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Teague v. Colvin

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division

November 1, 2016




         Now before the Court[1] is the Plaintiff's, Michael Teague, Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 12) and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Affirmance (Doc. 15). For the reasons set forth below, the Court REVERSES the decision of the Commissioner to deny Michael Teague's benefits and REMANDS this matter for further proceedings consistent with this Order and Opinion.[2]


         In September 2012, Michael Teague filed his application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, alleging a disability onset date of May 19, 1992. (AR 174-79, 189). After an initial denial of his claim in November 2012 (AR 95-98), Teague requested reconsideration of his claim and was denied again in April 2013 (AR 104-07). Mr. Teague then filed a Request for Hearing by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) (AR 109-11). A video hearing was held before ALJ Susan Sarsfield on February 3, 2014 (AR 62, 144)[3] and continued on April 23, 2014 (AR 29), in Peoria, Illinois, where Teague was represented by counsel. The Claimant and his counsel were in Davenport, Iowa during the video conference. (AR 29). A vocational expert (VE), George Paprocki, testified. Following the hearing, Teague's claim was denied in the ALJ's unfavorable Decision on May 19, 2014. (AR 8-22). Teague appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, and the Appeals Council denied his request for review on June 23, 2015. (AR 1-4). Teague filed the instant civil action seeking review of the ALJ's Decision on August 24, 2015. (Doc. 1).


         At the time he applied for SSI benefits in September 2012, Teague was a 22 year old male living in East Moline, Illinois, in an apartment with his grandmother and two sisters. (AR 175). He has never worked. (AR 201). Teague claims he has been disabled since May 19, 1992, the date of his birth. Teague received childhood disability benefits, but the folder related to his childhood disability could not be located; neither the ALJ nor the Court has access to the folder. (AR 190). On Form SSA-3368, the Claimant reported that he cannot read or write, and is bipolar. (AR 193). His highest educational level is 11th grade.[4] Although he reported on this form that he never attended special education classes, the record shows that he was in special education classes during school. (AR 38, 194). He reported that he takes Adderall prescribed by the Robert Young Center in Moline, Illionis (AR 195) where he received mental health treatment from 1997-2012. (AR 197). Throughout the record, Teague claims he has been prescribed a number of medications for his mental health issues.

         On Teague's Form SSA-3369, his grandmother remarked that he was sick from birth and has anger problems and ADHD. (AR 207). She also reported that he is unable to work due to his lack of schooling and illness. (AR 207, 209). His grandmother reported he has the following problems with his mental condition: memory, completing tasks, concentration, understanding, following instructions, and getting along with others. (AR 214). She reported that Teague does nothing but eat, sleep, and walk around the house. (AR 210). She also wrote that he has nightmares and sees things. (AR 210, 215). Teague also reported having problems sleeping because of voices and nightmares, along with tiredness and fear of the dark. (AR 220, 227, 232).

         Teague is capable of some personal care such as bathing and dressing if he is in a good mood. (AR 210). He doesn't do yardwork because he doesn't know how. (AR 212). He reports he cannot complete house or yard work because he cannot focus. (AR 229). He also cannot drive because he doesn't know how. (AR 212). Although he can count change, his grandmother reports that he cannot pay bills or otherwise handle money because he has never done these things or been on his own. (AR 212). He reported that he can, however, make a sandwich every now and then. (AR 228). He watches TV and plays music. (AR 213). He plays video games and watches TV, mostly involving killing. (AR 230). Every other day when he feels like killing someone, he will hook up his video game and kill a zombie. (AR 230).

         Further, Teague reported that he goes off like a bomb when he is stressed. (AR 232). He reported that he doesn't like anyone besides his grandmother and his aunt. (AR 231). He is “always in a bad mood [and] just doesn't want to be bothered by people.” (AR 231). His grandmother also reported that he has social limitations because he has been so confined all his life.

         Teague has been treated at the Robert Young Center, although the treatment appears to be sporadic. In 2012 he was diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder and a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score of 41. (AR 328). The Commissioner requested a psychological consultative examination in 2012. Dr. Thomas Dhanens, Ph.D., the examiner, found problems with math and spelling. Although Dr. Dhanens did not observe a conduct disorder, he observed attitude and personality problems. (AR 342). Dr. Kirk Witherspoon, Ph.D., was referred for an evaluation. Dr. Witherspoon administered a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale - Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) intelligence test and found a full-scale IQ of 62, verbal comprehension index score of 63, and perceptual reasoning index score of 58. (AR 348). His working memory index score was higher at 71 and processing speed index score was 81. Id.

         At the hearing before the ALJ on April 23, 2014, Teague testified that he was “locked up” after starting his freshman year in high school, and his classes in the jail were not substantial. (AR 37). After prison he was expelled and could not get accepted into any alternative schools. (AR 28). He stated that although he tried to read in prison, he was told he could not read. (AR 38). He testified that he was in special education classes for all of his classes during school. (AR 38). He stated that he never had a job because nobody would give him one, although he admits he never applied. (AR 38-39). He testified that he sometimes worked odd jobs such as raking, mowing lawns, and shoveling snow for money. (AR 39). According to Teague, he has problems completing tasks such as mowing lawns because he cannot follow directions. (AR 39-40).

