United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
Jason H. Plaintiff,
Andrew Marshall Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. Jensen United States Magistrate Judge
Jason H. brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
challenging the denial of disability benefits. The parties
consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The
Commissioner's decision is reversed, and this case is
filed his application on November 14, 2014, alleging
disability beginning July 16, 2014. R. 149. Plaintiff's
date last insured is December 31, 2017. R. 58. His
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. R.
66, 78. Plaintiff filed a timely written request for a
hearing on November 17, 2015. R. 91. On February 22, 2017, a
hearing was held by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Lana
Johnson. R. 31. Plaintiff, represented by an attorney,
appeared and testified via video conference. R. 33. Carolyn
Ward-Kniaz, an impartial vocational expert, also appeared and
testified. R. 54-56. On May 2, 2017, the ALJ issued her
written opinion denying Plaintiff's claims for disability
benefits. R. 16-25. Plaintiff appealed the decision to the
Appeals Council. R. 145-48. The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on December 17, 2017. R.
1-7. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's
decision, which stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. Schmidt v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 841
(7th Cir. 2007).
has an extensive history of several left knee procedures and
surgeries. On February 10, 2014, Dr. Marko Krpan performed an
arthroscopy of the left knee with partial medial and lateral
meniscectomy, chondroplasty medial formal condyle, and
synovectomy. R. 270. On July 17, 2014, Dr. Krpan performed a
unicompartmental knee arthroplasty, or partial knee
replacement, due to Plaintiff's left knee medial
compartment osteoarthritis. R. 276. A femoral nerve block was
performed to help relieve the pain. Id.
Unfortunately, Plaintiff suffered from significant weakness
and decreased sensation in his left quadriceps as a result.
R. 343, 345. An electromyography indicated a left femoral
neuropathy, or nerve dysfunction, with no evidence of
denervation. R. 346. Plaintiff later tore his lateral
meniscus and had an arthroscopy and debridement of the
lateral meniscus of the left knee on June 5, 2015. R. 39,
408, 409. Plaintiff demonstrated full range of motion in the
knee and reported no pain or instability in a follow-up visit
with Dr. Krpan on June 18, 2015. R. 409. In another follow-up
visit on September 15, 2015, Plaintiff stated that his pain
was almost completely resolved following the arthroscopic
debridement of the left knee but still experienced buckling
due to weakness in the quadriceps. R. 1025. Plaintiff stated
that he used a brace when outside the house or walking for
long periods, and he occasionally used his cane when not
wearing the brace. Id. On February 17, 2016,
Plaintiff stated that he was able to tolerate longer periods
of activity such as going up and down stairs but still
complained of his knee buckling. R. 1088. On February 25,
2016, Dr. Krpan diagnosed a new tear of the anterior horn of
the lateral meniscus. R. 1089-90. On March 14, 2016, Dr.
Krpan performed a total left knee replacement surgery. R.
1153. On May 5, 2016, Plaintiff reported that his total knee
replacement surgery result was outstanding and that he had no
instances of falls or buckling of his knees. R. 1081. In the
last visit with Dr. Krpan on August 17, 2016, Dr. Krpan
stated that Plaintiff had full knee motion and that the knee
was stable, which X-rays confirmed. R. 1092.
hearing before the ALJ on February 22, 2017, Plaintiff
testified that he worked as a tile setter, standing and
kneeling for most of the day. R. 37. The ALJ asked Plaintiff
why he felt he was disabled and unable to work, and Plaintiff
responded that the femoral nerve block performed in July 2014
paralyzed his quadriceps muscle. R. 38. He did not have
stability to control his knee and so he wore a custom leg
brace. Id. When asked if the nerve block affected
the strength in his knee, Plaintiff answered, “Yes . .
. that's why I am limited to what I can lift because of
the nerve block.” R. 48. Plaintiff further explained
that because his quadriceps were not working, he experienced
a lot of pain and the other muscles were working harder to
stabilize his leg. Id. That was why standing and
walking any distance became so painful to him. Id.
discussed his regular activities. Plaintiff testified that he
does household chores like cleaning the dishes, vacuuming,
doing laundry, and cooking. R. 41. He needs to sit down and
rest his leg occasionally when he does the dishes.
Id. Plaintiff goes grocery shopping but needs to
stop a few times to rest his leg. R. 42. Plaintiff goes to
the YMCA a couple days per week to ride a bicycle for twenty
to thirty minutes and lift weights while sitting. R. 41, 50.
Plaintiff stated that lifting weights would be a problem if
he was standing. R. 50. Plaintiff testified that he liked to
hunt and fish. R. 42. The last time he went fishing was six
months prior to the February 22, 2017 hearing. Id.
The last time he went hunting was in the middle of December
2016. R. 43. In both instances, Plaintiff's knee started
hurting so he had to stop. Id.
vocational expert also testified at the hearing. The ALJ
asked the vocational expert to imagine a hypothetical
individual, with Plaintiff's age, education, and with a
past job as a tile setter, who is able to perform sedentary
work except he can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds,
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl, and can never be around unprotected
heights. R. 54. The vocational expert testified that such an
individual cannot do the past job of tile setter.
Id. Instead, such an individual can perform other
jobs such as sorter, inspector, or assembler, which all exist
in substantial numbers in the national economy. R. 55. The
vocational expert was also asked, “if an individual
needs to elevate one of their lower extremities above waist
level for a portion for the eight hour work day, I would
assume that would preclude sedentary work; is that
accurate?” R. 56. The vocational expert answered,
The ALJ's Decision
written decision denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits,
the ALJ went through the five-step analysis for determining
whether a person is disabled under the Social Security Act.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4). The ALJ found at step one that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity. R. 18. At step
two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: left knee degenerative joint disease and
meniscus tear and left quadriceps dysfunction. Id.
At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no impairment