United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. JOHNSTON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Alvin Hines, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), seeking remand of the decision denying his social
security disability benefits. For the reasons set forth
below, the decision is remanded.
March 15, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for
supplemental security income benefits, alleging disability
beginning June 1, 2006. R. 88, 267. Plaintiff's
application was denied initially on September 2, 2010, and
upon reconsideration on December 15, 2010. R. 145, 151. An
administrative hearing was held on June 5, 2012, and the ALJ
rendered a decision in favor of the government on June 29,
2012. R. 12-46, 94-102.
appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, and submitted
additional evidence for consideration. R. 107-09. His request
for review was granted, and the Appeals Council vacated the
hearing decision and remanded the case for further
proceedings on December 18, 2013. Id. To support its
position, the Appeals Council cited to the new and material
evidence provision of the Social Security Administration
regulations (20 C.F.R. § 416.1470). Id. The
Appeals Council noted that the new evidence revealed
Plaintiff's mental impairments were more severe than
originally thought, and upon remand, requested that the ALJ
address specific areas, which it listed in bullet point form,
to complete the administrative record and issue a new
decision. R. 108-09.
September 17, 2014, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) held a hearing to review the Social
Security Administration's denial of Plaintiff's
request for benefits. R. 47-87. The ALJ acknowledged that
Plaintiff's case had been remanded so that his case could
be reviewed in light of the additional evidence, which dealt
primarily with Plaintiff's mental impairments. R. 50-51.
hearing, Plaintiff testified that the last time he was
employed was in 2006 (in Texas), and that he made a living
driving a truck at that time. R. 55. When asked about his
daily activities, Plaintiff told the ALJ he does not cook
because he is “very forgetful, ” and may
“forget . . . something on.” R. 59. When the ALJ
asked the Plaintiff if he goes to the store for groceries, he
stated, “I can't go . . . I don't remember too
good . . . I might get lost or something . . . .” R.
60. Plaintiff told the ALJ, “I can stand about 15
minutes” and I can walk “half a block.” R.
57. He further testified that the heaviest thing he can lift
is “a gallon of milk.” R. 60. Plaintiff indicated
that he uses an inhaler, “Maybe four or five times a
day, ” and a nebulizer (at home) four times a day. R.
58. Plaintiff told the ALJ that his sleep is “terrible,
” but also indicated that he takes Seroquel, which
helps him sleep better. Id.
revealed he hears voices, “not regularly but every now
and then” and that the voices tell him to “get up
. . . move around . . . [and] be quiet . . . .” R.
56-57. He further admitted to having problems being around
people. Id. 57. Plaintiff indicated that there were
some occasions where he would not leave his apartment for
three days because he was “really depressed.”
the hearing, the ALJ pointed out that the Plaintiff had
“issues with drugs and alcohol before.” R. 61.
She asked Plaintiff if he still took drugs and drank alcohol,
to which the Plaintiff responded, “No, I don't
drink or smoke” and indicated it had been years since
he did either of those things. R. 62. Plaintiff confirmed
that he was still receiving treatment from Crusader Community
Health and Rosecrance treatment centers, which prescribed him
medications that treated his breathing issues, and muscle
spasms. R. 63.
the hearing, the ALJ questioned Clinical Psychologist and
Medical Expert, Dr. Michael Carney. R. 64. Dr. Carney told
the ALJ that he had reviewed Plaintiff's medical and
mental health records and was able to identify
Plaintiff's mental impairments that were established in
those records. R. 65. Dr. Carney described Plaintiff's
impairments as being “schizoaffective.” R. 71-72.
He agreed that there was, “some emotional withdrawal
and isolation” that was consistent with the record, and
that Plaintiff's depressive symptomatology provided
evidence of a schizoaffective diagnosis. R. 72-73. Dr. Carney
explained that Plaintiff suffered from schizoaffective
disorder because “there's some thought disorder as
well as some affective disorder.” R. 73. He also
recognized that Plaintiff experienced problems with
“sleep, appetite, energy, and concentration.” R.
72. Dr. Carney further told the ALJ that Plaintiff's
impairments “probably equal[ed] a listing . . . in
terms of social functioning and concentration, pace and
persistence.” R. 74. He confirmed that if
Plaintiff's complaints were credible, his impairments
would equal the listing, starting June 2012. Id. at
vocational expert (VE) testified to Plaintiff's past
work, and identified this work (within the last fifteen
years) as being medium level unskilled jobs, such as
warehouse or DOT laborer, SVP 2, DOT 922.687-058; truck
driver, which the VE identified as medium semiskilled, SVP of
4, DOT 905.663-014. R. 80-81. The VE also indicated that
examples of unskilled work existed. R. 81. In response to the
ALJ's hypothetical, where a person of Plaintiff's
age, education and work experience who had no exertional
limitations but is limited to simple, routine, repetitive
tasks and a work environment free of fast-paced production
requirements with only simple work-related decision making,
few if any changes in the work setting; no more than
occasional contact with the public, co-workers and
supervisors; and in addition to that must avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, environmental and
respiratory irritants, the VE indicated that a person with
these restrictions would have past work that was available to
him. Id. at 81-82. The VE revealed that this person
could perform the job of “laborer, stores position,
” but that he could not perform the truck driver's
position because “that's not a simple job.”
R. 82. The VE further opined that if the hypothetical
included having no public contact, but occasional contact
with supervisors and co-workers, one job would remain
available. R. 82.
testified that light jobs would be available to Plaintiff if
past work was not available under the ALJ's hypothetical.
R. 83. The VE stated that “cleaner job, DOT 323.687-014
. . . [and] hand packers, DOT 920.686-038 . . . .”
existed. Id. The VE further indicated that at the
light unskilled level, laundry workers, DOT 361.687-014,
vehicle cleaner, DOT 919.687-014” and dishwashers, DOT
318.687-010 would also be available. R. 83-84. Finally, the
VE indicated that if the hypothetical were modified to
include a “medium exertion level” with
“occasional public contact, ” decreasing the
amount of public contact would reduce the number of jobs
available by twenty-five percent. R. 84-85.
November 20, 2014, Plaintiff's application was denied for
the second time. R. 114-138. Plaintiff appealed to the
Appeals Council, but his request for review was denied. R.