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Iserman v. Berryhill

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

November 2, 2017

MARY ISERMAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          Michael T. Mason United States Magistrate Judge.

         Claimant, Mary Iserman (“Claimant”) ”) brings this motion to reverse the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”), denying Claimant's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i) and 423(d) 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). This Court has jurisdiction to hear this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). For the reasons stated below, Claimant's motion for summary judgment [13] is denied in part and granted in part, and the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment [21] is denied. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Claimant filed for DIB and for SSI on July 11, 2012, due to depression, chronic arm pain, and anxiety, alleging a period of disability beginning January 1, 2010, with a date last insured of June 30, 2012. (R. 81, 177.) Claimant's application for SSI was denied on July 24, 2012 because her resources were greater than the Illinois required minimum. (R. 177, 185.) Nothing in the record reflects that Claimant requested reconsideration of the Social Security Administration's (“SSA”) denial. (R. 345.) The ALJ did not discuss Claimant's SSI claim in his opinion. (R. 13-24.)

         Claimant's DIB claim was initially denied on November 1, 2012. (R. 105-09.) Claimant requested reconsideration of the denial of DIB on December 18, 2012. (R. 110.) After reconsideration, the claim was denied again. (R. 92.) Thereafter, Claimant filed a written request for hearing. (R. 119.) Claimant, represented by counsel, initially appeared and testified at a hearing before ALJ Lorenzo Level. (R. 33-70.) Vocational Expert (“VE”) Aimee Mowery also testified during the hearing. (Id.) Claimant then had a supplemental hearing, at which time VE Glee Ann L. Kehr appeared. (R. 73-80.)

         ALJ Level issued his decision on February 23, 2015. (R. 13-24.) The ALJ denied Claimant's claims for DIB, finding her not disabled for the relevant period. (Id.) The Appeals Council denied Claimant's request for review on June 21, 2016. (R. 1-4.) Because the SSA Appeals Council denied Claimant's request for review, the ALJ's decision is the final decision of the Commissioner and is, therefore, reviewable by District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         B. Medical Evidence

         Claimant alleged that her disability stemmed from depression, anxiety, and chronic arm pain, including pain in her left forearm and pain in her right shoulder. Claimant visited the Paulson Rehab-La Grange Clinic three times between March 25, 2010 and April 7, 2010 due to pain in her left elbow and was seen by Dr. Mark Coleman. (R. 565-67.) Physical therapy increased her shoulder, wrist, and elbow strength, but her grip strength remained weak. (Id.) On June 4, 2010, Dr. Lee Weiss at Pillars diagnosed Claimant with major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. (R. 464.)

         On April 7, 2011, Claimant visited Community Nurse Health Association complaining of chronic pain in her upper right shoulder. (R. 490.) She received a diagnosis of chronic neuromuscular pain in the right upper back and shoulder. (Id.)

         On June 1, 2011, Mark Maciuszek of Pillars reported that her feelings of depression limited her ability to complete her activities of daily living. (R. 621-25.) He further mentioned that Claimant had “successfully achieved her goal of finding work, ” referring to her part-time job at the Flame. (R. 621.)

         Claimant attended occupational therapy at Paulson Rehab-La Grange seven times between February 15, 2012 and March 12, 2012. (R. 536.) The reporting therapist noted that her pain, at its worst, was unchanged by physical therapy. (Id.) Claimant reported attempting to use her left arm in activities of daily living but that the pain or spasm was limiting. (Id.) There were no improvements noted in her left upper extremity following four weeks of therapy, and neither her short-term nor her long-term goals were met in that time. (Id.)

         On July 8, 2014, Dr. Nasreen Ansari, completed an assessment of Claimant. (R. 958.) In her report, she stated that Claimant would have been unable to work full-time from January 1, 2010 to the July 8, 2014. (Id.) She based this opinion on an elbow/arm fracture with residual pain and reduced range of motion, shoulder pain, arthritis, foot pain, and low back pain. (R. 959.)

         1. Agency Consultants

         On October 3, 2012, Dr. Herman Langner saw Claimant for a psychiatric evaluation. (R. 673.) Claimant self-reported a long history of depression, no energy, and lack of desire to leave the house and do anything. (Id.) This situation was elevated by the pain in her arm and the fact that “her two grown sons are sitting at home not doing anything.” (Id.) Dr. Langner diagnosed Claimant with dysthymic disorder. (R. 675.)

         Also on October 3, 2012, Dr. Mahesh Shah saw Claimant for an internal medicine consultative examination. (R. 677.) Her right hand reflected no limitations or difficulties. (R. 681.) Her left hand reflected moderate difficulties with opening a door knob, squeezing the blood pressure cuff, picking up a coin, buttoning, zipping, tying shoelaces, and pinching. (Id.) Claimant's grip strength was at 3/5 in her left hand. (Id.) Dr. Shah reported that Claimant may have had nerve injury to the left forearm and needed a further work-up, such as an EMG, nerve conduction velocity. (R. 680.)

         Claimant's file was also reviewed by Dr. Young-Ja Kim and Dr. R. Leon Jackson. (R. 85-90.) Dr. Jackson determined that she had affective and anxiety-related disorders-specifically that Claimant suffered from a medically determinable impairment that did not precisely satisfy the diagnostic criteria of a listing. (R. 85.) He assessed Claimant's psychological application as non-severe. (Id.)

         Dr. Kim rated Claimant as being able to occasionally lift less than twenty pounds and to frequently lift less than ten pounds. (R. 87.) She could stand or walk about six hours in an eight-hour work day and could sit for about six hours in an eight-hour work day. (Id.) He rated her gross and fine manipulations as limited with her left hand. (R. 87-88.) Dr. Kim opined that Claimant's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to produce her pain or other symptoms. (R. 86.) He found that Claimant's statements about intensity, persistence, and functionally limiting effects of the symptoms were not substantiated by the medical evidence alone and believed Claimant's statements to be partially credible. (Id.)

         Additionally, Dr. Terry A. Travis reviewed Claimant's psychiatric file and found that Claimant suffered from affective and anxiety-related disorders, but that her restrictions on activities and social functioning were mild. (R. 98-99.) ...

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