand for a period of time, " had trouble sleeping
because her knee ached and stiffened, could lift up to 10
pounds and walk three blocks before needing to rest for 45 to
60 minutes, and had trouble lifting, squatting, bending,
standing, walking, and stair climbing (R. 286-87, 291). Ms.
Richardson wrote that she cooked and cleaned the house for
herself and her son, did laundry, shopped for food, clothing
and household supplies, and had no problem with personal care
(R. 287-90). She could pay attention all day and follow
instructions well (R. 291). She used a brace/splint every
day, but did not see a doctor and took no medications (R.
30, 2010, Mahesh Shah, M.D., took x-rays of Ms.
Richardson's left knee and right ankle and completed a
consultative examination ("CE") for DDS. The x-ray
of the left knee showed that the plates and screws from Ms.
Richardson's earlier surgery were in good position, but
she had severe tri-compartment degenerative disease in her
left knee (R. 347). The hardware in her right ankle was also
in good position, but there was evidence of degenerative
changes in the ankle joint (Id.). Dr. Shah noted
that Ms. Richardson was overweight and walked slowly with a
slight right-sided limp, but without an assistive device (R.
350), She had no difficulty getting on and off the
examination table, or alternating positions between standing,
sitting and lying supine (Id.). Upon examination,
Ms. Richardson's right ankle flexion and extension were
reduced at 15 degrees, with pain in her right lower leg (R.
351-52). Her left knee flexion was 70 degrees with full
extension, and she had severe pain in her left knee
(Id.). She had difficulty heel and toe walking and
was able to squat partially (R. 351). Dr. Shah opined that
Ms. Richardson's obesity could make her knee and ankle
pain worse (R. 352). He also tested Ms. Richardson's
eyesight; she had corrected vision of 20/25 in the right eye
and 20/70 in the left eye (R. 350).
27, 2010, Vidaya Madala, M.D., completed a physical residual
functional capacity ("RFC") assessment for DDS (R.
353). Dr. Madala opined that Ms. Richardson could lift 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand, walk,
and sit for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday;
occasionally climb ramps or stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch or
crawl; and never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds (R.
354-57). This opinion was affirmed on reconsideration (R.
are no more medical reports in the record before Ms.
Richardson's hearing on December 28, 2011. At that
hearing, Ms. Richardson testified that some days the pain in
her left knee was so intense that she could not walk, and the
pain in her legs often kept her up at night (R. 72, 74-75).
Her right ankle hurt, tingled, and went numb when she put too
much pressure on it while trying to alleviate her left leg
pain (R. 76). Ms. Richardson testified she could sit one to
two hours, but would then have to get up and stretch out the
leg to avoid stiffening, and she could not bend it all the
way (R. 69). She testified that she could not see a doctor
for her pain because she did not have medical insurance, and
she lived at least an hour away via public transportation
from the nearest public treatment facilities (R. 68, 77-78).
Ms. Richardson took over the counter Tylenol and Ibuprofen
for her pain, but those medications were not as effective as
they used to be (R. 68). Her 19 year old son helped her cook,
clean, grocery shop, and do laundry (R. 71).
vocational expert ("VE") testified that an
individual who is limited to light work, but cannot climb
ladders/ropes/scaffolds, and only occasionally climb
ramps/stairs, stoop, crouch, kneel and crawl, could perform
Ms. Richardson's past relevant work as a cashier but not
her past work as a laundry aide or housekeeper (R. 79). Ms.
Richardson could not perform her past relevant work ...