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Navarro v. Berryhill

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

November 29, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          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 (“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff Angelo Navarro's (“Plaintiff”) claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI 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 petition for summary reversal or remand is granted in part and the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 23] is denied.


         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for SSI on December 2, 2011 alleging a disability onset date of October 13, 2011 due to mental problems, delocated arm and shoulder, as well as two holes in his heart.[1] (R. 302, 324.) The claim was initially denied on March 23, 2012 and upon reconsideration on June 28, 2012. (R. 167-68.) Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing on July 11, 2012, which was held on April 16, 2014. (R. 198.) Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Lovert F. Bassett. (R. 109-66.) Dr. Ronald A. Semerdjian, MD, a medical expert, and Margaret H. Ford, a vocational expert, also appeared and testified. (Id.) On August 9, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable written decision, finding Plaintiff is not disabled. (R. 15-40.) The Appeals Council (“AC”) denied review on February 10, 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 December 6, 1965 and was forty-five years old as of his alleged onset date. (R. 302.) His records reflect that he last worked as a laborer in a spring factory for six months in 2008. (R. 318, 324.)

         A. Medical Records

         Although Plaintiff's administrative record contains evidence related to both his physical and mental impairments, the Court will only address those records which are necessary to resolve the issues raised by the parties.

         Well after his alleged onset date of October 13, 2011, Plaintiff presented to Dr. Robert Prescott, Ph.D., at the behest of the Bureau of Disability Determination Services for two separate formal mental evaluations. (R. 534, 1152.)

         Plaintiff's first exam with Dr. Prescott was on February 9, 2012. (R. 534.) To begin, Dr. Prescott questioned Plaintiff about his educational, marital, criminal, and vocational history. (R. 535.) Plaintiff, who served as the only informant on the matters, stated that he had been placed in special education classes in high school, but never graduated, had previously been married, and had no criminal history other than a DUI in 2004. (Id.) He explained that he had last been employed at the Garden Spring Company about two and half years prior to his exam date. (Id.) Dr. Prescott also noted that Plaintiff interacted in a cooperative manner throughout the examination and was well-articulated and understandable 90% of the time. (R. 536.)

         During the latter half of the examination, Dr. Prescott focused on Plaintiff's mental status. (Id.). Plaintiff reported bouts of depression, and explained that he was very irritable and often cried. (Id.) He additionally stated that he heard a voice which instructed him to engage in “bad” behavior, such as stealing. (Id.) Dr. Prescott diagnosed Plaintiff with a cognitive disorder not otherwise specified, mood disorder not otherwise specified, and intermittent explosive disorder. (R. 538.)

         Plaintiff's second examination with Dr. Prescott was on May 9, 2014. (R. 1152.) Once again, Dr. Prescott asked Plaintiff several personal history questions, to which Plaintiff was the only informant. (R. 1153.) Plaintiff stated that he had attended high school, but did not know if he had been placed in special education classes, had never been married, and had been to jail many times including as recently at six years prior to the examination. (Id.) Moreover, he reported that he had last worked at the Supreme Company over six years prior. (Id.) Dr. Prescott deemed Plaintiff a poor historian because Plaintiff had provided several contradictory statements between his two examinations, but nonetheless added personality disorder with antisocial features to his list of diagnostic impressions. (R. 1156-57.)

         At the same appointment, Dr. Prescott completed a Medical Source Statement of Ability to do Work-Related Activities (Mental). (R. 1158.) In it, he determined that Plaintiff would have moderate impairments in his ability to: understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; make judgments on simple work-related decisions; understand, remember, and carry out complex instructions or make judgments on complex work-related decisions. (Id.) He further opined that Plaintiff would have marked limitations in his ability to interact appropriately with the public, supervisors, and co-workers and to respond appropriately to usual work situations and to changes in a routine work setting. (R. 1159.) Dr. Prescott based this ...

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