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Korzeniewski v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 14, 2014

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


MARY M. ROWLAND, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, Anthony J. Korzeniewski, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of his application for disability insurance benefits. For the reasons set forth below, the Court remands this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


On January 23, 2009, Mr. Korzeniewski filed an application for disability insur-ance benefits (DIB) and supplement social security income (SSI), in which he al-leged a disability onset date of November 28, 2008.[2] The Social Security Admin-istration denied his claims for both DIB and SSI on May 4, 2009, and then again upon reconsideration on September 30, 2009.[3] (R. 80-3; 95-7). Mr. Korzeniewski filed a written request for a hearing, and on January 18, 2011, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) conducted a hearing. (R. 38-70). At that hearing, Mr. Korzeniew-ski testified, as did an impartial vocational expert, Julie Bose. ( Id. )

On February 9, 2011, the ALJ issued a written opinion, finding that Mr. Korzen-iewski was not disabled. (R. 17-26). Mr. Korzeniewski requested Appeals Council review, but the request was denied, rendering the ALJ's decision final. (R. 6). Kor-zeniewski then requested judicial review, for which this Court has jurisdiction pur-suant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the consent of the parties and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the case was reassigned to Magistrate Judge Rowland on December 12, 2012 for all further proceedings, including entry of final judgment. (Dkt. 11).


Mr. Korzeniewski testified to being a 55-year-old man who completed the elev-enth grade. (R. 42). At the time of his testimony, he was no longer working, but had worked maintenance in a building for about $200 per month since becoming disa-bled in November 2008. (R. 42-43). He testified that the main reason he cannot work is his bipolar disorder, his ADHD, and his anxiety. He is unable to focus, is very irritable and angry, has mood swings, and forgets things. (R. 44). He "can't talk socially with somebody without getting angry." (R. 45). He said he takes medica-tions that have numerous side effects and testified to headaches specifically. ( Id. ). He hears voices that would make him "stop doing things.... I don't know if it's my brother calling me because my brother passed away a couple of years ago." (R. 46). The ALJ asked Mr. Korzeniewski if the voices were distracting to which he re-sponded "well, the only time they are bothersome is... if I get the bad ones, you know, bad voices... like someone's coming for me or something like that." (R. 47). He admitted he had not heard the "bad voices" for a year, "somewhere in there." (R. 48).

He provides full time care to his disabled girlfriend. ( Id. ). He can drive, although he gets frustrated. (R. 49). He exercises and takes care of his girlfriend's two cats. (R. 52). He does the laundry, grocery shops, cleans the house, and visits his grand-children. (R. 52-53). He not only takes care of his girlfriend's place, he takes care of his own place. (R. 53). When he watches football, he knows which team is winning, although he can "lose concentration a lot." (R. 57). He had just started taking Ri-talin a few months prior to the hearing and thought it was helping "a little bit... but [he] still forget[s]." (R. 59-60). His ADHD was "a big issue" when he was work-ing because "people do not understand ADHD." He testified that he would forget things and that would result in arguments with his boss. (R. 60). In response to the ALJ's questions, he testified that when he visits a doctor he can sign his name at check-in and answer the questions asked by the doctor. (R. 61). He said that he can sit for only a half hour to 45 minutes because he likes to be busy, describing himself as hyperactive. (R. 62).

He testified to having back pain, but said he can walk and stand. (R. 63). He can lift 50-70 pounds. He attends counseling one time a month. He called the suicide hotline in 2009, around when his brother died, and once attempted suicide by at-taching a hose to the exhaust pipe of his car. (R. 50-52).

A. Medical records

Beginning in Spring 2007 through March 2008, the medical records indicate that Mr. Korzeniewski treated regularly at Hines Veterans' Administration Hospital (Hines) for depression and ADHD. He reported anxiety, being overwhelmed by grief (his brother, a fellow veteran, had died recently), an inability to sit still, suicidal ideation, depression, fatigue, poor impulse control, and difficulty remembering things. (R. 344-46, 354, 361, 370-74). His Global Assessment Functioning (GAF) score remained consistent at 55 throughout that entire period. (R. 348, 356, 363). He was prescribed fluoxetine. (R. 326). He had previous trials of paroxetine, mirtazapine, venlafaxine, buspirone, and had tried bupropion. (R. 330). However, according to the notes, he could not tolerate those other medications.

Beginning in 2009 through February 2010, he treated with Dr. Mary Collins, a psychiatrist, and Mandi Evanson, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. During that year, Mr. Korzeniewski received in-person treatment from Dr. Collins, on average one time per month, on the following dates: January 23, March 6, April 17, May 1, May 15, June 1, June 15, July 27, August 28, September 25, October 30, and De-cember 4, 2009, and January 25 and February 26, 2010. (R. 556, 560, 566, 576, 582, 600, 608, 619, 632, 643, 646, 764, 771). After each session with Dr. Collins, Mr. Kor-zemiewski then had a counseling session with Ms. Evanson which lasted between 50 to 75 minutes. (R. 551, 559, 568, 574, 585, 590, 603, 610, 622, 628, 636, 639, 763, 769). Dr. Collins reviewed each of Ms. Evanson's notes from her sessions with Mr. Korzeniewski. In addition to monthly treatment, Dr. Collins had regular contact with Mr. Korzeniewski in between appointments. The telephonic meetings included discussions about Mr. Korzeniewski hearing voices, his inability to cope with his daily stressors and the effectiveness of his medication.[4] Like Dr. Collins, Ms. Ev-anson spoke to Mr. Korzeniewski on numerous occasions between appointments about his status.[5] All of Ms. Evanson's notes about these discussions were reviewed by Dr. Collins.

In March 2009, Dr. Collins assessed Mr. Korzeniewski to be a moderate suicide risk. (R. 327). During his March appointment, he reported that he just lost his job and was unable to return to work because he needed to care for his girlfriend. ( Id. ) On April 1, 2009, he reported daily suicidal ideation, mood swings, and increased anxiety. (R. 324). He also reported that he called the suicide hotline, and Dr. Collins assessed him as a High Risk for suicide. (R. 636-38).

On April 27, 2009, Tyrone Hollerauer, a nonexamining doctor of psychology, hav-ing reviewed the Hines medical records dated between April 24, 2007 and April 10, 2009, performed a Psychiatric Review Technique and found only mild limitations in: (1) activities of daily living, (2) maintaining social functioning and (3) maintaining ...

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