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Thomas v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 11, 2014

MILDRED THOMAS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee

Argued January 7, 2014.

Page 803

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:12-cv-04716 -- Sheila M. Finnegan, Magistrate Judge.

For MILDRED THOMAS, Plaintiff - Appellant: John Edward Horn, Attorney, Tinley Park, IL.

For CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee: Javitt J. Adili, Attorney, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Chicago, IL.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and POSNER and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 804

Kanne, Circuit Judge.

Mildred Thomas suffers from a number of potentially-disabling impairments, including sciatica, angina, degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and diabetes. The Social Security Administration denied her request for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The district court affirmed on appeal. We reverse.

I. Background

Thomas filed an application for disability insurance benefits in December 2009, claiming that she suffered from sciatica, diabetes, angina, a trigger thumb in her left hand, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (" COPD" ). She was also morbidly obese, with a body mass index of around 45.

Page 805

During the application process, Thomas saw a consultative examiner, Dr. M. S. Patil. Dr. Patil noted a reduced range of motion in Thomas's lumbar spine, hips, and knees as well as moderate difficulty squatting and getting on and off the examining table. Dr. Patil also performed an x-ray of Thomas's lumbar spine, which, although severely limited by Thomas's obesity, appeared to show narrowed disc space. Later that month, a state agency doctor, Dr. Thomas Kenney, reviewed Thomas's medical records, including Dr. Patil's report. Based on this information, Dr. Kenney determined that Thomas had the residual functional capacity (" RFC" ) to perform light work.

At the administrative hearing, Thomas testified that her primary complaint was severe sciatic nerve pain that traveled to her butt, thighs, and knees. She said she could not stand for more than fifteen minutes or sit for more than twenty minutes at a time. She further stated that she could only walk about half a block and that she could not do laundry or vacuum. And she suffered from recurrent inflammation in her left thumb. When the inflammation was bad, she could not use her left hand at all; treatment by injection allowed ...


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