United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. SCHENKIER Magistrate Judge.
Rickey Bradley has filed a motion seeking reversal of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying his application for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under
Sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act (doc. #
9). The Commissioner has filed her own motion seeking
affirmance of the decision denying benefits (doc. # 11). For
the following reasons, Mr, Bradley's motion is denied and
the Commissioner's motion is granted.
Bradley applied for benefits on April 12, 2012, alleging he
became disabled on November 26, 2011 due to the effects of a
stroke and hypertension (R. 42, 52, 156-62). His date last
insured is December 31, 2016 (R. 176). The application was
denied initially on August 24, 2012, and upon reconsideration
on December 5, 2012 (R. 42-70, 91-95, 98-101). Mr. Bradley,
represented by counsel, appeared and testified before
administrative law judge ("ALJ") Patrick Nagle on
March 20, 2014 (R. 13-41). Vocational expert ("VE")
Karen Schneider also testified (R. 31-39). On April 4, 2014,
the ALJ issued a decision finding that Mr. Bradley was not
disabled and denying his claim for benefits (R. 74-90). The
Appeals Council denied Mr. Bradley's request for review
on July 16, 2015, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner (R. 1-6). See Shauger v.
Astrue, 675 F.3d 690, 695 (7th Cir. 2012).
begin with a summary of the administrative record. Part A
reviews Mr. Bradley's medical history, Part B reviews the
hearing testimony, and Part C summarizes the ALJ's
Bradley was born on June 24, 1961 and was 52 years old at the
time of the hearing (R. 178). Mr. Bradley completed high
school and one year of college (R. 182). Mr. Bradley's
past work includes working as a crane operator and a machine
March 27, 2010, Mr. Bradley visited the emergency room at the
University of Chicago Medical Center, complaining of acute
onset left-sided weakness (R. 281). Mr. Bradley's
symptoms included focal weakness, loss of sensation, loss of
balance, and speech change (R. 279). The emergency room
physician diagnosed Mr. Bradley with a "likely
stroke" (R, 280). During his hospitalization, Mr.
Bradley was put on prescription medications for uncontrolled
hypertension (R. 268). On April 5, 2010, while Mr. Bradley
was still in the hospital, a lower extremity Doppler
examination was performed which showed an acute deep vein
thrombosis ("DVT") (R. 351, 353). An inferior vena
cava ("IVC") filter was placed on April 5, 2010 (R.
April 6, 2010, Mr. Bradley was transferred to Schwab
Rehabilitation Hospital ("Schwab") for
comprehensive rehabilitation, including physical therapy,
occupational therapy, speech therapy, and psychological
counseling (R 268). On April 11, 2010, Mr. Bradley was
transferred to Mercy Hospital for further workup due to acute
renal failure (R. 348). Mr. Bradley's renal function
improved with IV hydration (Id.). On April 14, 2010,
a bilateral DVT was found (R. 345). Mr. Bradley underwent a
thrombectomy and thrombolysis on April 26 and 27, 2010 at the
University of Chicago Medical Center (Id.). Because
of his history of DVTs and clotting around the IVC filter,
Mr. Bradley was placed on life-long anticoagulation therapy
(R. 645). On April 30, 2010, Mr. Bradley was transferred back
to Schwab and was finally discharged to return home on May
21, 2010 (R. 343).
July 12, 2010 and October 4, 2012, Mr. Bradley visited
internist Angela Weingarten. M.D. and her colleagues at the
University of Chicago Medical Center's Primary Care Group
Clinic, including Dr. Catherine Glunz, thirteen times for
follow-ups on his multiple medical problems, including
history of stroke, hypertension, extensive DVTs, and
hyperlipidemia (R. 295-301, 319-27, 330-35, 642-48, 656-659).
On July 12, 2010, Mr. Bradley saw Dr. Weingarten for the
first time. Dr. Weingarten wrote that Mr. Bradley reported
that he was doing well and was regaining his strength (R.
342). Mr. Bradley had no specific complaints (Id.).
