United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. Johnston United States Magistrate Judge.
an action challenging the administrative law judge's
(“ALJ”) denial of social security disability
benefits to plaintiff Jessica Long. See 42 U.S.C.
§405(g). Plaintiff claims that her chronic panic
attacks, her fear of leaving the house, and her fear of large
groups would prevent her from working full-time. The ALJ
found that plaintiff's limitations were overstated and
that she could work certain jobs involving no public
interaction and only infrequent interaction with co-workers
and supervisors. As explained below, this Court finds no
basis for second-guessing that decision.
filed her current applications for disability benefits on
January 10, 2012. The ALJ held two hearings. At the first, on
November 19, 2013, plaintiff's counsel gave an opening
statement, arguing that plaintiff suffered from anxiety and
depression with “varying diagnoses.” R. 52.
Counsel acknowledged that “[w]e do have work after the
onset date, ” which counsel described was work as a
telemarketer and plaintiff taking care of her mother, but
counsel argued that these activities were “unsuccessful
work attempts.” R. 54.
testified that her anxiety problems were long-standing and
that they caused her to drop out of school in the eighth
grade. She had a hard time being around people and would
“basically just not go” to school. R. 55.
asked plaintiff about her work history. Plaintiff testified
that, from roughly 2003 to 2005, she worked at Burger King
where she was a crew leader in charge of six to eight people.
R. 56 (“I assigned specific jobs for the employees to
do, counted money for the drawers, and sometimes, I would
open up the store or close it.”). This was a full-time
job. From around 2008 until 2010 (roughly two years),
plaintiff worked as a telemarketer for a company called
Heartland Introductions. She worked for five hours a night,
five days a week. She read from a script and asked questions.
R. 59 (“Basically, I had to ask them questions about
what they liked to do for fun, what kind of person they were
looking for, as to date, what things they weren't looking
for.”). In 2011, plaintiff took care of her mother who
was ill. She helped her mother shower and get dressed,
cleaned the house, and cooked her meals. She worked there
every day, for five hours a day, for about five months. In
2012, plaintiff worked out of her home styling and cutting
hair. She explained as follows:
Well, I have a lot of-friend[s]-well, not a lot, but I'd
say between three and six friends of my husband and I, and
they would come to my home, and my husband would assist me
in, like, doing highlights, dying, cutting, things like that
because we have no income, and I-we had to do something to
try and make the money. But that didn't last a very long
because I-it was a lot of stress on me and my husband as
R. 60. She estimated that she did this work for five to eight
asked plaintiff why she thought she could not work now in
light of her work as a crew chief at Burger King. Plaintiff
answered as follows:
Now, I have a very hard time leaving the house to do things
that are important. I am unable to go to places without
somebody that I trust to be with me because I'm scared
I'm going to panic, and there's nobody to be there to
help me. I can't concentrate as to - I could then, and I
think that's it.
R. 62-63. Plaintiff described her “average day”
I wake up really early. I basically try and watch TV.
That's kind of hard for me because I worry a lot, and a
lot of things go through my mind to where I'm not even
really watching the TV. I'm more, like, just staring at
the walls the whole day. My husband does the cooking and
cleaning because I can't concentrate, or I think that
I'm not doing it right, or I just-I just-I feel I
can't do it due to my anxiety. My panic attacks, they
happen when I least expect it. I don't know whenever
they're going to come on, and I'm basically terrified
all day long that I'm going to have one because it feels
like I'm going to have a heart attack and I can't
R. 63. Plaintiff estimated that she had four panic attacks a
day, and that the attack would last “about 20 to 30
minutes.” R. 64. Plaintiff stated that “going
into large groups of people” caused the panic attacks,
although they sometimes also happened for no reason. R. 64.
Plaintiff had not been hospitalized for any attacks.
estimated that she went out of the house three times a week
to go to an anxiety therapy group and that she went with her
husband to the grocery store about four times a week. She
sometimes went to the anxiety group by herself. She explained
as follows: “I go alone. It was hard for me to go at
first, but I've gotten kind of close with Natalie , and