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Melissa A. Monroe v. Michael J. Astrue

January 12, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Byron G. Cudmore United States Magistrate Judge


Wednesday, 12 January, 2011 04:34:34 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD



Plaintiff Melissa A. Monroe appeals from the denial of her application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income (collectively "Disability Benefits") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(I), 423, 1381a, and 1382c. This appeal is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c ). Monroe has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 7), and Defendant Commissioner of Social Security has filed a Motion for Summary Affirmance (d/e 11). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to have this matter proceed before this Court. Consent to Proceed Before a United States Magistrate Judge, and Order of Reference entered June 8, 2010 (d/e 9). For the reasons set forth below, the Decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.


Monroe was born on June 15, 1977. She completed the tenth grade. She last worked in 2005 at Culver's Restaurant in Springfield, Illinois, making sandwiches and serving as a cashier. Answer (d/e 4), attached Certified Transcript of the Record of Proceedings before the Social Security Administration (R.), at 600-01. She previously worked as a meat cutter, a retail stocking clerk, receptionist and a companion for disabled and elderly persons. R. 133-40, 603.

Monroe suffers from depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). R. 236. In 1994, Monroe was hospitalized twice when she was sixteen years old for depression and suicidal thoughts. R. 184-218. At one point when she was sixteen, Monroe tried to kill herself by taking an overdose of Paxil. R. 188. Her mother reported at that time Monroe had been in a car accident when she was four years old. According to her mother, Monroe had been in the hospital for a week after the accident, including three days in intensive care. R. 204.

The medical records do not show any treatment for psychiatric or psychological problems until February 26, 2004. On that date, Monroe was seen for assessment at the North Central Behavioral Health, Inc. (NCBH), office in Ottawa, Illinois. R. 236. On March 24, 2004, Monroe saw Dr. Atul Sheth, of NCBH, for an initial psychiatric medication evaluation. Dr. Sheth diagnosed Monroe with major depressive disorder, recurrent, mild to moderate; dysthymic disorder; and PTSD by history. He assessed her with a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) of 55. R. 248. A GAF of 51-60 denotes moderate symptoms or moderate difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning. Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 32-34 (4th ed. Text Rev. 2000).

Monroe went to counseling sessions at NCBH in Ottawa, Illinois, from March 2004, to May 2004, under the supervision of Dr. Sheth. R. 230-35. Her file was closed on August 7, 2004, because she did not respond to a contact letter. R. 401.

Monroe filed her application for Disability Benefits on August 17, 2004. R. 93. On October 9, 2004, Monroe completed a questionnaire regarding her daily activities and her work history. R. 128-40. She stated:

I'm really tired, depressed, don't feel like doing much cant [sic] sleep much at night don't eat write [sic] concerned about weight. I'm pretty much a hermit. I don't have a social life R. 128. She said that she had a poor memory and poor concentration. She said that she was afraid at night and left the television and lights on because of her fears. R. 129. She said that she drove her children to and from school daily. She said that she had no friends. R. 130. She said that she did not like being in public. R. 131. She also said that she had insomnia. R. 130. She also said that she had a neck injury from a car accident when she was five years old. R. 126.

On October 13, 2004, Monroe's mother Sandra J. Monroe completed a Function Report--Adult Third Party form. R. 141-48. Monroe's mother stated that Monroe had a pet frog. Monroe's mother stated that she babysat Monroe's children quite often on the weekends. Monroe's mother said that Monroe was more social before her depression. She said that Monroe had trouble sleeping. R. 142. Monroe's mother said that Monroe did her family's cooking, basic housecleaning and laundry. She said that Monroe got out of the house every day. R. 143. She said that Monroe visited her mother's home often. R. 144. She said that Monroe's condition affected Monroe's talking, completing tasks, and concentration. R. 145. She stated, however, that Monroe finished what she started. She also stated that Monroe was good at following written instructions. R. 145. She classified Monroe's ability to get along with authority figures as, "ok." R. 145.

Monroe returned to NCBH on October 13, 2004, for an assessment.

The comprehensive assessment report stated that she had symptoms of PTSD and major depression, including trouble with remembering, concentrating, or following simple instructions; phobias; racing thoughts; and labile emotions. R. 222-27. The assessment report contained a recommendation for medication evaluation and therapy. Monroe did not return to NCBH again in 2004.

On December 1, 2004, Monroe was evaluated by psychologist Dr. Joel Eckert, Psy.D. R. 253-260. Monroe reported that she had been in a car accident when she was about four or five years old. She said that she was in a coma for two weeks and was told that she had suffered brain damage as a result. She said that she achieved only a fourth-grade reading level in school. She reported that she was sexually molested during her childhood by the son of a babysitter and an elderly neighbor.

R. 255. She reported being hospitalized for mental problems twice when she was fourteen years old. She stated that she tried to kill herself when she was fourteen. R. 256. She reported that she had two sons, ages five and four, and a daughter, age two. R. 257. Dr. Eckert diagnosed Monroe with major depression, recurrent, moderate to severe with anxious features; and dysthymic disorder. R. 260.

On January 21, 2005, agency psychologist Carl Hermsmeyer, Ph.D., conducted a review of Monroe's medical record and completed a Psychiatric Review Technique form and Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form. R. 261-78. Dr. Hermsmeyer opined that Monroe had mild restrictions of activities of daily living, moderate difficulties maintaining social functioning, and moderate difficulties maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. He also opined that she experienced no episodes of decompensation. R. 271. He further opined that she had moderate limitations on her ability to understand and remember detailed instructions and moderate limitations on her ability to carry out detailed instructions. R. 275. Dr. Hermsmeyer opined,

The claimant has a diagnosis of major depression, recurrent, moderate to severe, and dysthymic disorder. The severity does not meet or equal any mental listings, but is more than non-severe. Although the claimant may have problems with understanding, remembering and the ability to carry out detailed instructions, the claimant retains the mental capacity to perform simple one and two-step tasks at a consistent pace.

R. 277. On May 27, 2005, agency psychologist Leslie Fyans, Ph.D., concurred with Dr. Hermsmeyer's assessment of Monroe. R. 281.

On August 10, 2005, Monroe saw Dr. Sheth at NCBH again for a psychiatric evaluation. R. 439-42. Monroe reported having difficulty sleeping, and low energy. She said that she became nervous at night and would stay home at night. She felt as if someone was after her. She would leave the television on at night. During the day, she felt that others were talking about her or thinking about her. She said that she felt nervous around people. She reported having mood swings. R. 439. Dr. Sheth prescribed Seroquel and Zoloft. R. 441. Dr. Sheth diagnosed Monroe with major depressive disorder, recurrent, and PTSD. He assigned a GAF score of 58. R. 446-47. Dr. Sheth stated that Monroe had issues with depression and lack of motivation, and that she was struggling with issues of past abuses which are coming out as paranoia. R. 446. Monroe previously reported to NCBH personnel that she suffered physical emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse in the past, and that she had been raped. R. 415. On August 17, 2005, Monroe ...

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