Dr. Weingarten noted that Mr. Bradley required a cane to walk
(R. 343). Mr. Bradley's sensation on the left was
slightly decreased as compared to the right, and his upper
extremity had slightly decreased sensation compared to his
left lower extremity (Id.). Mr. Bradley's
strength was also slightly decreased on the left as compared
to the right in both upper and lower extremities
(Id.). Dr. Weingarten was concerned about Mr.
Bradley's blood pressure and doubled his blood pressure
medication dosage (R. 343-44). Dr. Weingarten directed Mr.
Bradley to follow-up in one month to confirm that his
hypertension was under control (R. 344).
August 6, 2010, during a follow-up visit with Dr. Gioia
Herring at Schwab, Mr. Bradley reported that he had been
doing fairly well since his discharge from his inpatient
rehabilitation stay (R. 272). Mr. Bradley also stated that he
completed his outpatient therapies, including physical
therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy
(Id.). Mr. Bradley was ambulating with a cane
(Id.). Dr. Herring noted that Mr. Bradley's
primary care physician, Dr. Benitez, released him to return
to work on September 1, 2010 at a reduced schedule with work
restrictions (Id.). A manual muscle test of Mr.
Bradley's upper extremities revealed essentially 5/5
strength except for his hand grasp on the left side which was
-5 (R. 273). A manual muscle test of the lower extremities
revealed strength to be 5/5 on the right lower extremity and
-5/5 on the left (Id.). Mr. Bradley's ambulation
with an assistive device showed a decreased heel-to-toe gait
pattern and decreased knee flexion with his gait
(Id.). Dr. Herring determined that Mr. Bradley was
doing fairly well and directed him to follow-up in six months
for a recheck (Id. at 273).
August 26, 2010, Mr. Bradley visited Dr. Kenneth J. Lee at
the University of Chicago Medical Center's Neurology
Clinic (R. 335-38). Dr. Lee noted that Mr. Bradley was doing
very well since his discharge from rehabilitation (R. 336).
Dr. Lee wrote that Mr. Bradley had very good mobility, used a
cane sporadically, and had been able to use his left arm very
well (Id.). Upon examination, Mr. Bradley had 5/5
strength in the right upper and lower extremities (R. 337).
On the left side, Mr. Bradley had a mild pronator drift on
the upper extremity but was 5/5 strength in the deltoids and
triceps and 5-/5 in the biceps, wrist extensor, and wrist
flexors (Id.). On the left lower extremities, Mr.
Bradley had 5/5 strength in the hip extensor, hip flexors,
dorsiflexors, and the plantar flexores and 5-/5 in the knee
extensor and knee flexores (Id.). Mr. Bradley had a
mildly unsteady and a slightly spastic gait with increased
spasticity on the left side (R. 337). Mr. Bradley was able to
do plantar flexion (Id.). Dr. Lee prescribed
Tizanidine 2 mg as needed for Mr. Bradley's spasticity
third visit with Dr. Weingarten on September 8, 2010, Mr.
Bradley had 5/5 strength on his right side and 4/5 strength
in his left upper and lower extremities (R. 334). Dr.
Weingarten referred Mr. Bradley for a physical therapy
evaluation and treatment for his increased spasticity
(Id.). At his next appointment with Dr. Weingarten
on October 19, 2010, Mr. Bradley reported that he was feeling
much better and his arm was less stiff and uncomfortable
since he began physical therapy (R. 330-31). Dr. Weingarten
noted that she wrote a letter to Mr. Bradley's employer
explaining that he was unable to lift weight above five to
seven pounds and was unable to stand for extended periods of
time without sitting (R. 331).
January 6, 2011, Mr. Bradley returned to the University of
Chicago Medical Center's Neurology Clinic for a follow-up
appointment with Dr. Lee (R. 327-30), Dr. Lee noted that
since Mr. Bradley's last visit in August 2010, he had
been doing very well (R. 327). Mr. Bradley reported that he
was on Tizanidine 2 mg and doing exercises at home
(Id.). As a result, the spasticity and throbbing
pain in Mr. Bradley's left arm and leg had improved
greatly (Id.). Mr. Bradley had 5/5 strength in the
right upper and lower extremities (R. 328). He had
approximately 5-/5 strength in his left upper and lower
extremities (Id.). Mr. Bradley had a spastic stance
as well as a spastic gait (Id.). Dr. Lee directed
Mr. Bradley to continue to exercise and take Tizanidine as
needed (R. 329). Dr. Lee noted that Mr. Bradley was doing
well neurologically and did not need to schedule another
neurology clinic visit (Id.).
