United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. Cox Magistrate Judge.
Louise Davenport (“Plaintiff”) appeals the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Defendant, ” or the “Commissioner”)
to deny her application for disability benefits. Plaintiff
has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. 34.] For the
following reasons, Plaintiff's motion is denied [dkt. 34]
and the Administrative Law Judge's decision is affirmed.
who filed other unsuccessful applications for disability
benefits in the past, applied for Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act on May 2, 2012. (R. 225, 232, 247.) After
her claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration,
Plaintiff requested and received a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), at which she
appeared without counsel. (R. 76.) The ALJ advised Plaintiff
of her right to counsel and continued the hearing. (R.
108-110.) At her continued hearing date of March 13, 2014,
Plaintiff again appeared, waived her right to counsel, and
testified before the ALJ. A vocational expert
(“VE”) also testified. (R. 40-75.)
29, 2014, the ALJ issued a denial of Plaintiff's claim,
finding that Plaintiff was able to perform her past work as a
secretary or, in the alternative, other work, and that she
was not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act. (R.
34.) The Appeals Council then denied Plaintiff's request
for review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final
decision of the Commissioner and reviewable by this Court
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v.
Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005).
Plaintiff's Medical History
who is homeless, has a bachelor's degree and last worked
in 1999 as a secretary at a bank. (R. 47, 49, 252.) Medical
records from 2001 and earlier indicate that Plaintiff at
various times reported back pain, chest congestion, shortness
of breath, leg pain, fatigue, headaches, and dizziness. (R.
519-523, 530- 31.) She tested positive for mild cardiomegaly
(enlarged heart) and hypertension, which was treated with
hydrochlorothiazide. (R. 521-523.) In August 2002, she
visited the emergency room because of problems with her eye.
(R. 537.) She continued to experience hypertension, though
she was not taking any medications at that time.
(Id.) At a February 2003 medical appointment,
Plaintiff complained of excessive urination, excessive
thirst, some dizziness and nausea, shortness of breath on
exertion, and leg swelling. (R. 517.) She mentioned that she
had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
(Id.) She was prescribed two medications for high
blood pressure. (Id.)
file also contains some medical evidence from 2004 through
2010. Although these dates fall outside the period under
consideration for the purposes of Plaintiff's claims of
disability before 2003 and after 2012,  a summary of the
medical evidence is included here in order to draw a full
picture of Plaintiff's conditions. In January 2004, she
presented to the emergency room with chest pain and reported
that she had congestive heart failure. (R. 349.) However, the
emergency room physician doubted her report because she
acknowledged that she had not undergone an echocardiogram or
other testing to establish that diagnosis. Plaintiff stated
that she had been diagnosed solely based on swelling in her
legs and refused to undergo cardiac testing. (Id.) A
chest X-ray revealed she had bronchitis. (R. 359.) In April
2004, she was admitted to the hospital with chest pains and
edema in her feet and legs. (R. 368-377.) A chest X-ray
suggested early interstitial pneumonia. (R. 382.) In June
2004, a stress test electrocardiogram revealed a subnormal
exercise tolerance but no symptoms suggestive of ischemia
(reduced blood flow to the heart). (R. 365.)
returned to the hospital in August 2005 with chest pain and
left eye pain. (R. 389.) A chest X-ray indicated some
pulmonary scarring but no evidence of congestive heart
failure. (R. 395.) Follow-up eye care notes from 2005 through
2012 are difficult to read, but do confirm the presences of
uveitic glaucoma in the left eye and blepharitis (recurring
inflammation of the eyelid) in the right. (R. 478, 480-483,
485, 491.) The glaucoma since has caused blindness in her
left eye. (R. 445, 485, referencing “NLP, ” or
“no light perception, ” in the left eye.) She
retains vision in her right eye but continues to experience
irritation from blepharitis, which is treated with eye drops.
(R. 445, 483, 485.)
September 2007, Plaintiff again sought treatment for chest
pain and shortness of breath. (R. 400-01.) Treatments notes
indicate she was given education regarding non-cardiac chest
pain and a prescription for blood pressure medication.
(Id.) In December 2007, she went to the emergency
room reporting abdominal pain and discomfort when urinating,
and was released with prescriptions for blood pressure
medications and pantoprazole, a medication used to reduce
stomach acid. (R. 403.) April 2008 treatment notes indicate
that she had swelling in both legs and was given
prescriptions for two blood pressure medications. (R.
addition to care for her eye ailments, high blood pressure,
and chest pain, Plaintiff received foot care throughout 2009.
