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Petelle v. Berryhill

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

April 3, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Stephanie Anne Petelle (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Petelle”) seeks review of the final decision of Respondent Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”), [1] denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1, the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings, including entry of final judgment. (Dkt. 7).

         For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion for remand (Dkt. 11) is granted in part and the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 12) is denied in part. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Petelle applied for disability insurance benefits when she was 55 years old. (R. at 170-71). She previously worked as an office clerk and nurse case manager. (Id. at 36). On July 9, 2014, Ms. Petelle testified at a hearing before the ALJ. (Id. at 44). The ALJ also heard testimony from Mr. James Breen, a vocational expert. (Id. at 170-73).

         The pertinent facts are as follows. Since August 2012, Ms. Petelle has been under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Nadeem Hussain, M.D. (Id. at 60, 252). Dr. Hussain diagnosed Ms. Petelle with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder with irritability. (Id. at 252, 495). Office visit records in September and October of 2012 from Ms. Petelle's treating physician, Dr. Ronald Severino, M.D., show a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, recurrent episode, unspecified, hypersomnia, organic, and memory loss. (Id. at 274, 279-94).[2]On March 12, 2013, Ms. Petelle attended a psychological consultative examination with Gregory Rudolph, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, at the request of the Bureau of Disability Determination Services (BDDS) (Id. at 434-37). Dr. Rudolph diagnosed major depression and history of posttraumatic stress- sexual abuse as a child, and assessed a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score of 45 for Ms. Petelle. (Id. at 434). Dr. Rudolph found that Ms. Petelle's prognosis and insight are “limited.” (Id.). On the same date, Roopa Karri, M.D. also examined Ms. Petelle at the request of the BDDS. (Id. at 440-43). Dr. Karri noted that Ms. Petelle had a history of depression. (Id. at 443). Dr. Karri observed that Ms. Petelle “had occasional problems finding words.” (Id. at 441-42). Dr. Karri's mental status examination (MSE) of Ms. Petelle found her to be “alert and oriented in all 3 spheres.” (Id. at 443).

         On July 16, 2013, Dr. Hussain's MSE of Ms. Petelle noted that Ms. Petelle's behavior was “restless and fidgety and tics of neck and lower face. Cooperative.” (Id. at 494-95). Her mood was “anxious and less sad and anxious.” Her affect “increased in intensity, increased in range and mood-congruent. Reactive.” (Id. at 495). Dr. Hussain prescribed Cymbalta 60 mg daily for depression and anxiety. She discussed with Ms. Petelle an increase in Cymbalta to 90 mg and noted that Ms. Petelle has withdrawal symptoms if she skips a day. (Id.) Dr. Hussain also prescribed traza-done and gabapentin for anxiety and insomnia. (Id.). Dr. Hussain's notes under suicidal ideation stated that Ms. Petelle had intermittent thoughts that “it would not be bad if I stopped breathing altogether.” (Id. at 496). In March and October of 2013, two non-examining psychologists opined that Plaintiff had mild limitations in activities of daily living, maintaining social functioning, and maintaining concentration, persistence and pace. (Id. at 82, 94).

         On March 20, 2014, Dr. Severino noted Ms. Petelle's cognitive disorder, mood problem, anxiety problem, memory loss, and excessive sleepiness. (Id. at 518). He assessed depressive disorder, not elsewhere classified. (Id. at 525). Dr. Severino's examination found: “her speech is normal and behavior is normal. Judgment and thought content normal. Her mood appears anxious. Her affect is not angry and not labile. She exhibits a depressed mood. She expresses no suicidal plans. She exhibits normal recent memory and normal remote memory.” (Id.).


         On November 14, 2012, Ms. Petelle protectively filed an application for disability insurance benefits, claiming a disability onset date of October 1, 2012. (R. at 24, 170-71). On September 24, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits finding that she was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (Id. at 24-37). The opinion followed the five-step sequential evaluation process required by the Social Security Regulations. 20 CFR § 404.1520. The ALJ initially noted that Ms. Petelle met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. (Id. at 26). At step one, the ALJ found that Ms. Petelle had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of October 1, 2012. (Id.) At step two, the ALJ found that Ms. Petelle had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease and gait disorder with Parkin-sonism. (Id.) The ALJ found that Ms. Petelle's mental impairment of depression, however, was “nonsevere.” (Id. at 28). At step three, the ALJ found that Ms. Petelle did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at 29).

         Before step four, the ALJ found that Ms. Petelle has:

the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except the claimant can frequently crouch; occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stop, and crawl; and never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can frequently, but not repetitively, finger bilaterally.

(Id. at 29-30). Based on this residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ determined at step four that Ms. Petelle was able to perform her past relevant work of a nurse case manager. (Id. at 36). Based on this determination, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Petelle was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (Id.) The Social Security Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-6). Plaintiff now seeks review in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         III. ...

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