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Lorenzen v. Berryhill

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

December 19, 2017

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


          Susan E. Cox, U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Brandie N. Lorenzen (“Plaintiff”) filed this action seeking reversal of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on February 7, 2017.[dkt. 13].The Commissioner filed her response on May 24, 2017. [dkt. 22]. Plaintiff filed her Reply on May 30, 2017. [dkt. 23]. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted. This matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed for SSI as an adult on December 5, 2012, alleging disability beginning December 6, 1997.[1] (R. 22). Her claim was denied initially on May 8, 2013, and upon reconsideration on November 4, 2013. (Id.) Plaintiff filed a written request for hearing on November 20, 2013. (R. 154). She appeared and testified at a hearing held on January 6, 2015, in Orland Park, Illinois. (R. 40). The ALJ also heard testimony from Duane Biglow of Eps Rehabilitation, Inc., an impartial vocational expert (“VE”), and Kelly Lorenzen, Plaintiff's mother. (Id.) Plaintiff was represented by John E. Horn, attorney. (Id.)

         The ALJ issued his written decision denying Plaintiff's application for SSI on April 14, 2015. (R. 35). The Appeals Council denied review on August 20, 2016, thereby rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the agency. (R. 1); Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 332 (7th Cir. 1994).

         II. Medical Evidence

         From December 28, 2011, until September 13, 2013, Plaintiff was seen often at Lurie Children's Hospital for her rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. (R. 383-1953). Plaintiff took Remicade for her arthritis, which reportedly improved her symptoms. (R. 395).

         Regarding Plaintiff's learning disability, Plaintiff has produced two IQ tests. The first was performed by Alan Long, Ph.D., and was performed October 5, 2004, when Plaintiff was nine years old. (R. 371). She performed at a low average range for verbal comprehension, extremely low in perceptual reasoning, and was borderline in working memory, and processing speed. (R. 372). Her full-scale IQ was 70, which Dr. Long noted was borderline. (Id.) His report also noted that Plaintiff had been tested twice before, in 1998, when she earned a full scale IQ of 65 and in 2001 when she earned a full scale IQ of 64. (R. 371).

         She was tested by Felix Caceres, M.A., L.C.P.C., on November 19, 2007, when she was twelve. (R. 377). This record showed low average general intelligence and similar verbal and nonverbal skills. (R. 377). The Plaintiff also demonstrated reading ability in the 33rd percentile and writing skills in the 19th percentile. (Id.) She had low math skills for her grade. (Id.) The examiner noted that Plaintiff's math and writing skills fell below the range predicted by her intelligence. (Id.) She had relative weaknesses in her sequential processing and short term visual memory; her math and written expression skills were poorly developed for her grade. (Id.) He recommended that she be considered for Special Education eligibility under the Learning Disability category. (Id.)

         III. School Records

         In addition to medical reports, Plaintiff produced Progress Reports from her high school. (R. 227-56). In January 2013, Plaintiff was meeting goals on her individualized education program (“IEP”), including obtaining information required for her transition to post-secondary education, such as knowledge of acceptance requirements, registration information, and tuition. (R. 228). In her Summary of Performance from November 9, 2012, Plaintiff appears to be meeting the majority of the goals set for her by her IEP team. (R. 233). Plaintiff is reading and comprehending at the 12th grade level in regular education classes with accommodations and received a 12 on the reading section of the ACT. (R. 233). She scored a 6 on the math section of the ACT, showing she was “beginning to develop” the skills to perform one-operation computation with whole numbers and decimals. (R. 234). She is reportedly a “typical high school senior, ” interested in attending Columbia College in Chicago and going into theater and film. (R. 234). She recognized how her disability affected her school work and identified accommodations and services that helped her succeed in her school work. (Id.) The report also listed recommendations to help the student, including suggesting that Plaintiff completed job applications, continued living at home to save money and work towards independent living skills, sought opportunities for community participation, and continued to research specific programs at Moraine Valley Community College. (R. 236). She was also described as a “bright hard working student” and “self-advocate for herself” who understood “how to use her accommodations in her classes.” (R. 238). Her reading skills are average; her English teacher believed she could comprehend the novels read in class, but benefitted from having them read to her or listening to the audiobook. (Id.)

         In her earlier reports, from 2009-2010, the administrator noted that Plaintiff did not independently know how to locate a place to live in the community, set up a living situation, manage her own money, or use local transportation. (R. 242). However, she maintained personal grooming and hygiene and could perform everyday household tasks. (Id.) She knew how to get a job and demonstrated general job skills and work attitude preferred by employers for keeping a job and advancing. (Id.) It was still recommended that she take occupational essentials in her sophomore year. (Id.) Her report from November 9, 2012, stated that Plaintiff had been functioning in the school setting with no concern regarding her social or emotional needs and recommended that social work services on a consult basis be discontinued. (R. 256).

         Plaintiff also produced letters from Trinity Christian College written in December 2013 and January 2014 dismissing her for failure to obtain the required GPA of 1.00. (R. 2051-52). She received additional help from Moraine Valley Community College's Center for Disability Services. (R. 2053). However, she produced a letter dated December 22, 2014, putting her on warning status at Moraine Valley because her GPA was below ...

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