Date: July 6, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 C 6755 - Young
B. Kim, Magistrate Judge.
Posner, Kanne, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
POSNER, Circuit Judge.
Vanprooyen applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and
Supplemental Security Income, claiming disability based on a
litany of maladies. An administrative law judge found her
impairments to be severe but not disabling and denied
benefits. The Appeals Council of the Social Security
Administration denied review, and the district court (a
magistrate judge presiding by consent) upheld the
administrative law judge's decision, precipitating this
initially claimed to have become disabled in March 2010, when
she was 26 years old and fell down a flight of stairs and
suffered a brain hemorrhage. She also alleged a history of
post-traumatic stress disorder, short-term memory loss,
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, seizures,
by March 2009 Vanprooyen's personal physician, Dr.
Dorothy Jones, had prescribed generic Xanax to treat her
anxiety and panic attacks. In July, after she had begun
inpatient drug treatment, Dr. Jones noted that she was taking
a different anti-anxiety medication and pronounced her
"medically stable." In October and December a
psychiatrist named Harlan Alexander treated Vanprooyen for
anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. During one session
Vanprooyen revealed a history of addiction and said her Xanax
prescription kept running out because she must "double
it to make it work."
fall on the stairs caused a traumatic brain hemorrhage and
brain contusion in the left hemisphere, which required her
hospitalization. An EEG (electroencephalogram) performed to
rule out epileptic activity showed mild brain damage. After a
week she was discharged from the hospital with a doctor's
note saying that she could resume working after her next
neurosurgical appointment, which would be in a week or two.
She was prescribed medication, including Ul-tram, for general
pain, migraine headaches, and seizures.
later Vanprooyen saw Dr. Alexander. She told him she'd
experienced strong headaches since the fall and had run out
of the pain medication given her by the hospital doctors. The
psychiatrist prescribed her Ability, Zoloft, Trazadone, and
after her fall, Vanprooyen had a neurosurgery follow-up by a
Dr. Nassir Mansour, who declared she'd "made a very
good recovery." She was alert, her cranial nerves
intact, had full strength, and was "very keen to go back
to her job" as a waitress. But just a week later she
suffered a tonic-clonic (i.e., grand mal) seizure. She had
another seizure in the emergency room and was taken to
intensive care suffering from a subdural hematoma (bleeding
under the skull that can cause serious brain damage,
including death). Dr. Jones treated her at the hospital and
noted that her seizure medication had been discontinued. A
neurologist obtained a CT scan (a scan for determining
internal injuries) and noted that it showed softened brain
tissue. He opined that Vanprooyen "may be relatively
stable" but said she should take anti-epileptic
medication for at least two years. He ruled out driving for
six months, climbing to any height, using machinery, drinking
alcohol, showering without assistance, or working more than
eight hours a day. Though complying with the limitations
imposed by him, Vanprooyen continued to have headaches, and a
couple of weeks later the doctor changed her anti-seizure
medication-which however she stopped taking almost
immediately because it made her drowsy.
December 2010 she suffered another serious seizure, and the
neurologist reduced her work ceiling to six hours a day while
also stressing the importance of her taking her medication. A
few weeks later he reviewed a new EEG, which revealed
abnormalities in Vanprooyen's brain capable of causing
January 2011, Vanprooyen described to Dr. Alexander, the
psychiatrist, worsening anxiety, migraines, and difficulty
sleeping. At her next appointment she reported that her
mother had thrown out her Xanax. The Xanax had helped, so Dr.
Alexander refilled the prescription.
delivered a baby in October 2011. She hadn't suffered a
seizure since December 2010 even though another physician had
changed her anti-seizure medication because of negative side
effects, noting that Vanprooyen's medical issues included
the use of methadone to combat drug addiction.
days after her child was born, Vanprooyen went to the
emergency room after experiencing several days of pain (which
she scored at 7 of 10) radiating from her lower back to her
legs. An emergency room doctor attributed the pain to
fibromyalgia. After leaving the hospital she returned to Dr.
Alexander and told him she'd been anxious throughout her
pregnancy and wanted to resume taking Xanax (which apparently
she'd stopped taking while pregnant). Although the doctor
refilled the prescription, Vanprooyen's anxiety
didn't abate, and soon she began reporting ...