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Kyles v. Berryhill

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

February 28, 2017

KATRINA KYLES, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [2]

          Sidney Schelrikier United States Magistrate Judge

         In this Social Security appeal, plaintiff, Katrina Kyles, seeks reversal and remand of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") (doc. # 16). The Commissioner has filed a cross-motion asking the Court to affirm the decision (doc. # 23). For the reasons set forth below, we grant Ms. Kyle's motion to remand and deny the Commissioner's motion to affirm.

         I.

         Ms. Kyles was born on November 13, 1991, with a deformity of her right lower extremity (a "club foot") (R. 357). As a child, Ms. Kyles was frequently absent from school due to pain in her right foot, and she dropped out of school in twelfth grade because it was "too hard" (R. 32-39). On July 1, 2005, at age 13, Ms. Kyles was found to be disabled due to a learning disability and behavioral problems as well her right club foot (R. 129).

         Individuals who are eligible for SSI benefits as children must have their disability redetermined under the adult rules for disability when they turn 18. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H). On September 13, 2010, the Social Security Administration ("SSA") determined that Ms. Kyles was no longer disabled as of September 2010 and discontinued disability benefits (R. 88-89). This decision was upheld on reconsideration (R. 90-91). After obtaining legal counsel, Ms. Kyles participated in a hearing before an ALJ on March 3, 2014 (R. 26-87). On March 18, 2014, the ALJ issued an opinion finding that Ms. Kyles' disability ended on September 1, 2010, and that she has not become disabled again since that date (R. 114). The Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's determination, making it the final opinion of the Commissioner (R. 1-5). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Shauger v. Astrue, 675 F.3d 690, 695 (7th Cir. 2012).

         II.

         On August 16, 2010, state agency consultant, Alexander Panagos, M.D., examined Ms. Kyles, noting that her right lower extremity showed severe atrophy from below the right knee with clubbing on the right foot and scarring from surgeries (R. 303). Although Ms. Kyles exhibited a full range of motion in all joints without redness or swelling, she was unable to perform heel or toe walk or squat, and she demonstrated difficulty performing tandem gait (Id.). Ms. Kyles had no cane or walker, but wore a special leg brace on her right lower extremity to help with her gait and balance (R. 301, 303). On September 10, 2010, state agency medical consultant Francis Vincent, M.D., opined that Ms. Kyles had the physical residual functional capacity ("RFC") to lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand/walk for about 6 hours during an 8-hour workday; sit for about 6 hours during an 8-hour workday; occasionally climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; frequently balance and crawl; and occasionally stoop, kneel or crouch (R. 327-34). This RFC was affirmed on reconsideration in July 2011 by Virgilio Pilapil, M.D. (R. 355).

         Consulting psychologist, Laura Higdon, Ph.D., examined Ms. Kyles on September 1, 2010. Although Ms. Kyles was polite and cooperative during the interview, Dr. Higdon noted that she was a poor historian with limited insight (R. 305-06). Dr. Higdon administered an intelligence test, which yielded a Full Scale (composite) Intelligence Quotient ("IQ") score of 68 (R. 307). Dr. Higdon diagnosed Ms. Kyles with Borderline Intelligence (Id.), Dr, Higdon also noted that Ms. Kyles showed no disturbance of gait or posture (Id.).

         On September 9, 2010, Kurt Boyenga, Ph.D., completed a mental RFC assessment for the state agency (R. 309-325). Dr. Boyenga opined that Ms. Kyles had mild restrictions 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 (R. 319). He concluded that Ms. Kyles was moderately limited in her ability to: understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision; complete a normal workday and work week without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms; perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number or length of rest periods; interact appropriately with the general public; and respond appropriately to changes in the work setting (R. 323-24). For other functional categories, Dr. Boyenga found that Ms. Kyles was not significantly limited (Id.).

         Dr. Boyenga's mental RFC determination was affirmed by state agency psychiatrist, Terry Travis, M.D., on July 6, 2011 (R. 355). However, Dr. Travis opined that Ms. Kyles had only mild restrictions in maintaining social functioning, and he additionally indicated that Ms. Kyles could follow simple instructions and complete one to two-step tasks in a routine work setting (R. 345, 351). Dr. Travis concluded that Ms. Kyles was moderately limited in her ability to: understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; perform activities within a schedule; maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances (R. 349). In the other functional categories, he found that Ms. Kyles was not significantly limited (R. 349-50).

         The next medical evidence in the record is dated more than two years later, on October 11, 2013, when Benjamin Goldberg, M.D., a resident, and Joseph Karam, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, examined Ms. Kyles (R. 365). Ms. Kyles had last been examined at their clinic in May 2005 (Id.). During the October 2013 visit, Ms. Kyles complained of right ankle pain that increased with standing for long periods, walking, and performing any weight bearing activities (Id.). Dr. Goldberg observed that Ms. Kyles' right calf was significantly smaller than her left calf and that she had significant weakness in ankle and plantar flexion on the right side (R. 366). Ms. Kyles was prescribed a replacement ankle-foot orthosis (Id.). Dr. Karam opined that Ms. Kyles was permanently disabled and could not stand for more than ten minutes per hour (R. 368).

         At the hearing on March 3, 2014, Ms. Kyles testified that she had pain and swelling in her lower right leg, and if she stood for fifteen minutes, her leg would become numb (R. 39, 63-69). She stated that she planned to follow up with Dr. Karam for a new brace and possible surgery for her right foot (R. 68-69). However, when she used to miss school due to her right leg pain, Ms. Kyles did not see a doctor, but "just stayed home" (R. 40). Ms. Kyles lived with her two children, ages 10 months and two years, her parents, and her sister (R. 30, 50). Her parents, her children's father, and his parents helped her care for her children (R. 50-51).

         The ALJ presented the vocational expert ("VE") with a hypothetical worker with a limited history of special education who could lift and carry no more than 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; could be on her feet, standing and walking about two hours in an eight-hour workday, with normal rest periods; could sit about two hours with normal rest periods; needed to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the workday, though not necessarily at will; was unable to work at heights, climb ladders or frequently negotiate stairs; could only occasionally crouch, kneel or crawl; should avoid operation of moving or dangerous machinery as well as operation of foot controls; and would be unable to understand, remember or carry out detailed and complex job tasks (R. 77). The VE opined that this hypothetical worker could work as an ...


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