United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
A. Jensen Magistrate Judge
an appeal from a partially favorable decision. The
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) found that
plaintiff was disabled, as of June 1, 2016. In reaching this
conclusion, the ALJ relied heavily on the testimony of Dr.
Sai Nimmagadda, the impartial medical expert, who opined that
plaintiff's back and knee problems-the two impairments
she identified as the most disabling-had worsened such that
she could only do sedentary work. However, the decision was
only partially favorable because plaintiff was seeking to be
found disabled as of January 1, 2014, some two and half years
earlier. For this period, the ALJ found that plaintiff could
do light work, rather than sedentary work. In reaching this
conclusion, the ALJ again relied on Dr. Nimmagadda's
testimony. Plaintiff is seeking a remand regarding the latter
finding. She argues that the ALJ failed to fully consider two
additional impairments-namely, her carpal tunnel syndrome and
her psychological problems.
filed her disability applications (Title II and XVI) on
September 12, 2013. Thereafter, she completed the written
adult function questionnaires, as did her sister. Exs. 8E,
12E, 16E. In addition, she was examined by two consultative
examiners-Dr. John Peggau (psychological) and Dr. K.P.
Ramchandani (physical)-both of whom prepared reports. Exs.
2F, 8F. The record contains no opinions from any treating
were two administrative hearings. Plaintiff was represented
by counsel, although not the same counsel now representing
her. As will be shown below, during the administrative
proceedings, counsel did not focus on the two impairments
that are center stage here.
first hearing, which did not go forward on the merits, was on
December 7, 2016. At the start of this hearing, counsel
raised a concern that the state agency doctors had rendered
their opinions without having seen 300 pages of records. The
main issue covered by these records, according to counsel,
was plaintiff's recent treatment with Dr. Robin Hovis, a
rheumatologist. Id. Counsel explained that Dr. Hovis
had diagnosed plaintiff with “pseudoarthrosis of the
legs” and had administered injections to her left leg.
R. 108. Counsel asked the ALJ to postpone the hearing so that
an expert could be obtained because “this issue”
(i.e. the pseudoarthrosis) was important. R. 109.
Counsel stated that an orthopedist or rheumatologist or even
an internist “would be fine.” R. 110. Counsel,
however, did not ask that a psychological expert be called.
second hearing was held on March 9, 2017. Plaintiff testified
first, followed by Dr. Nimmagadda and then a vocational
expert. The ALJ first questioned plaintiff.
asking some background questions, the ALJ asked the following
Q So Ms. [B], tell me if you would why you believe you cannot
A Because when I stand I have swelling of my knees. And then
the swelling goes up in my hip to my back, and it causes real
R. 58. To make explicit what is probably obvious, plaintiff
did not mention either the carpal tunnel syndrome or
asking a few follow-up questions, the ALJ returned a second
time to the “why can't you work” question.
The following colloquy ensued:
Q So besides your knees, do you have any other issues that
affect your ability to work or to function?
A Yeah. When I, when I do lifting, it causes me to have joint
pains in my shoulders. And it flares up and causes real bad
R. 60. Again, neither of the current problems were mentioned.
more follow-up, the ALJ returned-now for the third time-to
the original question:
Q And so besides your shoulder and your knees, any other
issues that affect your ability to work or to function?
A No. No. more than just, you know, lifting things.
R. 62. Plaintiff explained that lifting hurt “in [her]
shoulder.” R. 63. When asked about “her
understanding” of the possible cause, she referred to
her “different activities or things” and
mentioned that she had surgery on her shoulder. R. 64. But
she not tie the lifting problem to either carpal tunnel
syndrome or to a problem in the hands.
the ALJ asked directly about possible hand problems, leading
to the following exchange:
Q And what about your hands? Do you have any trouble using
A Yeah. My hands are kind of weak.
Q What do you mean by weak?
A Because when I pick up on something, you know, I lose the
Q In both hands or just one hand?
A Both hands.
Q Is one worse than the other?
Q Which one is ...