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Eddins v. Colvin

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

November 16, 2016

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


          Sidney I. Schenkier, Magistrate Judge

         In this Social Security appeal, plaintiff Antoinette Eddins seeks reversal and remand of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") (doc. # 15). For the reasons set forth below, we grant Ms. Eddins' motion to remand and deny the Commissioner's motion to affirm (doc. # 25).


         On January 27, 2012, Ms. Eddins filed for benefits alleging a disability onset date of October 1, 2006, later amended to May 16, 2009 (R. 23).[2] Her date last insured was December 31, 2012 (R. 16). She has not worked since 2007, when she was terminated from her job as a bus monitor after missing too much work (R. 43-44). After her claim was denied initially and on reconsideration, Ms. Eddins appeared and testified at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALT) on November 8, 2013 (R. 36-63). The ALJ issued an opinion denying benefits on February 20, 2014 (R. 13-30). On February 5, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Ms. Eddins' request for review (R. 7), making the ALJ's ruling the final decision of the Commissioner. See Loveless v. Colvin, 810 F.3d 502, 506 (7th Cir. 2016).


         Ms. Eddins sought treatment for several different medical ailments. She visited her primary care physician, William Crevier M.D., in October and November 2009, who listed her diagnoses as major depression, panic attacks/panic disorder, asthma, fibromyalgia, tension headaches, and hyperthyroidism (R. 252-53, 515-16). Dr. Crevier prescribed medications including Ultram (a narcotic used to treat moderate to severe pain), Lyrica (used to treat nerve and muscle pain, including fibromyalgia), and Effexor (used to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder) (Id.).

         Ms. Eddins saw Jerry Coltro, M.D., a specialist in rheumatology, from January 28, 2007 through at least December 1, 2010. On December 1, 2010, Dr. Coltro filled out a fibromyalgia questionnaire. Although he checked the box stating that Ms. Eddins does not meet the American Rheumatological criteria for fibromyalgia, he noted that she was positive for pain in her upper and lower back, knees, ankles, feet, thoracic spine and chest, all of which improved with exercise and Effexor (R. 503-05). Dr. Coltro opined that Ms. Eddins' impairments lasted or could be expected to last at least 12 months, and that she is not a malingerer (R. 505). He opined that Ms. Eddins had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to sit or stand only one hour continuously before she would need to stretch and exercise and could never lift or carry more than five pounds (R. 506-07). Dr. Coltro opined that Ms. Eddins was likely to have good days and bad days, and would likely to be absent from work more than three times per month (R. 507). Nevertheless, he noted that she was responding to treatment, and her prognosis was good (R. 503, 508).

         Ms. Eddins saw a podiatrist from April 24, 2009 to November 15, 2010, who treated her for painful and abnormal gait caused by tarsal tunnel syndrome (compressed tibial nerve) and a heel spur (R. 274). In January and February 2011, Ms. Eddins received 14 sessions of physical therapy to address her pain and decreased range of motion and strength in her right ankle/foot, after which she still had moderate pain (R. 275-77). An X-ray of her ankle was unremarkable (R. 358), but an MRI on February 21, 2011 showed chronic sprains (R. 360).

         Ms. Eddins also reported pain and intermittent numbness and tingling in her neck and right shoulder (R. 566). An MRI of Ms. Eddins' right shoulder on June 1, 2011, showed some partial tearing and mild narrowing (R. 288), but an X-ray of her cervical spine on July 25, 2011 was within normal limits (R. 564). On October 6, 2011, Ms. Eddins underwent right shoulder arthroscopy to repair her partial rotator cuff tear and right shoulder impingement (R. 291).

         Ms. Eddins received individual mental health therapy from a social worker, Lamont Taylor, LCSW, approximately one to three times per month from at least May 2011 through October 2012. Mr. Taylor and Ms. Eddins often spent their sessions discussing her family and relationship stressors, particularly her sons (R. 378-80, 382-84, 386-88, 394, 396, 399, 454-55). In June and July 2011, Mr. Taylor noted that Ms. Eddins appeared depressed and complained of severe sleep trouble (R. 400-02). He was concerned by Ms. Eddins' negative self-talk and automatic thought distortions (R. 397-98). In September 2011, Mr. Taylor noted that Ms. Eddins was depressed due to her multiple medical problems, which she said caused her "unbearable pain" (R. 393). In October 2011, Ms. Eddins reported to Mr. Taylor that her mood improved with new medications prescribed by her psychiatrist Milton Daugherty, M.D., including Geodon (used for treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), Buproprion (anti-depressant), and Alprazolam (sedative used to treat anxiety and panic disorder) (R. 392). In March, May and June 2012, Ms. Eddins also reported that she was feeling less depressed due to medication and therapy (R. 377, 452-53).

