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Hadac v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 1, 2017

PATRICIA HADAC, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HON. MARIA VALDEZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff Patricia Hadac's (“Plaintiff”) claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 8] is granted and the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 15] is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on November 19, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of August 12, 2013.[2] (R. 22.) Her initial application was denied on July 18, 2014, and again at the reconsideration stage on May 15, 2015. (R. 123, 138.) Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on February 3, 2016. (R. 38-110.) Plaintiff appeared at the hearing, represented by counsel and offered testimony. (Id.) A vocational expert and medical expert also appeared and offered testimony. (Id.) On February 24, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable written decision, finding Plaintiff is not disabled. (R. 19- 37.) The Appeals Council (“AC”) denied review on March 23, 2016, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner and, therefore, reviewable by the District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005); Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 332 (7th Cir. 1994); (R. 1-6).

         II. Medical Evidence

         Plaintiff was born on February 16, 1951 and was sixty-two at the time of her alleged onset date. (R. 124.) She completed high school in 1968 and had worked at McDonald's Corporation as a service center representative since 1999. (R. 223-24, 238.) On August 1, 2000, Plaintiff was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but she continued to work until August of 2013[3], at which time she went on short-term medical leave. (R. 381, 395.) Her short-term disability subsequently ended in January of 2014. (R. 381.)

         A. Medical Records

         In November 2013, at which time Plaintiff was already on short-term disability from work, she presented to Dr. Edward Sankary, M.D., due to tremors, pain, and fibromyalgia.[4] (R. 351.) In part, she and Dr. Sankary discussed the possibility of going on full-time disability. (Id.) Plaintiff explained that she felt that her symptoms had improved during her short-term disability and would resume if she were to begin working again. (R. 352.)

         She returned to Dr. Sankary the next month, in December 2013, where she reported that she was doing “terrible” due to body pain, anxiety, tremors in her arms and legs, “fibro-fog”, [5] and “fibro-zombiism”. (R. 347.) Dr. Sankary diagnosed her with, inter alia, fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression, mixed disorders as a reaction to work-related stress, and panic attacks. (Id.) Later that same month, Dr. Sankary referred Plaintiff to a psychiatrist to evaluate her symptoms of anxiety and possible depression. (R. 364.)

         Based upon Dr. Sankary's referral, Plaintiff began treatment with Dr. Frank DeLaurentis, Psy.D., in late December 2013. (R. 370). Upon examination, Dr. DeLaurentis diagnosed Plaintiff with an unspecified anxiety state. (R. 371.) Further down in his notes, he explained that her symptoms of anxiety were “mostly in the context of work.” (R. 372.)

         Plaintiff returned to Dr. Sankary in early 2014, where she expressed that she was concerned about her disability and the possibility that she may have to return to work. (R. 354-56.) Dr. Sankary discussed Plaintiff's fibromyalgia extensively with her before noting that he was following it through her psychiatry treatment. (R. 356.)

         In January 2014, Dr. DeLaurentis expressed that Plaintiff did not have any evidence of clinical depression, but explained that returning to work would likely result in a relapse of her anxiety and significant impairments in her functioning. (R. 370.) Although Plaintiff returned to Dr. DeLaurentis in February 2014, it was not until March 2014, that he confirmed she had depressed mood and constricted affect. (R. 366.) At the same examination, Dr. DeLaurentis found that Plaintiff had no notable difficulties in memory or attention. (Id.) Dr. DeLaurentis opined that Plaintiff would be unable to return to her current work on a full-time basis, particularly because her anxiety and depression would likely increase under the day-to-day demands and work stressors. (Id.) Plaintiff continued treatment with Dr. DeLaurentis until at least June 2014, at which time he opined that Plaintiff had not have any significant changes since March 2014. (R. 844.) In fact, his June 2014 examination revealed that Plaintiff's mood was slightly depressed and anxious, but she showed no difficulties in memory or attention. (R. 845.)

         In September 2014, Dr. Sankary completed a Fibromyalgia Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire. (R. 391-93.) First, he confirmed that she met the American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia, and noted that she also suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. (Id.) In the report, he opined that Plaintiff would frequently be absent from work due to her impairments, could only occasionally sustain the attention and concentration need to perform simple work tasks, and would be incapable of even low-stress jobs. (Id.).

         In addition to the foregoing, Plaintiff's record contains several opinions from non-examination state agency consultants, including Dr. R. Leon Jackson, Ph.D. (R. 118-20.) Dr. Jackson opined Plaintiff would be moderately limited in her ability to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods, perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances; complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods; and respond to changes in the workplace setting. (R. 118-19.)

         B. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff was present at her administrative hearing in February 2016 and offered testimony. In addition to detailing her pain symptoms and medical history, Plaintiff ...


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