United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
E. COX U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Joel Ramon Lattanzio (“Plaintiff”) appeals the
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying him
Social Security disability benefits under Title II of the
Social Security Act. Plaintiff seeks a judgment reversing the
final decision or remanding it to a new Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ") for review. Defendant Carolyn W.
Colvin, the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner"), seeks a summary judgment
affirming the final decision. For the reasons set forth
below, Plaintiff's motion is granted [dkt 13] and the
Commissioner's motion is denied [dkt 21].
26, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits, with an
alleged onset date (“AOD”) of January 20, 2011.
R. 197- 98. On October 2, 2013, the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denied his application. R.
114. On March 25, 2014, upon reconsideration, the SSA again
denied his application. R. 124. On March 31, 2014, Plaintiff
filed a formal written request for a hearing before an ALJ.
R. 137- 38. On March 9, 2015, ALJ Kimberly S. Cromer
conducted a hearing on Mr. Lattanzio's claim and took
testimony from several witnesses. R. 51-105. Present and
testifying were the Plaintiff, a Medical Examiner
(“ME”), and a Vocational Examiner
(“VE”). R. 19. Plaintiff was represented by
counsel. R. 51. On March 23, 2015, ALJ Cromer held that
Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from January 20, 2011
through the date last insured (“DLI”), December
31, 2014. On May 20, 2015, Plaintiff requested review of the
ALJ's decision. R. 6-15. The Appeals Council
(“AC”) declined to accepted jurisdiction, making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. R. 1-5. Plaintiff now seeks review of the
has not been employed since August 2009. R. 286. Since that
time, he has suffered from a number of health crises,
including: severe heart disease (subsequently resolved via
surgical intervention); peripheral neuropathy; carpal tunnel
syndrome; arthritis; gout; hypertension; and lower back pain.
R. 21. Two recurring complaints are persistent, diffuse
swelling of the feet and hands, and numbness and tingling of
the fingers and feet.
Plaintiff's original claim for disability, which he filed
on July 26, 2013, was the result of a conversation with a
Social Security employee who noted that his hands were
swollen and that he had difficulty with his hands when
signing the paperwork. R.84. In the initial paperwork from
August 26, 2013, the Plaintiff stated that he had
“constant numbness in hands fingers” and
“swollen hands” and that he could not
“write or keyboard for long period of time.”
September 17, 2013, Dr. Roopa Karri performed a Consultative
Exam (“CE”). Dr. Karri noted that the Plaintiff
had complained that “his hands and feet feel numb and
swollen all the time for the last 4 years.” R.404. Dr.
Karri also reported that the Plaintiff had been dropping
things, had poor grip, and could not open jars or bottles.
R.404. Upon examination, Dr. Karri noted that the Plaintiff
had “1 edema in the hands and feet” and
“diffusely puffy fingers.” R.405. She also
observed that the Plaintiff had “mild difficulty
squeezing the blood pressure pump with either hand, ”
and that that he could “button, zip and tie shoelaces,
” “make fists, ” and “oppose
fingers.” Id. Dr. Karri determined that the
Plaintiff's “grip strength is 4 in both
after Dr. Karri's CE, Dr. Ernst Bone wrote a Disability
Determination Explanation, which was filed on October 1,
2013. R.106. In the Disability Determination, Dr. Bone
reviewed Dr. Karri's CE and reported that based on the
evidence from the CE, the Plaintiff's manipulative
capacity was limited bilaterally for both handling and
feeling, but was unlimited with regard to fingering. R.111.
However, Dr. Bone also indicated that an additional CE was
required because “[t]he evidence as a whole, both
medical and non-medical, is not sufficient to support a
decision on the claim. Additional evidence is required to
establish current severity of the individual
November 12, 2013, the Plaintiff's long-time treating
physician, Dr. Behnke, referred him to Dr. Kahn of Northwest
Neurology. R.427. At that time, Plaintiff reported a two- to
three-year history of numbness and tingling in his feet and
toes. R.427. Dr. Kahn reported that the Plaintiff had no
sensation to pin in his fingers bilaterally, that he had
“proximal weakness in his arms and legs, ” and
that he had “distal sensory loss in his extremities,
which is likely a peripheral neuropathy.” Id.
The Plaintiff was referred for further testing. Id.
March 24, 2014, another Disability Determination was filed,
this one by Dr. James Madison. R.115. In this Disability
Determination, Dr. Madison reached the same conclusions
regarding the Plaintiff's manipulative limitations that
Dr. Bone had. R.121. Though more recent evidence had been
submitted by the Plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr.
Madison based his conclusions regarding the Plaintiff's
manipulative restrictions solely on Dr. Karri's September
2013 CE. Id. Unlike Dr. Bone, however, Dr. Madison
concluded that no additional CE was required to establish the
current severity of the impairments. R.118.
November 18, 2014, Dr. Kahn noted that the Plaintiff had no
sensation to vibration in his fingertips and that
“[h]is hands are numb every day upon awakening. With
use, he has sharp pains from the mid-forearms shooting into
his fingers.” R. 415. Subsequent testing revealed
moderate to severe right carpal tunnel syndrome, moderate to
severe left carpal tunnel syndrome, mild to moderate
bilateral ulnar neuropathy at the elbow, and a “mildly
active, moderate, length-dependent, sensorimotor, axonal
peripheral neuropathy with sensory involvement of the upper
extremities.” Id. Although Dr. Kahn did not
directly assess the Plaintiff's fingering limitations,
her notes and the accompanying imaging studies provide the
medical evidence to support Plaintiff's symptoms.
Correspondence between the Plaintiff and the Social Security
Administration suggest that there have been subsequent
developments in his condition; however, these records fall
outside of the time period in review. Notice of Appeals
Council Action, 2.