Argued May 27, 2014.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 12-CV-05593 -- Susan E. Cox, Magistrate Judge.
For Latesha Moon, Plaintiff - Appellant: Joseph S. Sellers, Attorney, Spector & Lenz, Chicago, IL.
For CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant - Appellee: Joo Hui Kim, Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Region V, Chicago, IL.
Before POSNER, EASTERBROOK, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
Hamilton, Circuit Judge.
An administrative law judge found in 2010 that Latesha Moon was not disabled and thus not entitled to Social Security disability benefits. The Appeals Council and the district court upheld the ALJ's decision. Moon argues in this appeal that the ALJ improperly discounted her evidence of chronic migraine headaches. We agree that the ALJ's treatment of the evidence related to her migraines was unreasonable and failed to build a logical bridge between the evidence and the decision denying benefits. We reverse the district court's judgment and remand this case to the agency for further consideration. Because Moon has been receiving
Social Security disability benefits based on a later application, the only issue on remand will be whether she was disabled between August 2008 and the later date from which benefits have been paid.
Moon is a mother who was 26 years old at the time of her application. She has worked in the past as a cashier, bank teller, and certified nursing assistant. For years she has suffered from numerous documented health issues, including back and joint problems, mild sleep apnea, depression, and migraine headaches. Most of these problems are related to the fact that Moon is exceptionally obese: at a height of 5'5", she weighs over 400 pounds, giving her a body mass index (BMI) of around 67. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal, and a person is considered obese when his or her BMI reaches 30. See " About BMI for Adults," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html) (visited Aug. 13, 2014).
In support of her application for disability benefits, Moon submitted extensive medical records. On the medical issue that is central to this appeal--her migraine headaches--the evidence showed that she was diagnosed as early as 2005 and that she saw doctors about her headaches many times over the years that followed. She was prescribed Amitrypty-line and Zomig to treat her headaches in 2005, but she did not take these medications because she feared side effects. Later she was prescribed Imitrex and Motrin, both of which she was taking at the time of her May 2010 hearing before the ALJ.
At the hearing, Moon testified about the seriousness of her migraines, their effect on her activities, and their treatment. She explained that the headaches had become worse over the last two or three years than they had been in 2005. Over that period, she had headaches on most days, and her headaches could last up to three days. Often the pain would be so bad that she needed to lie down in the dark until it passed. She said she believed that the medications Motrin and Imitrex caused side effects but that she had " no choice" but to take them because of the severity of her pain.
In his written decision denying Moon's claim for benefits, the ALJ went through the standard five-step analysis for determining whether a person is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. See 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). He found at step one that Moon was no longer engaged in substantial gainful activity (i.e., was not working). At step two he found that her combination of impairments--specifically back problems, obesity, sleep apnea, and headaches--qualified as ...