Curtis K. Hall, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.
October 2, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. l:16-cv-938 -
Marvin E. Aspen, Judge.
Bauer, Kanne, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.
loading chemicals onto a truck, Curtis Hall felt a sharp pain
in his back. This back pain formed the basis of his
application for disability insurance benefits. An
administrative law judge denied his application, and a
district court upheld that determination. On appeal, Hall
contends that the ALJ improperly discounted his treating
physician's opinion and discredited his own testimony.
Because substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision,
tanker loader at a chemical company, was hooking a hose
underneath a tanker truck in mid-2006 when he felt pain in
his low back. His pain persisted so he saw Dr. George Miz, an
orthopedic surgeon, who ordered an MRI of Hall's lumbar
spine. After reviewing the MRI, Dr. Miz found that Hall had a
large disc herniation at L-5 that was pinching a spinal nerve
root. Dr. Miz recommended "conservative treatment,"
so Hall began physical therapy while continuing to work, and
he reported progress from the therapy. As of November 2006,
Hall was still experiencing "ups and downs" in
terms of pain, and by December, Dr. Miz thought that any
improvement Hall felt with his back had "essentially
plateaued." Because the pain persisted, Hall and Dr. Miz
began planning a lumbar microdiscectomy to relieve the
pressure on his spinal nerve root.
March 2007, Hall stopped working and underwent the operation.
The surgery was successful. Hall's back improved, and by
June his range of motion during physical therapy had
increased. He reassured Dr. Miz the next month that he had
"slow but steady progress with physical therapy."
By December, after an epidural steroid injection, Hall
reported that his pain was "down to 2 to 3/10."
since the day of his surgery, Hall has received temporary
total worker's compensation benefits. The record shows
that Hall continues to receive these benefits to this day.
2008, Hall's functionality continued to improve. In June
he said that he could sit, stand, and walk for about an hour.
Dr. Miz referred him to a physical therapist later that
summer for a functional capacity evaluation, and a therapist
administered a battery of tests before finding that Hall
could return to work at the "light" level (meaning
that he could lift 20 pounds infrequently, 10 pounds
frequently, and carry 10 pounds or more). The tests also
showed that Hall could sit for 15-20 minutes and stand for 30
minutes. The following month, Dr. Miz said that Hall could
work within the parameters of the functional capacity
evaluation, though Hall did not return to work.
September 2010, Dr. Hutchinson, an orthopedist at the
University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, reviewed
Hall's records and examined him in connection with his
worker's compensation case. Dr. Hutchinson agreed with
Dr. Miz that Hall could work at the "light" level,
consistent with the results of the 2008 functional capacity
evaluation. Dr. Hutchinson opined that Hall had a protruding
disc, but that Hall could continue to work.
month later, in October 2010, a CT scan confirmed Dr.
Hutchinson's opinion that Hall's disc was still
protruding. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Miz performed a lumbar
discography, a diagnostic procedure to determine if one or
more discs was the cause of Hall's back pain. Based on
the results of the discography, Dr. Miz concluded that the
L5-S1 area was causing Hall's pain. In February 2011, Dr.
Miz recommended that Hall undergo a "transforaminal
interbody fusion" to stabilize his spine.
by the prospect of another surgery, Hall heeded the
recommendation of his internist and turned for a second
opinion to a neurosurgeon, Dr. Martin Luken. In June 2011,
Dr. Luken recommended that Hall undergo a foraminotomy, a
minimally invasive surgery to remove whatever was compressing
his nerve root. Meanwhile, Dr. Luken proposed (without
elaboration) that Hall be "off work."
months later a state-agency physiatrist consultant, Dr.
Barbara Heller, examined Hall and opined that he had
persistent L5-S1 discogenic disease with persistent right
L5-Sl radiculopathy. But because Hall's pain medications
were working well, she determined that he could ...