The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARLANDER KEYS, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Robert Jarmon applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) on June 25, 1999, claiming that he
suffers from both physical and mental impairments that prevent him from
working. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Mr. Jarmon's
application, and, after exhausting his appeal rights before the SSA, Mr.
Jarmon filed an action in the United States District Court seeking review
of the agency's decision. The case is before the Court on the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment.
Facts and Procedural History
Robert Jarmon, now forty-one years old, is an Army veteran with the
equivalent of a high school education and two associate's degrees, one
for cosmetology and the other for network security. Record at 17, 450. In
the past, Mr. Jarmon
has worked as a beautician, a cook, and a painter. Record at 57. He
last worked as a park maintenance worker; he was on the job for
approximately two months when he had to quit because of his impairments.
Record at 452.
Mr. Jarmon applied for SSI and DIB on June 25, 1999, claiming on his
application that, as of March 1, 1999, he was unable to work because of
varicose veins in his lower extremities, blood clots, substance abuse and
mental problems. Record at 56-60. The SSA denied his claim initially and
on reconsideration. Mr. Jarmon requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge, and the case was assigned to Judge Alfred
Burton, who held a hearing on August 14, 2000.
At the hearing, the ALJ heard from Mr. Jarmon, who testified first, and
from Dr. Richard Zaloudek, a medical expert. Mr. Jarmon, who was
represented by counsel, testified that he was currently living in a
shelter, that he was single, had never been married and had no children.
Record at 448. He testified that he received a GED in 1982, and that he
had associates degrees in both cosmetology and security. Id. at
449. Mr. Jarmon testified that he served in the United States Army from
January 7, 1980 to January 7, 1983, when he was honorably discharged.
Id. at 450. He testified that he had been receiving disability
payments in connection with his service in the Army since 1983; as of
December 1999, he received $794 per month for service-connected
disability. Id. at 451-52. He also testified that he was not
working, that he last worked in March of 1999, when he developed blood
clots in his legs and had to quit his job. Id. at 452. He
alleges that his disability onset date was March 1, 1999. Id. at
460. Mr. Jarmon testified that, prior to his park maintenance job with
the North Chicago Park District, he worked as a cook and as a painter.
Id. at 453-58.
With respect to his impairments, Mr. Jarmon testified that he suffered
frostbite to his legs in 1982, and then developed varicose veins in both
legs, but more predominantly in his right leg, and ulcers in his right
ankle. Id. at 460. He testified that, in addition to his leg
problems, he also suffers from depression; he testified that he had been
receiving treatment for his depression since about March of 1999, and
that he was currently taking anti-depressants. Id. at 461-62.
With respect to his daily activities, he testified that he doesn't
really do much during the day, he just pretty much sits around at the
shelter, and spends his time alone; he participates in weekly counseling
sessions, he watches television and reads the paper, sometimes he takes a
walk or goes to the park. Id. at 463, 466-68. He testified that
he had abused drugs and alcohol in the past, but that he was not using
either at the time of the
"hearing; he testified that he last drank in May of 2000.
Id. at 464-65. In response to questioning from his attorney, Mr.
Jarmon testified that he can walk a block or two before he runs out of
breath, and, even then, he has to walk slowly because of his ulcers and
varicose veins. Id. at 468-69. He testified that he uses a cane,
on the advice of his doctor. Id. at 471. He testified that his
depression make it difficult for him to concentrate, sit or read for any
significant period of time. Id. at 471-72. He testified that he
feels kind of confused, he hears noises (babies crying, cats purring and
meowing) that aren't really there, sometimes he thinks people are trying
to harm him. Id. at 474. He testified that he is forgetful, and
that he has difficulty sleeping. Id. at 475. In response to
questions from the medical expert, Mr. Jarmon testified that he had been
hospitalized several times for mental problems, and that one time, at
Hines, he was told that "the alcohol and drugs was part of me being
depressed so they took me to the alcohol and drug unit." Id. at
After Mr. Jarmon, Dr. Zaloudek testified. He testified that, in his
opinion, Mr. Jarmon has a severe impairment that includes drug and
alcohol abuse and dependence, which is in early remission, and that he
also has a schizoaffective disorder, which Dr. Zaloudek characterized as
a depression that can show up with a person being
a loner or a social isolated. And can have
symptoms of hallucinations or paranoia. It falls
between the condition of schizophrenia and major
depression. Sometimes the person has problems
collecting their thoughts and difficulties with
concentration. And they're put on usually a
combination of medications such as
anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medications.
Record at 483. Dr. Zaloudek testified that Mr. Jarmon's mental
impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. Id. He
testified that, functionally, Mr. Jarmon's depression would make him
agitated and cause him to suffer deficits of concentration; he testified
that Mr. Jarmon would have "marked difficulties" completing a normal
workday or a normal workweek because "he wouldn't be able to maintain
contration without the interference of psychological problems."
