United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division
JOYCE A. SHANK-HAGGERT, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
ORDER AND OPINION
JONATHAN E. HAWLEY, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court are the Plaintiff, Joyce A.
Shank-Haggert's, Motion for Summary Judgment (D.
and the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Affirmance (D.
20). The parties provided supporting Memoranda thereto. (D.
17-1; 21). For the reasons set forth, infra, this
Court REVERSES the Commissioner's Decision, GRANTS the
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (D. 17), DENIES
the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Affirmance (D. 20),
and REMANDS for further proceedings consistent with this
Order and Opinion.
January 2010, the Plaintiff filed her initial application for
benefits. Her husband died in January 2011. Ultimately, she
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), Supplemental
Social Security Income (SSI), and Widow's Insurance
Benefits (WIB), alleging disability beginning on September 7,
2009. Her claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. The Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and appeared before ALJ
Timothy Snelling. ALJ Snelling issued an unfavorable
decision. Pursuant to a request for review, the Appeals
Council remanded the Plaintiff's case.
second hearing via video in February 2014 before ALJ Shreese
Wilson, the Plaintiff appeared with counsel. Later that
month, ALJ Wilson issued a decision concluding that the
Plaintiff was not disabled. (D. 10 at pp. 167-178). The
Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for
review, making ALJ Wilson's Decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. The Plaintiff
filed the instant civil action, seeking review of ALJ
Wilson's Decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) in
September 2015. (D. 1).
time the Plaintiff applied for benefits, she was 55 years
old. She was living in a home in Empire, California, but now
lives in Rock Island, Illinois. The Plaintiff is a high
school graduate. She has not worked fulltime since 2008. On
the various SSA forms she submitted, the Plaintiff indicated
that she has disabling osteoarthrosis with allied disorders
most recent hearing before ALJ Wilson, the Plaintiff
testified that while she was initially overweight when she
filed her applications, she had since lost approximately 40
pounds by eating healthy and trying to walk 30 minutes per
day. The Plaintiff also said she can drive for approximately
one hour before pain in her knee starts bothering her.
hearing, the Plaintiff said she has not worked since December
17th, 2013. In the last 15 years, she has worked fulltime as
a manicurist and sales associate in a salon, an assistant
activities director, and as a teacher's aide in
preschools. While working in the salon, the heaviest thing
the Plaintiff had to lift were her clients' feet. She
said she quit that job due to tendinitis.
first position the Plaintiff held as a teacher's aide was
temporary, but she also said she was physically unable to
work in that position fulltime. She quit the second teaching
position she had because she was physically incapable of
doing the work any longer. The Plaintiff then became an
assistant activities director at an assisted living facility.
While working in this position she suffered a soft tissue
injury in an accident where she fell. After that, she says
her doctor prohibited her from lifting anything over 25
pounds but neglected to document the restriction. As a
result, she continued lifting things at work over 25 pounds
and her physical condition deteriorated. She testified that
her lifting duties consisted of pushing the residents in
their wheelchairs. The Plaintiff quit that job shortly after
a new management team took over at the facility.
September 2009, the date of her alleged onset of disability,
the Plaintiff has also worked a few different temporary part
time jobs. First she worked as a substitute preschool
teacher's aide for three to four months, at times for 40
hours a week. She did not need to lift any weight as part of
her duties, but she did spend a substantial amount of time on
her feet. Her employment ended there because they did not
need her services any longer. The Plaintiff has also worked
as a preschool teacher's aide for the YWCA from 2012 to
2013 on an as needed basis, averaging around three days per
week, sometimes more. Her shifts were as long as eight hours
a day. She had an assistant with her in the room and did not
need to do any heavy lifting.
Plaintiff is still on a list to be called if the YWCA needs
her help in that position. She claims that she cannot work a
fulltime job any longer because she is physically, mentally,
and emotionally incapable. After a few hours of work she is
prone to dropping things, her knees and back give out on her,
and she starts to forget important things.
Plaintiff lives alone in an efficiency apartment. She is able
to do all of her own cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping.
When grocery shopping, she typically utilizes a motorized
scooter. She reads regularly and has even volunteered to help
with a Christmas pageant in a retirement home across the
street from her house.
Plaintiff sees her treating physician continually to address
her fibromyalgia and arthritis. These conditions cause her
pain. The Plaintiff also said she has sleep apnea. She
normally treats the condition with a CPAP machine, but that
was broken at the time of the hearing. She takes Cymbalta to
treat her pain, alleviate her depression, and help her sleep.
Expert, Dennis Brian Paprocki, also testified at the
Plaintiff's hearing. Upon questioning from the ALJ,
Paprocki confirmed that someone in the Plaintiff's
position could engage in the Plaintiff's past work as a
preschool teacher's aide and an assistant activities
director, even if they were confined to the following
limitations: lifting no more than 40 pounds occasionally and
up to 25 pounds frequently; sitting, standing, or walking up
to six hours in an eight hour work day; only occasionally
climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; no more than
frequently climbing ramps or stairs, stooping, kneeling, or
reaching overhead bilaterally; having moderate limitations
with concentration, persistence, and pace when attempting to
complete tasks; no jobs that require complex job processes;
and no more than frequent interaction with the general
public. He said that the Plaintiff would not be able to
perform her past work in the salon within these restrictions.
based his assessment on how the Plaintiff actually performed
her past jobs, not necessarily how they are typically
performed in the national economy. He claimed she could
perform the first job she had as a preschool teacher as it is
typically done in the national economy since it is light work
and the limitations noted above by the ALJ constitute almost
the full range of medium work. Paprocki also said that the
Plaintiff's position as an assistant activities director
could be performed either as she had done so or as it is done
in the national economy. He considered the job, as she
performed it, to be lighter than it was performed nationally.
ALJ refined his hypothetical questioning, limiting someone in
the same position as the Plaintiff with the limitations noted
above and incorporating an additional requirement to entirely
avoid temperatures lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, Popracki
said the subject could not perform any of the Plaintiff's
past work. This was primarily due to her location in
Illinois, where it is simply unfeasible to avoid such
also testified that someone with the Plaintiff's past
work experience would not have any skills that would transfer
to other light or sedentary jobs within the original
limitations proposed. When the ALJ amended the original
scenario and limited the worker to no more than two hours of
standing and walking within an eight hour day, Popracki said
someone of the Plaintiff's stature would not be able to
perform her past relevant work. Popracki affirmed that his
testimony was consistent with the information found in the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). In closing,
Plaintiff's counsel requested that the ALJ take special
note of the weight restrictions imposed on the Plaintiff at
three specific consultative exams found in specific exhibits.
Decision, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff had the
severe impairments of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, obesity,
adjustment disorder, anxiety, hypertension, sleep apnea, and
headaches. (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). (D. 10 at pg.
170). She further determined, however, that the Plaintiff did
“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, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925
and 416.926).” Id.
analyzed the Plaintiff's medical records, including her
visits to mental health professionals. Id. at pp.
170-74. Regarding the latter, she found that while the
Plaintiff did suffer from some mental impairments, when
“considered singly and in combination, ” they did