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Nelson v. Astrue

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

May 31, 2013

JAMES NELSON Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff James Nelson has moved to reverse the decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying his Social Security benefits or, alternatively, remand for further proceedings [11]. In response, the Commissioner seeks a judgment upholding the denial of benefits [13]. For the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion, grants the Commissioner's motion, and affirms the decision of the Administrative Law Judge.

I. Procedural Background

On July 30, 2008, Plaintiff applied for disability benefits, alleging that he became disabled as of September 29, 2004. Administrative Record at 214.[1] Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. R. at 111, 125. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on June 3, 2010, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Karen Sayon. R. at 47. The ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim. R. at 29-39. Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision and the Appeals Council denied this request, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. R. at 1-4. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 405(g).

II. Facts

A. Background

Plaintiff was born in 1959 and was 50 years old at the time of his hearing. R. at 102. Plaintiff has a high school education and worked as a delivery driver from September 1990 through March 1993. R. at 254. Plaintiff also worked as a carpenter from March 1993 through July 2005. R. at 253. Most recently, Plaintiff worked as a laborer for a tent rental company from July 2007 through the end of August 2007, and only a few days of each month for after that until March 2008.[2] R. at 253. Plaintiff indicated that he was unable to work due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), mood disorder, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. R. at 538.

B. Medical Evidence

Plaintiff has had a history of asthma problems. These problems have been around since childhood, but were manageable until November 2004 when Plaintiff was exposed to mold while working. R. at 455. Plaintiff developed shortness of breath and a cough and was admitted to Morris Hospital on September 27, 2004 and kept there for three days. R. at 451. At the time, Plaintiff had a two pack per day smoking habit for at least the past twenty to twenty-five years. R. at 455, 479. Plaintiff was diagnosed with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchitis. R. at 451.

On November 12, 2004, Plaintiff again went to the emergency room at Morris Hospital after developing a cough and shortness of breath after being exposed to cement dust while helping a friend. R. at 476. Plaintiff was held for five days and was again diagnosed with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchitis. R. at 499.

On August 19, 2006, Dr. Ezike, a state agency physician, conducted a consultative exam of plaintiff for the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). R. at 524-28. Plaintiff stated that he quit smoking in 2004 but that he drinks about six beers a day. R. at 525. Dr. Ezike concluded that Plaintiff suffered from asthma and a history of rheumatoid arthritis. R. at 527.

On August 30, 2006, Dr. B. Rock Oh completed a physical residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment of Plaintiff. R. at 442-49. Dr. Rock Oh determined that Plaintiff could occasionally lift 50 pounds, frequently lift 25 pounds, stand or walk about six hours in an eight hour work day, sit about six hours in an eight hour work day, and was not limited in his ability to push or pull. R. at 443. Dr. Rock Oh also determined that Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, humidity, as well as dusts and poor ventilation. R. at 446. In the report, Dr. Rock Oh noted "Clmt has mild asthma. Clmt has no hospitalization for asthma since 2004." (sic) R. at 449.

On March 19, 2008, Plaintiff completed a mood anxiety rating scale self assessment. R. at 430. On a scale of 0-100, 0/100 being "none, " 25/100 being "mild, " 50/100 being "moderate, " 75/100 being "very bad, " and 100/100 being "the worst ever, " Plaintiff rated his anxiety at 50/100, worry at 25/100, irritability at 25/100, and being easily fatigued at 100/100. Id. Plaintiff also indicated that he had had thoughts of harming others. Id.

On April 2, 2008, Plaintiff completed a second mood anxiety rating scale self assessment. R. at 429. Plaintiff reassessed his anxiety at 50/100, worry at 50/100, irritability at 50/100, and being easily fatigued at 50/100. Id. Plaintiff this time indicated that he had not had thoughts of harming others. Id.

On April 16, 2008, Plaintiff completed a third mood anxiety rating scale self assessment. R. at 428. Plaintiff assessed his anxiety at 75/100, worry at 50/100, irritability at 25/100, and being easily fatigued at 50/100. Id. Plaintiff again indicated that he had not had thoughts of harming others. Id.

On June 16, 2008, Plaintiff began receiving metal health treatment from Dr. John Goldin-Mertdogan at the Institute for Personal Development. R. at 346. Dr. Goldin-Mertdogan is a psychiatrist who earned his M.D. at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and completed his residency in psychiatry at Loyola University Hospital and Medical Center. R. at 538. Dr. Goldin-Mertdogan specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder. Id. During their initial meeting, Dr. Goldin-Mertdogan noted that the plaintiff gets bored easily with ...


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