King v. Colvin, Case No. 11 C 2842

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtJeffrey Cole
PartiesSANDRA KING, Plaintiff, v. CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Docket NumberCase No. 11 C 2842
Decision Date31 July 2013

SANDRA KING, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Case No. 11 C 2842


DATE: July 31, 2013

Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole


Sandra King seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner ("Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration ("Agency") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). Ms. King asks the court to reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision, while the Commissioner seeks an order affirming the decision.


Ms. King applied for SSI on March 11, 2008, alleging that she had become disabled on March 31, 2005. (Administrative Record ("R.") 177-79). Her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 112-121). Ms. King continued pursuit of her claim by filing a timely request for a hearing.

An administrative law judge ("ALJ") convened a hearing on March 16, 2010, at which Ms. King, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. (R. 39-111). In addition, Dr. Hugh Savage and Dr. Elise Torczynski testified as medical experts, and Melissa Benjamin testified as a vocational expert. (R. 39). On April 12, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Ms. King was not

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disabled because she retained the capacity to perform light work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (R. 20-38). This became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Ms. King's request for review of the decision on March 4, 2011. (R. 2-6). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955; 404.981. Ms. King has appealed that decision to the federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).


The Vocational Evidence

Ms. King was born on December 17, 1957, making her fifty-two years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. 177). She quit school after just the ninth grade. (R. 44). She then had her first child at age fifteen. (R. 61). Ms. King has almost no experience with the working world. In the last 28 years, she has worked a total of nine months. (R. 188, 199). That work was babysitting her grandchildren, which was apparently part of a program in which she was paid by the State of Illinois. (R. 199). She used to smoke crack, but had not done so for a year or two before her administrative hearing - about the time she filed her application for SSI. (R. 60). In her SSI application, Ms. King said she had never been married. (R. 177).

The Medical Evidence

The medical record reveals that Ms. King has a prosthetic right eye and a vision impairment in her left eye that can be easily corrected with glasses or a contact lens. She has asthma, which is stable and under control. She also has calluses on her feet which were severe enough to require treatment on one occasion. Finally, she has osteoarthritis in her neck and suffered some mild to

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moderate pain in her right arm for a brief period in September 2009.

On September 24, 2007, Ms. King sought treatment at the St. Bernard Hospital emergency room for general aches and nausea. She was noted to have a prosthetic right eye and normal left eye. (R. 376). She admitted to smoking a half-pack of cigarettes a day and using cocaine on a regular basis. (R. 376). A drug screen was positive for both cocaine and cannabis. (R. 376). A chest x-ray was consistent with pneumonia (R. 376), and a spinal x-ray revealed dextroscoliosis (curvature of spine to the right) and minimal degenerative spondylosis. (R. 375). Extremities and neurological examination were normal. (R. 377). Ms. King was treated for five days and discharged in stable condition. (R. 376).

On January 11, 2008, Ms. King went to the South Shore Hospital emergency room complaining of right arm and neck pain, (R. 345), which had begun a week earlier. (R. 346). Respiration and breath sounds were normal, and she had no complaints in that area. (R. 346, 352). Ms. King claimed to be a nonsmoker. (R. 347). Sensory and motor exam of her right arm were normal, but range of motion was limited by pain. (R. 347). After a couple of hours, Ms. King said her pain had subsided and asked to be discharged. (R. 348-49). Ms. King sought podiatry treatment at Provident Hospital on March 11, 2008. (R. 357). The treatment note is illegible.

The disability agency arranged a consultative examination for Ms. King with Dr. Norma Villanueva on April 14, 2008. Dr. Villanueva noted that Ms. King had an artificial right eye, and had gone to a podiatrist to have her calluses trimmed. She had been to emergency rooms for treatment of her asthma and recently was given medication for pneumonia. (R. 308). She took Levaquin (for pneumonia or bronchitis), acetaminophen, and used an Albuterol inhaler when needed. (R. 309). Ms. King admitted to smoking 3 cigarettes a day. (R. 309). She exhibited

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decreased breath sound and wheezing and rhonchi. Respiratory rate was normal. (R. 309). The doctor noted that Ms. King did have tender calluses on both feet, but gait was normal. (R. 309). While she was unable to heel/toe walk due to pain, she had no trouble with tandem gaiting and squatting. (R. 309). Her range of motion and grip strength were normal (R. 309). Sensation, reflexes, and strength were all normal throughout. (R. 309). Vison in Ms. King's left eye was 20/50 uncorrected and 20/40 with pinhole correction. (R. 313).

Ms. King also had a consultative psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Helen Radomska that same day. (R. 317). She noted that Ms. King's grooming and hygiene were fair and that she had no abnormality of gait. (R. 317). Ms. King said she had been depressed and had been treated with medication. She said she still had a lot of things on her mind. She didn't sleep well at night but did not take naps during the day. (R. 317). Ms. King allowed that she drank forty ounces of beer a day and used to smoke marijuana as a teenager. She claimed to have used cocaine just once, on her last birthday. (R. 318). Dr. Radomska found Ms. King to be in a depressed mood. Her thought process was liner and goal directed, she had no hallucinations, and was not delusional. Judgment and memory were not good. She could not perform serial sevens or threes. (R. 319-20). Dr. Radomska diagnosed major depressive disorder and assigned Ms. King a GAF score of 40 to 45. (R. 320).

Ms. King was treated for pneumonia at the ACHN clinic in March 2008. She was given Levaquin and after a week was feeling much better. (R. 421). Her asthma was stable and she was referred for smoking cessation counseling. (R. 421). On April 25, 2008, Dr. Ernst Bone reviewed the medical evidence in Ms. King's file. (R. 342). He felt she was capable of performing medium work. (R. 336). On May 11, 2008, J.Gange reviewed the psychiatric evidence (R. 321), and found that Ms. King's depression left her markedly limited in her daily activities, social functioning, and

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ability to concentrate. (R. 331).1

On May 19, 2008, Ms. King sought treatment for lower back pain at the emergency room of South Shore Hospital in Chicago. (R. 344). She was noted to have Illinois Medicaid insurance. (R. 344). At the end of June 2008, two more agency physicians reviewed the medical file and concurred I the earlier finding that Ms. King could perform medium work. (R. 361).

Ms. King went to the neighborhood health clinic at Mt. Sinai Hospital on September 29, 2008, inquiring about lab results and asking for a prescription for her asthma and that they fill out her form to get disability benefits. (R. 365). She was anemic and had lost about 20 pounds. (R. 366, 368). On November 6, 2008, Ms. King sought treatment at the neighborhood clinic for left eye trauma and foot ulcers. (R. 362-63). She was given prescriptions for Benadryl, Motrin, and Robitussin. (R. 364).

On November 13, 2008, Ms. King returned to the South Shore Hospital emergency room explaining that her grandson hit her in the eye with a stick because she took bread from him. (R. 497). She suffered a fracture of the medial wall of her left eye socket, and the lens in her left eye appeared to be subluxed. There was hematoma and swelling. (R. 501). Vision exam at the time revealed she could count fingers at eight feet (R. 502), which indicates a visual acuity equivalent to 20/1000.

On April 10, 2009, Ms. King sought prescription refills at the emergency room of Provident

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Hospital. (R. 429-31). She denied any drug or alcohol use, but admitted to smoking 3-4 cigarettes a day. (R. 431). She denied any pain or discomfort. (R. 432). She had a laceration to her left cheek treated and sutured at South Shore Hospital on May 25, 2009. (R. 460-71). A CT scan of her cervical spine revealed minimal...

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