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Jones v. Saul

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

September 30, 2019

ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Jennifer Jones seeks judicial review of an adverse decision on her claim for disability insurance benefits under Sections 216(I) and 223 of the Social Security Act.

         Pending are the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and Defendant's motion for summary affirmance.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Jennifer Jones alleges disability since May 13, 2010, when she was 35-years old. The Plaintiff, who has an eighth-grade education, has a combination of medical problems including Chiari malformation resulting in chronic headaches, depression and memory loss. Her last long-term job was as a CNA at the Illinois Veterans Home, a position she held from 1999 to 2010. None of her jobs after that lasted more than a couple of weeks.

         On July 21, 2016, following the parties' joint motion to remand, this Court remanded the action to the Social Security Administration in order for the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to proceed through the sequential disability evaluation process as appropriate and issue a new decision. On October 11, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Kelly Wingate Campbell issued a Decision denying the Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, respectively.

         The ALJ found that the Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: a history of surgery for Chiari malformation, headaches/dizziness, cervical degenerative disc disease, bilateral carpal tunnel, neuropathy, hypertension, obesity, depression/adjustment/mood disorder, generalized anxiety, a borderline personality disorder and a posttraumatic stress disorder. However, no impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

         The ALJ's Decision found the Plaintiff was “not disabled” at step five of the sequential evaluation process. Vocational expert Bob Hammond testified that Plaintiff's past work included CNA (DOT 355.674-014 classified as medium, performed at heavy SVP 4) and cook (DOT 313.361-014, medium SVP 7). The ALJ presented the following hypothetical: whether an individual of Plaintiff's age, education and work experience limited to medium work, never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds or be exposed to unprotected heights or hazardous work environments, but could occasionally climb stairs or ramps; could frequently balance, occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl and could frequently handle or finger; avoid no more than occasional reaching overhead with the right upper extremity; avoid concentrated exposure to noise and bright flashing lights or flickering lights, as well as vibrations, fumes, dust or pulmonary irritants; would be limited to simple work related decisions and could have frequent contact with supervisors and coworkers, but only occasional contact with the public and would be off task 10% of the work day.

         The vocational expert testified past work is eliminated but the hypothetical person could perform the following jobs: kitchen helper (DOT 318.687-010, 164, 000 jobs nationally); cleaner I (DOT 310.687-014, 121, 000 jobs nationally); both are medium SVP 2. At the light level, such a person could perform these jobs: injection molder (DOT 556.685-038, 121, 000 jobs nationally); press operator (DOT 614.685-014, 127, 000 jobs nationally); both are SVP 2. If an individual were off task 20%, it would eliminate all jobs as would missing two or more days of work a month. These jobs would not allow a person to lie down during any point of the shift. Anything more than two additional breaks of more than six minutes each would eliminate all jobs.

         The ALJ relied on the testimony of the vocational expert that a person of Plaintiff's age, education, vocational profile and residual functional capacity could adjust to occupations such as molder and press operator.

         Because the Plaintiff did not seek further review, the ALJ's Decision became the final Decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.955, 404.984, 416.1455, 416.1484.

         On appeal, the Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to give proper weight to the opinion of treating neurosurgeon, Dr. Julian Lin. She also alleges the ALJ failed to give proper weight to consider a proper residual functional capacity.

         The Commissioner contends that the ALJ reasonably evaluated the medical opinion evidence and reasonably evaluated the Plaintiff's alleged symptoms. Moreover, substantial ...

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