         On May 23, 2012, Christine C. Kieffer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, conducted a psychological examination of Ms. Eddins for the Bureau of Disability Determination Services ("DDS"). Ms. Eddins told Dr. Kieffer that she suffered from bipolar syndrome and panic disorder with agoraphobia, with symptoms including severe insomnia, social isolation, daily crying jags and auditory hallucinations (R. 406-07). Dr. Kieffer observed that Ms. Eddins was oriented to person, place and time, cooperative, responsive, socially appropriate and had a capacity for insight and social judgment within normal limits (R. 406). However, Dr. Kieffer found that Ms. Eddins' capacity for attention and concentration was "markedly impaired, " as was her capacity for arithmetic calculation; she was able to repeat 4 digits forward and 3 digits backward but was unable to add, subtract or multiply (Id.). In addition, her fund of general information was "very poor, " as she could not recount recent news events or differentiate between cities and states, though she was able to name the current U.S. President (Id.). Ms. Eddins' capacity for abstract conceptual reasoning was "somewhat impaired" because she was unable to interpret proverbs, but she was able to identify similarities between common objects (Id.).

         On that same date, Liana G. Palacci, D.O., conducted an internal medical examination of Ms. Eddins for DDS. Ms. Eddins reported that she had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia four years earlier and that she suffered from generalized muscle aches, fatigue and insomnia (R. 410). Upon examination, Dr. Palacci observed that Ms. Eddins could heal-and-toe stand and knee squat, and that she had a non-antalgic gait with no assistive devices, normal strength in her upper and lower extremities, negative straight leg test, and normal range of motion everywhere, except that she refused the lumbar range of motion testing due to pain (R. 411-12). Ms. Eddins had "exquisite tenderness on palpation" at 18 of 18 tender points, which was "consistent with fibromyalgia" (Id.). Dr. Palacci opined that Ms. Eddins' asthma was well-controlled, but that she had poorly controlled fibromyalgia (R. 412).

         On June 18, 2012, state agency physician, Terry A. Travis, M.D., reviewed the medical record to determine Ms. Eddins' mental functional limitations (R. 416). Dr. Travis opined that Ms. Eddins had mild restriction in activities of daily living ("ADLs"); moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning; moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace; and no episodes of decompensation of extended duration (R. 426-27). On the RFC form Dr. Travis completed, he checked boxes indicating that Ms. Eddins was markedly limited in ability to understand, remember and cany out detailed instructions, and moderately limited in her ability to: (a) maintain attention and concentration for extended periods, (b) perform activities within a schedule, (c) maintain regular attendance, (d) work closely with others, (e) complete a normal work-day/workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms, (f) perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods, (g) interact appropriately with the general public, (h) get along with coworkers or peers, and (i) respond appropriately to changes in the work setting (R. 430-31). Dr. Travis found that Ms. Eddins was not significantly limited - or there was no evidence of limitation - in the remaining Paragraph B areas (Id.). Dr. Travis opined that Ms. Eddins was able to: "learn simple instructions, " "function consistently at a reasonable rate within a schedule, " "relate appropriately, " adapt to circumstances, " and complete "1-2 step tasks in a work setting that does not involve routine interaction with others" (R. 432).

         On June 20, 2012 state agency physician Vidya Madala, M.D., reviewed the medical record to determine Ms. Eddins' physical functional limitations resulting from fibromyalgia and asthma (R. 435). Dr. Madala opined that Ms. Eddins should be limited to light work with an unlimited ability to push or pull, one postural limitation (occasionally balancing), and some environmental limitations (R. 435-38). Both Dr. Travis's and Dr. ...

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