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Hoagland v. Colvin

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

September 18, 2014

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


YOUNG B. KIM, Magistrate Judge.

Timothy Hoagland seeks disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), see 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, and supplemental security income ("SSI"), id. §§ 1381, et seq., claiming that he is disabled as a result of bipolar disorder and depression. After the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denied his applications, Hoagland filed this suit seeking judicial review. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the foregoing reasons, Hoagland's motion is granted and the Commissioner's motion is denied:

Procedural History

Hoagland applied for DIB on May 25, 2009, and SSI on June 4, 2009, (Administrative Record ("A.R.") 125), claiming a disability onset date of May 19, 2009, (id. at 71). After the Commissioner denied his claims initially and upon reconsideration, (id. at 55, 60, 68, 72), Hoagland sought and was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), (id. at 76, 81). A hearing was held on May 12, 2011, at which Hoagland, a medical expert, and a vocational expert provided testimony. (Id. at 27-50.) The ALJ issued a decision finding that Hoagland is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and denying his DIB and SSI claims. (Id. at 17-22.) When the Appeals Council denied Hoagland's request for review, (id. at 1-6), the ALJ's denial of benefits became the final decision of the Commissioner, see O'Connor-Spinner v. Astrue, 627 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2010). On January 29, 2013, Hoagland filed the current suit seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); (R. 1, Compl.). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of this court. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); (R. 12).


Hoagland, who is 41 years old, suffers from depression, bipolar disorder, and other impairments. He held a variety of jobs, including furniture refinisher, warehouse worker, and janitor, before applying for DIB and SSI, and last worked for the Salvation Army in May 2009. Hoagland claims that his depression and bipolar disorder became disabling on May 19, 2009. He presented both documentary and testimonial evidence in support of his claim.

A. Medical Evidence

The relevant medical record begins in February 2009 when Hoagland sought treatment from Dr. Eva Kurilo, a psychiatrist at the Ecker Center for Mental Health ("Ecker Center"), for "mood problems." (A.R. 259-61.) Dr. Kurilo observed that Hoagland did not appear sad and was smiling appropriately during his interview. (Id. at 260.) She noted that his concentration was fair, although he seemed "a little bit distractible, " and that he conveyed no suicidal or homicidal ideations or overtly paranoid statements. (Id.) Dr. Kurilo diagnosed Hoagland with mood disorder along with alcohol abuse and pathological gambling based on his self-reported history. (Id.) Hoagland told Dr. Kurilo that he used to take Luvox to help with his depression, but that the medication had been less effective recently. (Id.) She instructed Hoagland to continue taking Luvox but also prescribed Lamictal as a mood stabilizer and recommended psychotherapy. (Id.)

Dr. Kurilo continued to see Hoagland about once a month between February and August 2009. (See id. at 262-69.) During those visits Hoagland appeared "pleasant" and "cooperative, " exhibiting good attention and fair concentration. (Id. at 264-67.) Dr. Kurilo's progress notes indicate that he was tolerating his medication well and seemed to be improving, although she increased Hoagland's Lamictal dosage in May 2009 when he reported that the medication was not working as well as before. (Id. at 264-65, 267.)

In August 2009 Hoagland was treated by Dr. Syed Anwar, another psychiatrist at the Ecker Center. (Id. at 318.) Dr. Anwar noted that Hoagland's mood was stable and that he was tolerating his medications well with no side effects. (Id.) He continued to see Hoagland about once every three months between August 2009 and January 2011. (Id. at 318, 391-92, 395-98.) Over the course of treatment Dr. Anwar observed that decreasing Hoagland's medications increased his mood swings and anxiety, and in February 2010 Dr. Anwar prescribed Trazodone to help Hoagland sleep. (See id. at 397.) Dr. Anwar's notes generally indicate that Hoagland did well with his medications during that time period, although there were instances when Hoagland's symptoms worsened significantly.

Specifically, in July 2010, Hoagland overdosed on Lamictal in an attempt to commit suicide after his mother's death and was admitted to the emergency room. (Id. at 344.) He was described as being "initially combative and agitated" and "crying a lot." (Id. at 342.) Dr. Anwar observed that Hoagland was depressed and in an "almost catatonic state." (Id. at 345.) He was treated with antipsychotic medications, (id.), and diagnosed with bipolar disorder and personality disorder, (id. at 366-67). After spending a few days in the emergency room, Hoagland was transferred to Elgin Mental Health Center ("EMHC") and admitted into the care of Dr. Kurilo. (Id. at 370.) Dr. Kurilo completed a psychiatric evaluation noting Hoagland's irritability, depression, anxiety, and anger control problems. (Id. at 368.) She diagnosed him with bipolar disorder "due to his history of impulsivity, anger, and moodiness, " and that he had been "under a lot of stress over the last weeks." (Id.) His symptoms included racing thoughts and the "[i]nability to complete day-to-day chores[.]" (Id. at 368.) Dr. Kurilo noted that he was "doing fairly well on his medications" before "recent stressors, including relationship problems and financial issues." (Id. at 370.) Hoagland was eventually released in stable condition after spending almost three weeks at EMHC. (See id. at 386.) But then in September 2010, police officers brought Hoagland back to the Ecker Center because his former girlfriend reported that Hoagland had expressed suicidal thoughts to her. (Id. at 393.) Although he was agitated upon arrival, Hoagland denied suicidal ideations and was released the same day after being judged not to be a risk of harm to himself or others. (Id.)

The record also includes psychiatric evaluations from state agency consultants and Dr. Anwar. In August 2009, consultant W. Nordbrock, Ph.D., completed a Psychiatric Review Technique form. (Id. at 287-300.) He concluded that Hoagland's impairment was not severe, and that he had only mild difficulties in maintaining social function and no limitations in activities of daily living and maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. (Id. at 287, 297.) Dr. Nordbrock found Hoagland to be "partially credible" because his self-described symptoms were "somewhat more severe" than his Global Assessment Functioning ("GAF") score of 55.[2] (Id. at 299.) Dr. Nordbrock also believed that Hoagland's symptoms were inconsistent with his mother's account of his activities of daily living, which included making light meals, mowing the lawn, grooming and hygiene, taking his medications, going outside alone, driving a car, shopping for groceries, and handling his own finances. (Id.) Dr. Nordbrock concluded that Hoagland's psychiatric treatment had been "relatively short and infrequent" and that the medical record did not support the severity of Hoagland's complaints. (Id.)

In November 2009, Carl Hermsmeyer, Ph.D., agreed with Dr. Nordbrock's assessment, noting that Hoagland reported his condition was "fair" and that medication was helping. (Id. at 330.) Dr. Hermsmeyer concluded that Hoagland was "partially credible" and pointed out that Hoagland reported "feeling better." (Id.) Neither Dr. Nordbrock nor Dr. Hermsmeyer noted any episodes of decompensation, as both of their evaluations were completed prior to Hoagland's July 2010 suicide attempt.

In July 2011, Dr. Anwar completed an Affective Disorders Professional Source Data Sheet in which he confirmed that Hoagland has bipolar disorder. (Id. at 418-23.) He opined that Hoagland has marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning, marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, and repeated episodes of decompensation. (Id. at 420.) Dr. Anwar also concluded that for RFC purposes, Hoagland is moderately limited in his ability to carry out short and simple instructions, make simple work-related decisions, and maintain socially appropriate behavior. (Id. at 422.) He further opined that Hoagland is markedly limited in his ability to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods, work with others without being distracted by them, complete a normal workday without interruptions from his symptoms, work at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number of rest ...

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