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Calhoun v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

August 12, 2013

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. [1] Defendant

Page 1070

For Darryl Calhoun, Plaintiff: Barry Alan Schultz, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Barry Schultz, Evanston, IL.

For Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: SSA, Katherine Ellen Beaumont, LEAD ATTORNEYS, United States Attorney's Office (NDIL), Chicago, IL.


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Milton I. Shadur, Senior United States District Judge.


Darryl Calhoun (" Calhoun" ) seeks judicial review, pursuant to Social Security Act (" Act" ) § § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3),[2] of the final decision of Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn Colvin (" Commissioner" ) denying Calhoun's claim for supplemental security income (" SSI" ) disability benefits. Calhoun has moved alternatively for summary judgment under Rule 56 or to remand for further proceedings, while Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment seeks affirmance of the decision. For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, both motions for summary judgment are denied and Calhoun's motion for remand is granted.

Procedural Background[3]

Calhoun filed an SSI application on December 12, 2007, alleging a disability onset date of February 15, 2007 (R. 22). Calhoun's application was denied on initial review and was again denied following a September 21, 2009 hearing (the " Hearing" ) before Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) Jose Anglada (R. 36). Calhoun requested review of the decision by the Appeals Council on January 28, 2011, but that too was denied (R. 1). Thus ALJ Anglada's decision is the final decision of Commissioner. This action was timely filed on August 14, 2012.

Medical Evidence

Calhoun was born on February 25, 1964. In February 2007 he developed an " extremely pruiritic" lesion on his neck that interfered with his sleep (R. 412). Because the wound had not healed by July 2007, Calhoun returned to the Veterans' Administration (" VA" ) hospital complaining of itching and burning at the wound site (R. 433). In August 2007 Calhoun was admitted to the VA hospital with suicidal ideation (R. 467) -- he " felt hopeless and helpless" as his pain had not abated, and he considered jumping out a window (R. 467). VA doctors noted that his mood was anxious and labile and his judgment and insight were poor (R. 467). In October 2007 Calhoun again presented at the VA hospital complaining of neck pain, and doctors observed that the wound was raw and bleeding (R. 538). Calhoun also continued to complain of depression (R. 538).

In January 2008 doctors performed a skin graft on the neck wound (R. 473). In March 2008 Calhoun presented himself for treatment with a worried mood and constricted affect (R. 724). He had picked through the skin graft, which he claimed relieved feelings of anxiety (R. 724). Doctors noted compulsive picking behavior and diagnosed depression secondary to a chronic skin condition (R. 724).

In May 2008 Calhoun was admitted to a program for homeless veterans. Upon admission he stated that he had been taking antidepressants but that they were ineffective and that " nothing [was] really worthwhile anymore" (R. 783). He complained that his neck wound was causing shoulder pain and interrupting his sleep and that racing thoughts would sometimes keep him awake for two to three days (R. 787, 794).

In June 2008 Calhoun presented at the emergency room of the VA hospital, complaining of severe pain from his neck wound that was not relieved by medication

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(R. 741, 761). Calhoun was unable to stop picking at the wound and complained of feeling that bugs were crawling on his skin (R. 745, 761). Doctors also observed that he seemed depressed and ordered a psychological evaluation (R. 741). In October 2008 doctors ordered a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (" TENS" ) device to provide pain and itch relief for Calhoun's neck wound (R. 892), but he continued to complain of pain, itchiness and sleeplessness (R. 899).

In January and February 2009 Calhoun was again admitted to the hospital complaining of severe pain at the wound site (R. 975). In February 2009 he was transferred to the VA hospital from another hospital after expressing suicidal ideation (R. 975). He stated that he was depressed because the wound had not healed, and doctors noted an impairment of his insight and judgment along with issues with fatigue (R. 874, 975). Doctors also noted that he had a history of picking at his wound and had picked out the hairs from his beard to the point that the area bled (R. 976). When a tissue sample of the wound was taken, it tested positive for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (" MRSA" ).

In June 2009 Calhoun began inpatient treatment at the Extended Care Center of the Hines VA hospital (R. 69, 928). Calhoun described his pain level as 12 on a 10 point scale. Doctors prescribed pain medication and physical therapy to strengthen the neck muscles (R. 909, 935).

In addition to the physical and psychological issues stemming from his neck wound, Calhoun has also been treated for substance abuse and other psychological issues. In April 2008 Calhoun entered a substance abuse program at the VA hospital (R. 721). Doctors in that program diagnosed major depression and prescribed antidepressants, but his suicidal ideation continued (R. 721, 859). Calhoun began individual counseling sessions to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (" PTSD" ) that stemmed from a sexual assault, and he also attended group therapy sessions for substance abuse in 2009 (R. 772, 920, 939). Despite those various treatments and therapies, Calhoun continued to complain of depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, mood fluctuations, manic periods, trouble concentrating and nightmares (R. 947-48, 961, 1023).

Calhoun's Hearing Testimony and Adult Function Report

Calhoun testified about his disabilities at the Hearing. He testified that the wound had still not healed after 2-1/2 years of treatment, that he suffered from diabetes mellitus that interfered with the proper healing of the wound, that the wound was painful and itchy and required doctors to change the dressing frequently, that doctors had advised him not to dress the wound himself because it aggravated the wound, that attempts at reducing the pain were fruitless, that the pain from the wound impaired his thinking and focus and that the wound prevented him from moving his head and carrying heavy objects (R. 52-54, 64, 66, 69-71, 74).

Calhoun also testified about his psychological issues, stating that his mood had not improved despite the depression treatments, that his mood could vacillate from minute to minute and that when he felt depressed he wanted to be left alone (R. 78). Calhoun also testified about his difficulties in sleeping, stating that he suffered from sleep apnea and insomnia and that his lack of sleep caused him to be very tired during the day and to fall asleep sometimes in mid-conversation (R. 56-59, 79).

Calhoun also submitted an Adult Function Report where he opined on his disabilities (R. 283-90), stating that he had ...

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