February 15, 2011 appointment with Dr. Weingarten, Mr.
Bradley reported that he was not back to his baseline from
before his stroke, but his spasticity was not bothering him
nearly as much and he was doing better (R. 325). Dr.
Weingarten wrote that she was not comfortable releasing Mr.
Bradley to return to work without a functional capacity test
(Id.). On March 14, 2011, Mr. Bradley visited with
Dr. Weingarten and reported that he completed his functional
capacity testing and planned to return to work on March 16,
2011 (R. 322). Mr. Bradley reported that his weakness and
spasticity had improved (R. 323). Mr. Bradley was given a
return to work note (R. 324).
1, 2011, Mr. Bradley returned to Dr. Weingarten and reported
a burning sensation in his left hand and foot (R. 320). Mr.
Bradley stated that the pain was "really bothering him
while at work" (Id.). Dr. Weingarten prescribed
Gabapentin 100 mg 3 times daily for his paresthesias (R.
321). Dr. Weingarten also gave Mr. Bradley a referral for
further workup due to his persistent hypertension
August 16, 2011, Mr. Bradley saw Colleen Flynn, M.D. at the
University of Chicago Medical Center's Endocrinology
Center for a hypertension consultation at Dr.
Weingarten's request (R. 317-19). Mr. Bradley reported
that he had been on medications for his hypertension for
approximately five years, but his blood pressure has never
been well controlled (R. 318). Mr. Bradley stated that he
experienced left leg swelling at the end of his workday
(Id.). Dr. Flynn noted that Mr. Bradley had a gait
with a slight limp favoring his left leg and 5/5 strength on
both sides upper and lower extremities (R. 318-19). Regarding
Mr. Bradley's high blood pressure, Dr. Flynn added
chlorthalidone 25 mg daily, nifedipine 120 mg XL every
evening, bisoprolol 20 mg every evening, and Edarbi 80 mg
daily and stopped his hydralazine, amlodipine and metoprolol
(R. 319). Mr. Bradley saw Dr. Flynn again on September 27,
2011 for hypertension management and she adjusted his high
blood pressure medications (R. 315-17).
September 29, 2011, Mr. Bradley saw Jennifer McDonnell, M.D.
at the University of Chicago Medical Center's Medicine
and Pediatrics Clinic (R. 312-15). Mr. Bradley reported
difficulty with his work conditions (R. 312-313). Mr. Bradley
explained that he stood all day as he drove a silo and
stacked cut metal bars which weighed approximately thirty to
forty-five pounds (R. 313). Mr. Bradley stated that standing
all day exacerbated his numbness and tingling and his left
leg swelled by the end of the day (Id.). Mr. Bradley
reported that he was independent in his activities of daily
living and instrumental activities of daily living (R.
314). Mr. Bradley had 5/5 strength in his right
upper extremities and 4/5 strength in his left upper
extremities (Id.). In his lower extremities, he had
5/5 strength on the right and 4/5 strength in his quadriceps
and calf muscle on the left (Id.). Mr. Bradley's
sensation was intact bilaterally but Mr. Bradley reported a
subjective feeling of numbness in his arm and leg on the left
side as well as a lot of tingling and burning (Id.).
Dr. McDonnell concluded that Mr. Bradley's job was
exacerbating his symptoms of neuropathy and leg swelling (R.