         The Claimant testified about his legal troubles. At the time of the hearing, he had recently been to prison for violating probation for armed robbery. (AR 40). He testified that he had been in and out of jail since the age of 14 due to his anger issues. He testified that he would “black out.” (AR 40). He testified that during this time he heard voices and eventually received medical treatment. (AR 42). At the Robert Young Center, his doctor prescribed three different medicines and was told he had bipolar and schizophrenia. (AR 52). Teague testified that if he becomes angry around his grandma and will punch holes in the wall. (AR 43). Afterwards, he tries to fix the holes or anything else he broke when he was angry. (AR 52).

         At the hearing, the Claimant also testified that he gets tired, and while at the youth center, he was left in his room all day except for when he would go to school there. (AR 47). He testified that while there, in his room, he would just talk to himself, because that's all he could do. (AR 47-48). He does not have difficulty leaving the apartment by himself, and sometimes goes to the park. (AR 48). He can clean his room and go to the store with his grandmother. (AR 49). He can also carry the bags inside afterward, and sometimes he even goes to the grocery by himself. (AR 50). Otherwise, he has no other hobbies and does not participate in any outside activities. (AR 50).

         After listening to Teague's testimony, the ALJ posed his hypothetical questions to the VE, Brian Paprocki. The ALJ asked the following:

Q . . . I'd like you to consider a hypothetical claimant of the same age, education, and having the same past work experience as this claimant limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks learned by short demonstration only. He requires brief superficial interaction with co-workers and supervisors, no tandem tasks, and no interaction with the public, and he requires jobs that measure productivity on an orderly basis. He can have only occasional change in work processes and procedure. Is there any work activity that he could perform?
A I testified in this case before, didn't I?
Q Yes you did.
A Could you tell me what my testimony was and the jobs I gave?
Q Okay. At that time, the hypothetical was simple, routine, repetitive, brief superficial interaction with co-workers and supervisors, no tandem tasks, no interaction with the public and you testified that the hypothetical claimant could perform the light job of assembler such as toy assembler or plumbing hardware assembler, house cleaner, and injection mold operator. With the additional limitations that I've posed including short demonstration only, production measured on a daily and not hourly basis and no more than occasional change in work processes and procedures, could he still perform those jobs?

(54-55). The VE responded that under the hypothetical, that individual could work as a house cleaner, assembly job, injection molder, construction worker, or cook helper.

         The ALJ added an additional limitation, that the “claimant could not concentrate and attend to job tasks more than 15 minutes at a time without being distracted for two to three minutes at a time.” The VE responded this limitation would not preclude employment. (AR 56).

         The Claimant's attorney asked the VE whether a hypothetical claimant with the same limitations along with a social limitation of “not consistently going to be able to respond appropriately to instructions or to criticism.” (AR 57). The VE answered that there was very little tolerance at an unskilled work setting for this kind of response. (AR 58).


         In her written Decision, the ALJ applied the standard five-step sequential evaluation process and ultimately found that Teague was not disabled. The ALJ determined that Teague satisfied step one because he had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 5, 2012, the application date. (AR 13).

         At step two, the ALJ found that Teague had the following severe impairments: schizoaffective disorder, antisocial personality disorder, history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), history of explosive disorder, and history of conduct disorder. (AR 13). In finding these impairments, the ALJ considered the statements and opinions from Dr. Witherspoon's consultative examination and psychological evaluation. Dr. Witherspoon administered the (WAIS-IV) and found that the Claimant had a full scale IQ of 62, a verbal comprehension index score of 63. (AR 13). However, the ALJ discounted the scores, finding that Teague's high school records did not indicate that he has an intellectual disability. Although the records indicate that the Claimant was placed in special education, his primary disability was described as “Other Health Impairment, ” focusing on his behavioral problems. Further, the ALJ found that although the Claimant alleged illiteracy, the school records do not indicate that he had issues with literacy. The ALJ also referenced the Claimant's activities of daily living (ADLs) to support her determination that he functioned “at a much higher level than one would expect with a diagnosis of mental retardation.” (AR 14).

         At step three, the ALJ found that the medical evidence did not establish that Teague's impairments met or medically equals the severity of a listed impairments, either individually or in combination. (AR 14). Specifically, the ALJ found that the Claimant did not meet the mental listings of 12.02 (organic mental disorders), 12.04 (affective disorders), or 12.08 (personality disorders). (AR 14). Remarkably, the ALJ did not mention Listing 12.05 (intellectual disability) in her Decision. The ALJ also found that Teague has a mild restriction in activities of daily living and moderate ...

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