Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gracz v. Berryhill

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

April 12, 2017

LINDA JEAN GRACZ, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,[1]Defendant.

          ORDER

          Susan E. Cox U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Linda Jean Gracz (“Plaintiff”) appeals the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Court remands this matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse the Final Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [dkt. 13] is granted as stated herein. The Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [dkt. 15] is denied.

         I. Background

         a. Procedural History and Claimant's Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on December 26, 2012, with an alleged onset date of disability as of November 15, 2008. [Record (“R”) 12, 243.] Her last day of work coincided with her alleged onset date. [R 124.] Plaintiff was last insured for disability insurance benefits on December 31, 2013. [R 14, Finding 1.] To obtain benefits, Plaintiff would have to establish disability onset on or before her date last insured, which was December 31, 2013.

         During the application process for disability insurance benefits, Plaintiff claimed that she stopped working on the alleged onset date due to a combination of physical and mental impairments: fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, pubic symphysis separation, anxiety, depression, nerve pain, and insomnia. [R 124, 284.] Plaintiff's past relevant work consisted of one occupation (sales/office manager) from June of 1991 through November 15, 2008. [R 60-61, 132, 285.] She worked for builders of new homes, where she greeted new customers and took them through model homes, worked with contractors and builders, and managed the paperwork in connection with the sales activities. [R 60-62.]

         Plaintiff's disability insurance benefits application was denied initially on October 10, 2013, and again at the reconsideration stage on July 23, 2014, on the basis that Plaintiff retained the ability to perform simple, light, unskilled work. [R 153-163.] Plaintiff timely requested an administrative hearing, which was held on September 3, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Victoria A. Ferrer. [R 32, 166.] Plaintiff was represented by counsel, and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified. [R 32-123.]

         b. The ALJ's Decision

         On November 20, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff disability benefits. [R 9-31.] As an initial matter, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2013. [R 14]. At step one, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of November 15, 2008. [R 14-15.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of fibromyalgia; pubis dysfunction; obesity; depression; and anxiety. [R 15.] At step three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App'x 1. [Id.] Before step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[2] to perform a wide range of light work limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks involving simple instructions and simple decisions. [R 17.] In determining Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ found the Plaintiff “credible as to the existence of her impairments, [but did] not find credible her allegations regarding the severity and persistence of her symptoms as well as the functional limitations they allegedly cause, or caused prior to the date last insured”, and specifically noted that the evidence did not reveal the presence of the requisite number tender points for fibromyalgia. [R 20.] However, Plaintiff's “continued complaints of pain, as well as her obesity, [were] taken into consideration in determining that she is limited to work at the light exertional level.” [Id.] At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform her past relevant work, which was skilled and performed at a light exertional level by Plaintiff for both the sales/office manager functions. [R 23.] Finally, at step five, the ALJ found there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. Specifically, the ALJ relied upon VE testimony that Plaintiff could perform the unskilled light exertional jobs of office helper, maid/housekeeper cleaner, [3] and arcade attendant. [R 23-24.] Because of this determination, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled under the Act. [R 24-25.]

         c. Issues Before the Court

         On February 12, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review [R 1-6], making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Plaintiff now seeks judicial review, alleging: a) the ALJ's determination was erroneous at step two of her analysis; b) the ALJ's determination was erroneous at step three of her analysis; c) the ALJ's RFC determination was erroneous; d) the ALJ's credibility determination was patently wrong; and e) the ALJ's determination was erroneous at step five of her analysis. [Dkt. 14.] With regard to the ALJ's alleged step five errors, the Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that the ALJ erred in accepting the VE's testimony without any proof as to the source and reliability of the VE's information, particularly when the VE was questioned as to how he arrived at his numbers for certain jobs existing in the economy and his reduction of the number of those jobs to accommodate the ALJ's hypotheticals. [Id. at p. 19.]

         The Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment [dkt. 15] is styled as a summary judgment motion although it is a response in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse the Final Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [dkt 14]. The Commissioner's Motion raises no new issues in its response to Plaintiff's memorandum of law.

         II. Social Security Regulations ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.