United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
Alexander M. Novak Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. Johnston United States Magistrate Judge
Alexander Novak was found to be disabled shortly after birth,
and has been receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits
since then. When he reached age 18, as required by
Social Security regulations, his eligibility was
re-determined under adult standards, and he was found by an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) to no longer be
disabled. Plaintiff now argues that the ALJ wrongly concluded
he could work full-time despite his borderline intellectual
functioning and leg problems. As explained below, a remand is
required to further develop the record regarding several
December 9, 2014, a hearing was held before the ALJ.
Plaintiff and his mother were present, but they were not
represented by counsel. The ALJ informed plaintiff that he
had the right to an attorney who would “only get paid
if you win.” R. 55. After plaintiff and his mother both
answered that plaintiff was willing to go forward without an
attorney, the ALJ asked that they sign a waiver and they each
did so. See Ex. 17B.
then asked whether plaintiff whether he had been given
“a CD with [his] file on it.” R. 58. When
plaintiff's mother answered “yes, ” the ALJ
stated that she “really need[ed] Alex to be answering
this.” R. 58. Plaintiff stated that they had been given
a disk. The ALJ asked whether he or his mother had been able
to open it and see the contents. Plaintiff answered
“no.” Id. The ALJ summarized, in very
general terms, the type of documents on the disk and asked if
plaintiff had any objections to them. Plaintiff answered
“no” and the records were admitted into evidence.
these preliminaries, the ALJ questioned plaintiff, asking
first about recent doctor visits. After a few questions,
plaintiff's mother started answering the questions. The
ALJ eventually asked about a notation stating that when
plaintiff was a senior in high school, someone suggested that
he talk to a social worker about what to do when he
graduated. Plaintiff's mother explained that this visit
never happened because the woman “was very firm with
[plaintiff] and he kind of  shut down and he stopped
talking to her  completely.” R. 62. Thereafter, the
following back and forth then ensued between the ALJ and
Q Were you part of those discussions [with the social
A Correct. I was.
Q So what kinds of things was she discussing?
A She just said he's 18 now and you cannot be in this
Q Well she's got a point.
A I know. It -
Q So you -
A He's my baby and -
Q I know but - he's your baby.
A Right. Yeah.
Q He's also a man.
A I know. I understand that.
Q And what you as a family need to decide is how's Alex
going to function for the rest of his life? Is he going to be
on disability for the rest of his life or is he going to try
and get some help to figure out if there's some kind of
job he could do or not? You know? I mean -
A I mean - and I understand what you're saying, but I
guess you could say I'm one of these overprotective
Q Well I understand. If I had a kid with spina bifida, I
would be extremely overprotective as well.
A Just because of all the surgeries he had on his head and -
Q All right.
A I mean he almost died on us once so -
Q But that was a long time ago.
A I know it was, but he's still -
Q That was -
A I know, I'm just overprotective I guess I -
Q Yeah. And the question as a mom - and I'm not a
therapist so I can't pursue this very far, but as a mom,
lots of moms have problems with their kids, and our goal as
parents is to give our kids the tools ...