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Beason v. Astrue

April 17, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Bernthal U.S. Magistrate Judge


In July 2006, Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter "ALJ") Barbara Welsch denied Plaintiff Matthew Beason's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The ALJ based her decision on findings that Plaintiff was able to perform his past relevant work and, alternatively, he can perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

In January 2008, Plaintiff filed a Complaint (#1) against Defendant Michael Astrue, the Commissioner of Social Security, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision to deny social security benefits. In July 2008, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#11). In September 2008, Defendant filed a Motion for an Order Which Affirms the Commissioner's Decision (#14). In October 2008, Plaintiff filed a Reply Memorandum in Response to Comissioner's [sic] Memorandum in Support of Its Motion for Summary Affirmance (#15). After reviewing the administrative record and the parties' memoranda, this Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#11).

I. Background

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed an application for social security benefits in March 2005, alleging that he became disabled in November 2004 due to severe depression and an unspecified back condition.

The Social Security Administration (hereinafter "SSA") denied Plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing, which the ALJ held in May 2006. At the hearing, Plaintiff and vocational expert Bonnie Gladden testified. An attorney represented Plaintiff at the hearing. In July 2006, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits.

In January 2008, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of this decision, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. In January 2008, Plaintiff appealed this decision by filing a complaint with this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Plaintiff seeks an outright reversal. In the alternative, he asks the Court to remand the case for reconsideration and to recommend that the Commission assign the case to a different ALJ.

B. Plaintiff's Background

Plaintiff last worked in November 2004, detailing cars. This job ended due to Plaintiff's back problems. Before that, he worked at Elder Beerman Department Store, first as a salesman and later as the manager of the men's department. He took an extended leave of absence after a car accident and his employer eventually told him that the store needed to hire someone else. Before that job, Plaintiff worked detailing cars. He lost that job when he entered treatment for drug and alcohol problems.

The record shows that Plaintiff received psychiatric treatment for suicidal behavior at Carle Pavilion in March 1994. (R. 257, 274, 158.)

More recently, in February 2005, Plaintiff broke up with his partner of nine years. Following this event, he attempted suicide and was hospitalized for three days. He subsequently began intensive treatment at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center and Coles County Mental Health Center. He was again hospitalized in connection with suicidal behavior in May 2005, October 2005, and February 2006.

Plaintiff has been diagnosed with a variety of mental conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. He experienced sexual abuse as a child, and was raped several times. He has a history of polysubstance abuse disorder but he has been alcohol-free for about 13 years and has not done drugs since about December 2004.

His treatment includes one session each month with a psychiatrist, one private counseling session each week, and about eight group therapy sessions each week. He spends about 62 hours a month in treatment. (R. 301.) Dr. Dan Montgomery and Dr. John Lauer, both psychiatrists, have treated Plaintiff. Beginning in December 2005, Dr. Daphne Maurer has been his treating psychiatrist. Besides therapy and counseling, Plaintiff takes prescription medications, including Zoloft, Geodon, Ativan (Lorazepam), and Cogentin. (R. 314, listing his medications on April 17, 2006.) In May 2006, his regular medications included Zoloft, Benztropine, Lorazepam, Geodon, Tramadol, and Cyclobenzaprine. (R. 156.) His medications cause him to experience a number of side effects, including ...

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