Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cunningham v. Berryhill

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

July 27, 2018

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


          Susan E. Cox U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Stella L. Cunningham (“Plaintiff”) appeals the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her disability insurance benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion is denied (Dkt. 13), the Commissioner's motion (Dkt. 22) is granted, and the Administrative Law Judge's decision is affirmed.

         I. Background

         a. Procedural History and Claimant's Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on June 4, 2014, with an alleged onset date of disability as of January 1, 2014. (Administrative Record (“R”) 91.) Her initial application was denied on October 28, 2014, and again at the reconsideration stage on May 1, 2015. (R. 91.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on September 19, 2016. (R. 91.) On October 28, 2016, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act and denying Plaintiff's application. (R. 91-104.) On July 30, 2017, the appeals council denied Plaintiff's request for review, thereby rendering the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the agency. (R. 1-6); Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 332 (7th Cir. 1994).

         b. Medical Evidence

         Most of Plaintiff's medical evidence in the administrative record comes from her treating primary care physician, Dr. Varsha Bilolikar, M.D.; the Court will only discuss those medical findings that are potentially relevant to Plaintiff's claims.[1] For the vast majority of the visits with Dr. Bilolikar, Plaintiff reported that she was experiencing no pain affecting her activity level and was seeking medication refills for her diabetes mellitus or presenting with issues unrelated to the current case. On May 23, 2014, Plaintiff presented with a “diabetic foot laceration” from stepping on a piece of glass. (R. 388-89.) She said that the pain from the foot laceration affected her activity level. (R. 389.) She had decreased sensation surrounding the laceration, and was ordered to stay off her foot as much as possible. (R. 390.) On July 8, 2014, when Plaintiff followed up for her foot, she reported that it had healed and that she no longer had any pain relating to the foot. (R. 394.)

         On September 21, 2015, Plaintiff followed up with Dr. Bilolikar after having gone to Holy Cross Hospital due to chronic hip issues. (R. 413.) Plaintiff claimed she had been diagnosed with a right hip fracture at Holy Cross. (R. 414.) However, she once again stated that she did not have any pain affecting her activity level, but did report having “nerve pain” in her right leg. (Id.) Dr. Bilolikar referred Plaintiff to an orthopedist and prescribed Norco and Naproxen for the pain. (R. 416.)

         On December 31, 2015, Plaintiff's chief complaint was listed as “[r]eturn to work statement off for elevated sugar.” (R. 421.) It is unclear how long Plaintiff had been off work, or what type of statement she was seeking at that time. On January 7, 2016, Plaintiff sought to have Dr. Bilolikar complete forms related to Plaintiff's work restrictions. At that time, Plaintiff reported that she was working for Amazon, and on her feet for 10 hours per day; she had not followed up with the orthopedist for her right hip, and reported no pain affecting her activity levels. (R. 427.) It is unclear whether Dr. Bilolikar ever completed the aforementioned forms, as they do not appear in the administrative record.

         On February 25, 2016, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Bilolikar related to an elbow injury she suffered. (R. 438.) According to this note, Plaintiff was excused from work for six weeks by the orthopedist “due to hip fracture and arthritis, ” and Plaintiff had “paperwork to be filled for fracture of right hip” for the orthopedist. (Id.) No. such records from the orthopedist appear in the record. On March 28, 2016, Plaintiff reported to Dr. Bilolikar that she had seen the orthopedist, who diagnosed her as having arthritis in both hips. (R. 449.) On June 27, 2016, Plaintiff presented to Dr. Bilolikar, stating that she was stressed that she was unable to work due to pain in her hips and that she had been diagnosed with bilateral hip arthritis. (R. 481.)

         The administrative record includes some diagnostic testing as well. An x-ray of Plaintiff's hip taken on November 2015 showed no acute findings, but did show a “triangular-shaped well-corticated ossific density involving the right posterior acetabulum, ” which “may represent an os acetabula or remote trauma.” (R. 334.) The x-ray also showed similar findings in Plaintiff's left hip, as well as two screws from a previous hip injury.[2] (Id.) According to the record, the pelvis x-ray was compared to an x-ray from September 15, 2015. (Id.) The record also contains an orthopedic consultation note from Dr. James Schiappa, stating that Plaintiff was seen on January 30, 2016 “status post a fractured chip fracture of the acetabulum, right hip on 9/15/15.” (R. 331.) There are no records the Court can find dated September 15, 2015.

         On August 24, 2016, Plaintiff had another hip x-ray, which showed “marked foreshortening and mild deformity” in Plaintiff's left femoral neck, hypertrophic changes at the “superolateral left acetabulum, ” and mild degenerative changes in both hips. (R. 490.) In Plaintiff's right hip, there was a “vertical linear lucency, ” which “likely represent[ed] old fracture, initially seen on right hip exam of 9/15/15.” (Id.)

         The record also contains several opinions from Dr. Georges Germain, who is reportedly another of Plaintiff's treating physicians. The only documents in the record from Dr. Germain are these opinions; there are no treatment notes, test results, or other evidence from Dr. Germain. First, on April 9, 2012, Dr. Germain opined that Plaintiff could not lift more than 10 pounds at a time, had between 20-50% reduced capacity in walking, bending, standing, stooping, sitting, turning, and ability to perform activities of daily living, and a more than 50% reduced capacity in climbing. (R. 244.) Dr. Germain reported that he had been treating Plaintiff since 1995 on a yearly basis, and that she had been hospitalized four times in 2012 for diabetic foot ulcers.

         Second, on September 3, 2014, Dr. Germain issued another opinion, stating that Plaintiff could sit for only 15 minutes at a time, stand/walk for only 10 minutes at a time, sit for one hour in an eight-hour workday, and stand/walk for one hour in an eight-hour workday. (R. 247.) Dr. Germain believed that Plaintiff would need to take unscheduled work breaks every 15 minutes, lasting up to 30 minutes, and that she could never lift more than 10 pounds. (Id.) According to Dr. Germain, Plaintiff was not physically capable of working an eight-hour day for five ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.