Id. at 484. Dr. Zaloudek testified that, in his view, Mr. Jarmon
would have "moderate restrictions of daily activities and social
functioning, but frequent deficiencies of concentration, persistence of
pace." Id. at 485. He testified that Mr. Jarmon experienced
sleep difficulties, psychomotor agitation and difficulties with
concentration, which "would be enough to satisfy the criteria of a major
affective disorder." Id.
In addition to the testimony of Mr. Jarmon and Dr. Zaloudek, the ALJ
considered Mr. Jarmon's extensive record of medical treatments and
assessments. According to that record, Mr. Jarmon
was admitted to the North Chicago VA Hospital (NCVA) on October 5,
1998 for alcohol and substance abuse. He was referred to NCVA by his
probation officer, who was monitoring Mr. Jarmon in the wake of a
domestic violence incident, after he showed up to an appointment under
the influence of alcohol. Record at 246. The records from NCVA show that,
at the time he was admitted, Mr. Jarmon reported that he had started
drinking at age 14, that he drank 1 to 2 pints of gin per day, plus a
six-pack of beer; he stated that he had had his last drink about two
weeks prior to his admission. Record at 252. He further reported that he
had started using cocaine in 1994, and that his habit was up to about
$300 per day; he reported that he had last used cocaine three weeks
before his admission. Id. As part of the admission process, NCVA
also conducted a psychiatric evaluation; the evaluator concluded that Mr.
Jarmon had no major depressive or psychotic symptoms, and no suicidal or
homicidal ideations. Record at 251. The record shows that, by October 22,
1998, the NCVA staff had diagnosed Mr. Jarmon with alcohol and cocaine
dependence, in early partial remission in a controlled environment, and
major depressive disorder, recurrent, with psychotic features. Record at
235. According to the notes from that date, Mr. Jarmon's "major diagnosis
is Borderline Personality Disorder with sequelae of substance abuse and
depression. He reports history of chaotic, violent relationships
and self harming behavior." Id. The notes conclude that, given
this diagnosis, "Mr. Jarmon's prognosis for recovery is very poor."
Id. While at NCVA, Mr. Jarmon started taking anti-depressants,
and, over time, some of the negative symptoms he had experienced lessened
or stopped altogether; the record shows that Mr. Jarmon started sleeping
better, he stopped engaging in self harming behaviors, stopped biting his
nails, stopped pulling out his lashes and hair; he became calmer and less
anxious. See, e.g., Record at 194, 196, 213.
The record shows that, in the middle of his stay at NCVA, Mr. Jarmon
was admitted to the West Side VA Hospital for treatment of his "veinous
thrombosis" and blood clots. Record at 102-125. For the latter, Mr.
Jarmon underwent two venograms with urikinase treatment, but when the
clots persisted, the doctors prescribed a long-term course of
anticoagulants (coumadin) and discharged him on March 31, 1999; he was
instructed to report directly to the halfway house at NCVA. Id.
The record shows that, upon returning to NCVA, Mr. Jarmon reported
feeling more anxious and his sleep problems appeared to re-emerge.
See, e.g., record at 190, 191. The notes from April 12, 1999
show that Mr. Jarmon reported experiencing "psychological or emotional
problems on 30 days during the past
30 days"; that he experienced "serious depression, serious anxiety
or tension, trouble understanding, concentrating or remembering and
trouble controlling violent behavior"; and that he had "serious thoughts
of suicide in the past 30 days." Record at 182. According to the
evaluator, Mr. Jarmon's representations on April 12 were "not
significantly distorted by misrepresentation." Id. Just a week
later, however, the attending psychiatrist's notes show that Mr. Jarmon
was "stable," with no symptoms of depression or anxiety, and that he
denied having any suicidal or homicidal ideations. Record at 181. A note
from May 13, 1999 confirms that Mr. Jarmon was "doing well, his sleeping
pattern has stabilized; his depressive [symptoms] lifted." Record at 170.
On June 7, 1999, NCVA discharged Mr. Jarmon from its program, when he
failed to return to the facility after being granted a weekend pass.
Record at 164.
The record shows that Mr. Jarmon returned to the NCVA on June 17, 1999,
stayed for a few days, and was then discharged on June 22, 1999 when he,
once again, failed to return to the facility. Record at 162. On June 30,
1999, Mr. Jarmon turned up at the West Side VA Hospital, seeking a
psychiatric clearance so that he could obtain a room in the YMCA. He was
evaluated in the psychiatry assessment clinic, he reported that he had
been sober for the past nine months, he denied any drug or alcohol ...