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Craft v. Astrue

August 22, 2008

ROGER A. CRAFT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 05 C 1569- Blanche M . M anning, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tinder, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED JANUARY 24, 2008

Before POSNER, RIPPLE, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

Roger Craft filed an application in August 2001 for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and an application in September 2001 for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), alleging a disability due to diabetes mellitus and affective/mood disorders. Both claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration.

Craft timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on October 7, 2003. The ALJ determined that Craft did not qualify for DIB or SSI because he could perform a significant number of jobs despite his limitations. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision. The district court affirmed the ALJ's decision and denied Craft's motion to alter or amend the judgment. Upon review, we conclude that the ALJ erred in evaluating Craft's mental impairments and in making the credibility determination; accordingly, we reverse.

I. Background

In 1994, Craft was injured at work when a forklift crushed his left foot. He experienced pain in his foot for the next three years, at which time his podiatrist, Dr. Santangelo, referred him to neurologist Dr. Sicotte. Dr. Sicotte noted that Craft had decreased sensation and strength in his foot, and the results of an EMG nerve conduction test indicated a neuropathy which was sensory in nature.*fn1 He did not have wide-spread peripheral neuropathy. In May 1998, Craft underwent an operation on his foot, and he continued to see his podiatrist regularly until discharged from post-operative care in August 1998. Craft was also diagnosed with Type I diabetes mellitus in May 1998, after complaining of thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, and blurred vision.*fn2

Craft's medical records do not indicate that he visited any doctors in 1999, but he visited Dr. Nichols for his diabetes once in September 2000. Craft applied for dis-ability in August 2001, at the age of forty-two. On September 25, 2001, Craft reported to the emergency room at Cook County Hospital, complaining of muscle pain, frequent urination, thirst, weight loss, and weakness for the previous six months. He was given insulin and released. On October 19, 2001, Dr. Rodriguez completed a physical assessment form, finding that Craft suffered from diabetes, was twenty percent limited in several areas of physical activity, and had mild mental impairments. He was hospitalized on the same day and diagnosed with hyperglycemia secondary to medicine noncompliance. Craft reported that he had not been taking his medication due to unpleasant side effects and an inability to afford the medication.

On October 23, 2001, Dr. Shaikh examined Craft at the request of Disability Determination Services ("DDS"); Craft again reported that he had previously stopped taking his medication because he could not afford it. Dr. Shaikh noted that Craft had uncontrolled diabetes, scabbing on his left leg and varicose veins in both legs, decreased range of motion in his left knee, hip pain with normal range of motion, early retinopathy, neuropathy in the*fn3 left hand, loss of sensation in the left foot and lower third of the leg, and decreased memory. Dr. Frey completed a psychiatric examination of Craft on the same day, also at the request of DDS. Dr. Frey noted Craft's physical and mental complaints and diagnosed him with dysthymic disorder.*fn4

On November 29, 2001, a non-examining state agency psychiatrist, Dr. Tomassetti, completed a Psychiatric Review Technique Form and a mental Residual Functional Capacity evaluation. Dr. Tomassetti noted that Craft had dysthymic disorder, he had mild impairments in three areas of mental functional limitation, and he was moderately limited in several areas relevant to his ability to work.

Craft visited Dr. Rodriguez again on December 31, 2001, and received prescriptions for his diabetes and neuropathy. He visited a doctor to complain that his diabetes medication was not working on April 4, 2002, and he was prescribed a different medicine. On May 4, 2002, Craft visited a doctor to complain about additional symptoms associated with his new medicine. He visited a doctor again on May 20, 2002, at which time his glucose levels were elevated.

On June 27, 2002, Craft complained about pain in his extremities, which the doctor noted might indicate neuropathy. He was again diagnosed with probable diabetic neuropathy on July 27, 2002, after he complained about pain in his extremities. On September 19, 2002, he complained of severe leg pain and an inability to sleep. On November 14, 2002, he was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, and he received another prescription for his neuropathy on February 13, 2003.

Dr. Dang performed a psychiatric examination of Craft by request of DDS on May 9, 2003. Dr. Dang diagnosed Craft with dysthymia and noted that Craft experienced depression, anger, difficulty with concentration, and tiredness. Dr. Dang completed a mental analysis form for Craft's ability to do work-related activities, and he found Craft to have mild and moderate limitations in several areas. On July 7, 2003, Craft reported improvement in symptoms of his neuropathy; the doctor noted a rash on Craft's legs and renewed the prescription for Craft's neuropathy medication. On October 8, 2003, Craft visited Dr. Escalona, who diagnosed Craft with diabetes, uncontrolled diabetic neuropathy, and depression. Dr. Escalona also noted that Craft continued to have paresthesia and pain in his arms and legs despite the neuropathy medication.*fn5

The hearing for Craft's disability claims was held on October 7, 2003. Craft was forty-four years old at the time. The ALJ heard testimony from Craft and his landlord, Vivian Hedemark. Craft testified that he experienced paresthesia in his arms, legs, and back, which caused him to have difficulty sleeping at night. He also complained of loss of teeth, memory loss, and weight loss. The ALJ questioned Craft as to the extent of his daily activities. Craft testified that daily activities left him exhausted. He cooked his own meals, walked to the mailbox daily, vacuumed once a week, and occasionally drove until his vehicle needed repairs that he could not afford. Hedemark testified about Craft's weight loss, memory loss, and rages that he would go into "when his diabetes [was] high." She also ...


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