314). She stated that he would do better in a job where he
was not on his feet all day and not lifting heaving objects
(Id.). Dr. McDonnel added: "I think ideally it
would be nice if the patient could retain ... a different job
in the same company as the patient is still functional in his
IADLs and ADLs and would be able to do other things, such as
his old job of driving as a crane operator"
Bradley visited Dr. Lee on November 18, 2011 at the
University of Chicago Medical Center's Neurology Clinic
for new symptoms of head pressure (R. 301-04). Upon
examination, Mr. Bradley had 5/5 strength in the right upper
and lower extremity (R. 303). On the left upper extremity,
Mr. Bradley had 5/-5 in his arm flexion as well as his wrist
extension (Id.). Mr. Bradley had 5/5 strength in his
left arm flexors (Id.). Mr. Bradley had increased
tone in his left upper and lower extremities with some mild
spasticity (Id.). Mr. Bradley had a mildly spastic
gait but was able to ambulate without assistance
(Id.). Dr. Lee wrote that Mr. Bradley's
post-stroke symptoms had been stable and he was doing well in
terms of his rehabilitation on his left side (R. 303). Dr.
Lee was not concerned about Mr. Bradley's new symptoms of
head pressure and recommended Tylenol and ice packs to
relieve pressure (Id.).
December 19, 2011, Mr. Bradley reported to Dr. Weingarten
that he did not think he could continue performing such a
physically demanding job at his employer (R. 299). Mr.
Bradley stated that he was working in the "shop"
and he was required to stand all day and lift heavy loads
(Id.). He said that after work he was in an
incredible amount of pain and had left lower extremity
swelling (Id.). Dr. Weingarten wrote a letter to Mr.
Bradley's employer requesting accommodations (R.
299-300). By his next appointment on January 10, 2012, Mr.
Bradley had stopped working and was receiving temporary
disability (R. 297-98). Mr. Bradley reported that his left
arm pain had gotten a little better since he stopped working,
but had not completely subsided (Id.). At his March
6, 2012 appointment with Dr. Weingarten, Mr. Bradley stated
that he still had neuropathic pain and numbness and tingling
in his left hand and foot, but he felt better than when he
was working (R. 295). At his May 22, 2012 appointment, Dr.
Weingarten noted that Mr. Bradley's blood pressure
continued to be elevated and she deferred to Dr. Bakris in
the Endocrinology Clinic for the best way to manage Mr.
Bradley's blood pressure (R. 658). Dr. Weingarten noted
that Mr. Bradley's cholesterol levels had improved and he
was close to reaching his target for a reduced cholesterol
level (R. 658-59).
Bradley returned to the University of Chicago Medical
Center's Endocrinology Clinic for a hypertension
management follow-up appointment on April 19, 2012 (R.
290-91). Mr. Bradley reported that he was measuring his blood
pressure at home using a wrist cuff, watching the sodium in
his diet, and exercising by weight lifting (R. 290). Mr.
Bradley stated that his morning blood pressure range was
between 160-180/95 and that he used less than 20 pounds of
upper body weights (Id.). On physical examination,
Mr. Bradley's blood pressure sitting was 102/70 with a
pulse of 68 and standing was 120/60 with a pulse of 60
(Id.). Dr. Flynn noted that Mr. Bradley's goal
blood pressure was less than 130/80 with a resting heart rate
of less than 80 (R. 290-91). Dr. Flynn directed Mr. Bradley
to continue his bisoprolol 20 mg and chlorthalidone 25 mg
every morning, add amilordie 10 mg every morning and
nifedipine XL 90 mg in the evening, continue his low-sodium
diet, get adequate sleep, get a new blood pressure machine
with an arm cuff, check his blood pressure in the morning
before taking his medication, and follow up with his primary
care doctor (R. 291).
10, 2012, Mr. Bradley visited Dr. Weingarten for a
hypertension follow-up exam (R. 291-94). Mr. Bradley reported
that his blood pressure at home had been running in the
120s/80s and he continued to be active and watch his salt
intake (R. 292). Dr. Weingarten noted that Mr. Bradley
continued to complain of numbness, pain, and weakness
(Id.). Mr. Bradley also reported that he continued
to have burning neuropathy in his hands and feet on the left
side of his body as well as weakness and spasticity on that
side (R. 293). Mr. Bradley stated that he was not taking his
Gabapentin even though it was recommended at his last
appointment that he increase his Gabapentin to three times a
day for paresthesia (R. 292). Mr. Bradley stated that instead
he "just deals with the pain" (Id.). Upon
examination, Mr. Bradley's blood pressure was 140/85 and
his pulse was 80 (R. 293). Dr. Weingarten observed that Mr.