(R. 436-37, 439, 443-44.) Her podiatric records and a record
of a diabetes education session describe her as a diabetes
patient, though there is no record of her actual diagnosis in
her file. (R. 438, 442.) A June 2009 record from a diabetes
program indicates that the doctor was unsure whether
Plaintiff had diabetes, that her A1C was normal, and that the
program would recheck her fasting blood sugar. (R. 441.) In
July 2009, Plaintiff's fasting blood sugar tested at 122,
and the doctor noted that she had prediabetes. (R. 438.)
has also received treatment for arthritis. In January 2010,
she had experienced wrist pain, but recounted
“significant improvement” while being treated
with methotrexate. (R. 470.) Still, she experienced stiffness
for about ten minutes in the morning. (Id.) She also
reported feeling weak, with daytime sleepiness, while taking
methotrexate. (Id.) In May 2010, she described pain
in numerous joints, and stiffness in the morning in the first
hour after she wakes up. (R. 433.) She also recounted that
she experienced some swelling, and shortness of breath after
walking six to seven blocks in the morning or two to three
blocks later in the day. (Id.) Notes from July 2011
characterize her arthritis as “well-controlled.”
Her pain had improved and she had no complaints, although
mild tenderness in her joints persisted. (R. 484.) In October
2011, she had run out of medications and was again
experiencing “mild” rheumatoid anthric symptoms.
written function report dated June 8, 2012, Plaintiff
attested to extreme fatigue; pain and numbness in the upper
extremities and upper back; shortness of breath on exertion;
left eye blindness; a right eye that gets stuck shut and
requires frequent flushing; itching attacks; pain in the
knees, hips, ankles and lower back after sitting for a while;
and frequent headaches and dizziness. (R. 260-61.) She wrote
that she had extreme fatigue and fell asleep during the day.
(R. 260, 262.) She indicated that her impairments caused her
some trouble dressing, bathing, and doing her hair. (R. 262.)
She estimated that she could lift ten pounds and could walk
one to two blocks before needing to rest due to pain in her
legs. (R. 266-67.) She reported stiffness after sitting for
about 15 minutes and shortness of breath when climbing
stairs. (R. 267.)
August 2, 2012, reviewing physician Calixto Aquino, M.D.
reviewed Plaintiff's file, including medical records from
several sources, and determined that there was insufficient
evidence in the file to support a claim of disability. (R.
123- 25.) Dr. Aquino noted that an exam had been arranged
with a consulting internist in order to assess any
limitations in Plaintiff's motor abilities due to her
rheumatoid arthritis, but that Plaintiff had refused to
attend the exam. (R. 123-24.) A second state agency medical
consultant, Dr. James Madison, later reviewed Plaintiff's
file and concurred with Dr. Aquino's assessment. (R.
first hearing date on December 12, 2013, Plaintiff explained
that she had not undergone a scheduled consultative exam
because she believed that the evidence in her file was
already sufficient to establish disability. (R. 82-85.) The
ALJ indicated that he needed more evidence to make a
determination and agreed to order X-rays of her right
shoulder and elbow and to reschedule her consultative exam.
(R. 104-106.) He warned her that a failure to undergo the
exam would limit the arguments available to her and would
affect his decision. (R. 83-85, 98-99, 106.) The ALJ then
explained to Plaintiff her right to counsel and postponed the
hearing in order to give her time to seek representation. (R.
second hearing date on March 23, 2014, Plaintiff again
appeared without counsel, waiving her right to
representation. (R. 40, 45, 216.) She had not undergone a
consultative examination. She testified that, when walking,
she frequently had to stop due to shortness of breath, and
she also had pain in her legs and hips. (R. 50-51, 63.) She
observed, “everybody walks faster than I do.”
(Id.) She stated that she had recently gone to the
arthritis clinic with pain and swelling in her hands, and
that the arthritis also caused pain in her elbows and
shoulders. (R. 52, 55-56.) She had trouble lifting her arms
to do her hair. (R. 65.) Sometimes, her neck was stiff as
well, and she had sciatic pain going from her back to her
leg. (R. 57.) She was taking Methotrexate for arthritis and
Diovan for hypertension. (R. 53- 54.) She sometimes felt
dizzy but did not know why. (R. 54.) She frequently fell
asleep during the day, and would get thrown out of places for
falling asleep. (R. 64- 65.) She also stated that her
shortness of breath was a result of congestive heart failure.
vocational expert (“VE”) also testified. She
described Plaintiff's past work as a secretary as light
work. (R. 68.) The ALJ then asked whether Plaintiff's
past job could be performed by a person who could work at a
light exertional level but who lacked peripheral acuity on
the left side; could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
could frequently but not constantly stoop; could only
occasionally crouch, kneel, or reach overhead; could never
crawl; must avoid concentrated exposure to the cold ...