United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division
AMIE R. FRIDAY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER AND OPINION
JONATHAN E. HAWLEY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court are the Plaintiff, Amie Friday's, Motion
for Summary Judgment (D. 16) and the Commissioner's Motion
for Summary Affirmance (D. 23). The Commissioner provided a
supporting Memorandum thereto. (D. 24). For the reasons
stated herein, the Court DENIES the Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment and GRANTS the Commissioner's Motion
for Summary Affirmance.
March 2013, Friday filed an application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) alleging disability beginning in
September 2012. Her claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Friday requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and appeared before ALJ Robert
Schwartz in February 2015, represented by counsel. ALJ
Schwartz issued a decision concluding that Friday was not
disabled. (D. 10 at pp. 15-27). The Appeals Council denied
Friday's request for review in April 2016, making ALJ
Schwartz's Decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. Friday filed the
instant civil action, pro se, seeking review of the
ALJ's Decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) in May
2016. (D. 1).
time Friday applied for DIB, she was 36 years old. She was
living in a home, in Macomb, Illinois with her husband and
their four children. Friday graduated from high school but
has not worked since September 30, 2012. On the various SSA
forms she submitted, she indicated that she has disabling
epilepsy, fibromyalgia, and depression. Friday alleges her
disability began on September 20, 2012.
hearing before ALJ Schwartz, Friday's legal counsel
argued that while Friday may not meet the requirement for any
Listings individually, the combination of her impairments -
especially the fibromyalgia combined with epilepsy-have left
her disabled. Friday testified that she has a driver's
license but drives sparingly, in part because of her fear of
having a seizure. (D. 10 at pg. 40). She has not discussed
her potential to have a seizure while driving with any of her
doctors. Id. at pg. 41.
has past relevant work experience as a cosmetologist and a
cashier. She stopped working as a cosmetologist in 2012
because she wanted to do something different. Shortly
thereafter, she started working as a cashier and began having
difficulty with pain in her legs and back. At this time,
Friday said, she started having seizures as well. She
ultimately quit working because she was going to doctor's
appointments so frequently.
for the first few months, Friday was having "up to four
to five [seizures] a day until [her doctors] got it
controlled with the medicines." Id. at pg. 44.
With her current medication, Topamax, she no longer has
seizures. Friday did say, however, that there are times when
she feels as if she is about to have a seizure. She remedies
this by laying down for a brief rest and drinking a glass of
water. Friday can recover from these episodes in
approximately 15 minutes and she estimates they happen
approximately one to three times per month.
number of Friday's treating physicians assessed whether
she had multiple sclerosis. Friday stated that their findings
were inconclusive at the time of the hearing. She said what
bothered her most was pain in her legs, back, neck, and head.
Friday testified that the pain is so severe that she has
difficulty standing at times and nearly collapses when she
tries to do so. On days when she can stand, the longest she
can stand without experiencing an onslaught of pain as a
result is approximately 15 to 30 minutes. Likewise, she
cannot walk more than a few blocks, sit for too long, or lift
more than around eight pounds without disabling pain ensuing.
also said her hands have a tendency to go numb. This causes
her to drop things occasionally. She further testified that
that she struggles with balance from time to time, mainly due
to dizziness, and suffers from migraines on average twice a
week. Friday said she needs to take frequent breaks, but is
otherwise capable of doing household chores such as dishes
Friday said she has good days -those where she does not
experience extensive pain-approximately two to three days a
month. Most days, however, are bad days and she spends the
bulk of those days in bed watching TV. Id. at pg.
56. A consultative psychologist diagnosed Friday with mild
major depressive disorder secondary to physical issues.
Friday said she knows she has problems with anxiety, but is
not sure whether she suffers from depression. In addition,
she said she struggles with memory loss.
spite of the struggles she testified to, Friday also
testified to engaging in a variety of daily activities,
including some work activity, after the alleged onset of her
disability. She reported that she cares for her children and
gets them ready for school. Friday also said she does the
laundry, reads, and watches television. She indicated that
she goes shopping regularly, spends a lot of time reading
with her young daughter, talking on the phone, visiting with
friends, and sometimes uses a computer. Friday is able to
care for her personal hygiene needs independently.
Expert, James Ragains, also testified at Friday's
hearing. Based on Friday's testimony, Ragains concluded
that Friday had past relevant work history as a cosmetologist
and a cashier. He stated that someone in Friday's
position could perform light work, without climbing ladders,
ropes, or scaffolding, while being required to climb ramps or
stairs and balance no more than occasionally. The person
would also have to avoid even moderate exposure to hazards
such as unprotected heights or dangerous machinery. Ragains
said that someone in Friday's position would be able to
perform both of Friday's past jobs. He opined that
someone similarly situated to Friday could not perform the
job of cosmetologist within the same limitations previously
noted and factoring in Friday's side effects from
medication, her experience with pain, problems with anxiety,
a limitation to performing simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks on a sustained basis with only routine breaks, avoiding
concentrated exposure to loud or very loud environments, and
all allowable postural activities (ramps, stairs, stooping,
kneeling, crouching, crawling, and balancing) limited to
being only occasional. She could, however, perform the job of
cashier and other similar types of jobs within these
limitations. Ragains provided approximate figures for the
availability of some of these types of jobs, both in the
state of Illinois and nationally. He also stated that his
testimony was consistent with the information found in the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and that the portions
of his testimony not specifically addressed by the DOT were
based on his professional experience.
Decision, ALJ Schwartz determined that Friday had the severe
impairments of fibromyalgia and a history of a seizure
disorder. (20 CFR 404.1520(c)). Id. at pg. 20. He
further determined, however, that Friday "does not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR
404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526)/' Id. at 23.
While Friday complained about a variety of medical problems
beyond those she listed in her initial DIB application, the
ALJ found that the medical evidence regarding these other
issues - including depression, anxiety, and multiple
sclerosis - did "not cause more than minimal limitation
in the claimant's ability to perform ...