Bradley had numbness on the left side of his face with a
slight facial droop on that side (Id.). Mr.
Bradley's blood pressure was elevated (R. 293). Dr.
Weingarten noted Mr. Bradley's follow-up appointment with
Dr. Bakris on April 17, 2012 and deferred to him on the best
way to manage Mr. Bradley's blood pressure
7, 2012, Mr. Bradley and his fiancee, Charlene Golden,
completed a function report for the Bureau of Disability
Determination Services ("DDS") (R. 189-97). Mr.
Bradley reported left-sided weakness since his stroke (R.
189). Mr. Bradley described his daily activities as getting
up, bathing, getting help with breakfast, exercising, laying
down, getting back up, getting ready for dinner, watching TV,
and going to bed (R. 190). Mr. Bradley reported no problem
with personal care except he cannot button his shirt, washes
with one hand, and sits down to wash his feet (Id.).
Mr. Bradley wrote that he can do laundry but cannot iron, do
household repairs, or mow the lawn (R. 191). He stated that
he goes outside two to three times a week and does not drive
because of left-side weakness (R. 192). Mr, Bradley shops for
food and personal items once a month and goes to the doctor
once or twice a week (R. at 192-93). Mr. Bradley wrote that
he can walk two or three blocks before having to stop and
rest a few minutes, can sit for two hours without having to
get up to stand or walk, needs to take a rest period during
the day, has difficulty reaching overhead or above waist
level on his left side, and does not handle stress or change
in routine well (R. 194-95, 198-99). Mr. Bradley reported
that he has used a cane, brace, and splint on a daily basis
since his stroke (R. 195).
August 8, 2012, Dr. Rochelle Hawkins conducted a consultative
examination of Mr. Bradley for DDS (R. 666-74). Mr. Bradley
described left sided weakness and paresthesia and a burning
sensation in his left arm and bottom of his foot since his
stroke (R. 666). Mr. Bradley stated that he was unable to
exercise much because of pain (Id.). Dr. Hawkins
noted that there was no limitation of motion of shoulder,
elbow, or wrist joints (R. 667). Mr. Bradley's fist and
grip strength was 5/5 on the right and 4/5 on the left (R.
667-68). Mr. Bradley was able to perform manipulations with
either hand without difficulty (R. 668). Mr. Bradley had
muscle strength of 5/5 on the right and 4/5 on the left in
his upper and lower extremities (Id.). A straight
leg raising test was accomplished on the right and was 90
degrees on the left (Id.). There was normal
sensation to pin prick and touch over both arms and legs but
Mr. Bradley complained of burning sensation in his left hand
and foot (Id.). Dr. Hawkins noted that Mr. Bradley
walked with a limp favoring his left side (Id.). Mr.
Bradley had a cane but was able to walk 50 feet without it
(Id.). Mr. Bradley had mild difficulty walking on
his toes and heels and squatting and arising and moderate
difficulty hopping on one leg (Id.). Dr. Hawkins
concluded that Mr. Bradley could sit, speak, or hear without
difficulty but has "some difficulty in prolonged
standing, walking, lifting and carrying due to left sided
weakness and burning sensation in left hand and food"
August 23, 2012, Dr. Charles Wabner completed a physical
Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") assessment of
Mr. Bradley (R. 46-48). Dr. Wabner opined that Mr. Bradley
could occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds and frequently
lift and carry 10 pounds; stand, walk and/or sit for a total
of six hours in an eight-hour workday; push and/or pull
unlimited; occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; never climb ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds; should avoid moderate exposure to extreme cold
and heat; and should avoid concentrated exposure to hazardous
machinery (Id.). Dr. Calixto F. Aquino, Jr. affirmed
Dr. Wabner's ...