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Adam C. v. Saul

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

November 19, 2019

ADAM C., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN E. COX UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Adam C. (“Plaintiff”)[2] appeals the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security Act. Plaintiffs Brief in Support of his Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security [dkt, 15], which the Court construes as a motion for summary judgment, is GRANTED, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [dkt. 19] is DENIED. The Administrative Law Judge's decision is reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on March II, 2015, alleging he had a disability onset date of March 15, 2013. (R. 13.) Plaintiffs application was denied by the state agency both initially and upon reconsideration. (Id.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ'), which occurred on July 18, 2017. (Id.) On November 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled, and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of that decision, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-3, 13-24.)

         In his written decision, the ALJ followed the five-step analytical process required by 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 15, 2013, the alleged onset date. (R. 16.) At step two, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had severe impairments of bipolar disorder, learning disability, intermittent explosive disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.) The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff retained the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional limitations: Plaintiff could only understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; no hourly quotas, but Plaintiff could handle end-of-day quotas; only occasional contact with supervisors, coworkers, and the general public; and Plaintiff could adapt to routine changes in the work environment. (R. 17.) At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could not perform any of his past relevant work. (R. 22.) At step five, based on Vocational Expert (“VE”) testimony and the findings about Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, including hand packager, inspector, and sorter. (R. 22-23.) As such, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (R. 23.)

         In finding that Plaintiff could perform the aforementioned jobs, the ALJ noted that the VE “testified that training periods may include some days in which an individual would have more than occasional contact with supervisors or coworkers, but that in her opinion, an individual with the above residual functional capacity would be able to perform the above jobs in spite of the training period requirement.” (Id.)

         At the hearing, under questioning by Plaintiff's attorney, the VE testified that the training period for the above-referenced jobs would last approximately 30 days, and that a hypothetical individual would have contact with a supervisor or coworker more than one-third of the work day during that time period. (R. 69.) When asked if the hypothetical individual would be allowed only occasional contact during the training period, the VE answered that it would not be allowed. (R. 70.) Upon re-examination by the ALJ, the VE and ALJ had the following exchange:

Q: Ms. Kniaz, when we talk about occasional contact with supervisors, doesn't that encompass the notion that some days there'll be more contact than others?
A: Yeah.
Q: On the whole?
A: Yes.
Q: That it will average out to infrequent contact?
A: Correct.
Q: So one day in any job, the claimant might have to talk to a supervisor more than normal, but many other days he would be ...

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