United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA M. KENDALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Charles F. seeks judicial review of an Administrative Law
Judge's (ALJ) denial of his application for disability
insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. (Dkt. 10 at
36.) Charles F. argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) applying
the incorrect legal standard to evaluate an expert medical
opinion, and (2) discrediting Charles F.'s statements
without good reasons. The Commissioner disagrees with both
claims and moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. 21.) Because the
ALJ properly assessed the expert medical opinion and had good
reasons to discredit Charles F.'s statements, the Court
grants the Commissioner's motion (Dkt. 21) and affirms
F. applied for disability benefits with the Social Security
Administration on April 24, 2014. (Dkt. 13 at 1.) Physically,
his diagnosis includes diabetes mellitus (DM), coronary
artery disease (CAD), degenerative disc disease (DDD), and
obesity. (Dkt. at 10, 26.) Mentally, Charles F. suffers from
major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety
disorder (GAD). (Id.) His impairments and their
corresponding treatment cause him pain, lethargy, trouble
walking, and difficulty with his thought process.
(Id. at 53-54.)
F. is a 48-year-old man. (Id. at 82.) He stands
6' tall and reported his weight at 264 pounds in his
disability benefits filings, though his recorded weight has
fluctuated between 222 and 245 pounds since then.
(Id. at 30, 82.) Once divorced, he now lives with
his fiancée, their 11-year-old daughter, and his
fiancée's 21 and 17-year-old sons. (Id.
at 51.) Charles F. last worked around 2008 as a
“picker” for Thornton Industries where he
operated a forklift moving boxes and pallets. (Id.
at 57.) He left the job after about a month because he could
neither “deal with the pain every day in [his]
legs” nor “understand the paperwork for
up, Charles F. had a difficult life at home and at school.
Both of his parents suffered from depression and alcohol
abuse.[‡] (Id. at 469.)
He described his home as “violent and chaotic.”
(Id.) Charles F.'s father died in 1992, his
brother in 2008, and his mother in 2010, all from myocardial
infarction (heart attacks). (Id.) Charles F.
attended school through the eighth grade and was in special
education classes for all subjects starting in the third
grade. (Id. at 55, 469.) Due to academic trouble, he
repeated both kindergarten and the eighth grade.
(Id. at 469.) Charles F. exhibited behavioral
problems in class with peers and teachers. (Id.)
days, Charles F. has limited ability to care for himself at
home. He can prepare simple microwaved meals and clean his
dishes, but he cannot stand for extended periods of time.
(Id. at 54.) He can groom and dress himself, but
needs help putting on his socks. (Id. at 64-65.)
Charles F. can use the bathroom on his own but requires the
help of his fiancée to shower. (Id. at 64.)
His fiancée and children aid with other household
chores. (Id. at 26.) Charles F.'s condition also
limits his recreation. He can toss a football with his
children, but then needs to rest. (Id.) Charles F.
estimates that he can walk for one block before he must take
a 15-minute rest. (Id. at 29.)
F. has suffered from diabetes mellitus (DM) since at least
2011, when he first visited Dr. Vermillion, his treating
physician. (Id. at 30.) Charles F. checks his blood
sugar at most twice a day and testified that it fluctuates
between 140 and 200. (Id.) The diabetes, combined
with leg neuropathy, causes tingling in his extremities,
which makes it difficult to walk and grasp objects.
(Id.) As a result, Charles F. frequently drops
Charles F. has coronary heart disease (CAD) and has survived
two heart attacks, the most recent in 2015. (Id. at
30, 50.) Consequently, Charles F. has a stent in his right
coronary artery. (Id. at 30.) Surgery after the
heart attack revealed a left ventricular ejection fraction
and severe inferior and moderate lateral wall hypokinesis.
(Id.) Accordingly, lifting certain objects causes
Charles F. chest pain. (Id.)
F. also has physical impairments in his back. He suffers from
degenerative disc disease (DDD) related to a herniated disc
in his spine. (Id.) Specifically, he has multilevel
lumbar spondylosis, central disc extrusion, and
“moderate to severe” central spinal impingement
of the L5 nerve roots. (Id.) Charles F. takes pain
medication for his back and diabetes-related impairments.
(Id.) Several years before Charles F.'s first
visit with Dr. Vermillion in 2011, Charles F. was prescribed
Vicodin for knee pain. (Id. at 751.) Charles F.
became addicted. (Id.) He started taking Suboxone in
2007, developed a physical and psychological dependence, and
continued to be prescribed the narcotic by Dr. Vermillion
through 2015. (Id. at 614.) At his hearing, Charles
F. denied that he still takes Suboxone and stated that he
takes Methadone instead. (Id. at 68.) Charles
F.'s obesity aggravates his DM, CAD, and DDD.
(Id. at 30.) Between 2014 and 2016, his body mass
index (BMI) fluctuated between 30 and 33. (Id.)
Charles F.'s hearing, the impartial medical expert
described Charles F.'s mental impairments as his
“primary diagnosis.” (Id. at 70.) Most
of the information related to Charles F.'s mental
impairments comes from a consultative, mental status
examination administered by Dr. Langgut on August 29, 2014.
(Id. at 469.) In the examination, Charles F.
described symptoms of “moderately severe
depression.” (Id. at 470.) Namely, Charles F.
reported feelings of “hopelessness, lethargy, sleep
problems, decreased concentration, daily mood disturbance,
decreased appetite, . . . worth-lessness, and frequent
tearfulness.” (Id.) He disclosed current
suicidal thoughts and admitted to a suicide attempt in 2011
that his children stopped. (Id. at 470-71.) Charles
F. also described feelings of panic-mitigated by
medication-and mild social phobia. (Id. at 471.) Dr.
Langgut conversely noted that Charles F. was “able to
laugh” and exhibited an activity level “within
normal limits, with no abnormalities of behavior.”
(Id.) Dr. Langgut diagnosed Charles F. with major
depressive disorder (MDD), alcohol abuse (in remission), and
social anxiety. (Id. at 472.)
mental status examination, Dr. Langgut also assessed Charles
F.'s cognitive profile. Charles F. exhibited
“intact” immediate, short-term, and long-term
memory skills. (Id. at 471.) Tests administered by
Dr. Langgut also revealed Charles F.'s
“intact” basic computational skills, though his
speed was slow. Further, Charles F. showed “an adequate
degree of abstract reasoning, ” “intact judgment
[and insight], ” “average coherence, ” and
“normal . . . [mental] flexibility.”
(Id.) Dr. Langgut acknowledged that Charles F.
demonstrates “moderately severe ruminative ideation,
mild obsessive ideas, and a mild phobia of social