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Lavoie v. Colvin

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

January 27, 2015

PAUL LAVOIE Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


SIDNEY I. SCHENKIER, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Paul Lavoie has filed a motion (doc. #18) to reverse or remand the final determination by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The Commissioner has responded, seeking affirmance of the decision denying benefits (doc. #29) and Mr. Lavoie has filed a reply (doc. # 34). For the following reasons, the Court grants the claimant's motion to remand and denies the Commissioner's motion.


On September 23, 2009, Mr. Lavoie applied for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of October 17, 1998 (R. 47-48). His last-insured date was September 30, 2003 (R. 13). Mr. Lavoie's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, and a hearing was held before an ALJ on December 28, 2011 (R. 11). In a written opinion issued on January 12, 2012, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Lavoie was not disabled during the time period between his alleged onset date and his date last insured (R. 11-20). The Appeals Council denied Mr. Lavoie's request for review of the ALJ's decision (R. 4-6), making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. ยง 404.981; Shauger v. Astrue, 675 F.3d 690, 695 (7th Cir. 2012).


We begin with a summary of the administrative record. We review Mr. Lavoie's general background and medical record in Part A;[2] the hearing testimony in Part B; and the ALJ's written opinion in Part C.


Mr. Lavoie was born on February 16, 1956. He was 42 years old at his alleged onset date, 47 years old on his date last insured, and 55 years old at the hearing. Mr. Lavoie has a high school education that consisted of "special education" classes, but the record shows no formal diagnosis of a learning disability (R. 14, 86). Between 1992 and his alleged onset date, Mr. Lavoie worked for various grocery stores as a stocker and a meat wrapper and held several temporary laborer jobs as a material handler and forklift driver (R. 56-59, 220-222). Mr. Lavoie did not work at all in 1998, the year of his alleged onset date; he held several temporary jobs in 1999 including one he quit after five weeks because it was "too hot" (R. 50-52, 221). He has not worked since 1999.[3]

Medical records from Tinley Park Hospital in October 1998 report that on October 12, 1998, Mr. Lavoie's sister took him to South Suburban Hospital because his blood pressure was out of control and he had stopped taking his medications for diabetes, high cholesterol and depression (R. 312).[4] After spending several days at South Suburban Hospital, Mr. Lavoie was transferred to Tinley Park Hospital for inpatient treatment on October 16, 1998 because he was contemplating suicide; his diagnosis on admission to Tinley Park was "major depression - recurrent" (Id. ).[5]

Mr. Lavoie remained at Tinley Park Hospital until November 13, 1998. During that time, his GAF score improved from 40 to 60, [6] and he was restarted on his medications for his diabetes (Glucopaz), high cholesterol (Leprid) and depression (Zoloft) (R. 313). At his discharge on November 13, 1998, Mr. Lavoie denied feeling depressed or suicidal and was assessed as having received the maximum benefit from in-patient psychiatric treatment (Id. ). After his discharge, Mr. Lavoie began outpatient mental health therapy through the Metropolitan Family Services Center (R. 66, 70, 313). None of Mr. Lavoie's records from Metropolitan Family Services are available for review because they were destroyed by the facility as a matter of course prior to Mr. Lavoie's claim for benefits (R. 512). The record does not reveal how often or for how long Mr. Lavoie attended therapy sessions at Metropolitan Family Services.

During the time period between July 1999 until at least the date of the hearing, Mr. Lavoie visited the outpatient clinic at Oak Forest Hospital every three to six months to have his blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked (R. 632-749). The records from some of these clinic appointments mention Mr. Lavoie's mental state. For example, on June 24, 1999, he told a doctor that his depression had increased lately and that he had felt suicidal the previous day but did not act on his feelings; his affect at this appointment was judged to be "flat" (R. 741). Although he did not feel suicidal at the time of his actual clinic appointment, Mr. Lavoie told the doctor that if the feeling returned, he may not tell anyone ( Id., R. 742). Instead of going to the hospital after his appointment, Mr. Lavoie agreed to visit a crisis center with his sister; the record does not reveal if such a visit occurred (R. 742). At a follow-up appointment at the clinic on June 29, 1999, Mr. Lavoie promised to tell someone if he was feeling suicidal; his affect that day was judged to me "much brighter" (presumably than that of five days previously) (R. 740). He also agreed to meet with a new social worker at Metropolitan Family Services (Id. ).

In August 1999, Mr. Lavoie reported no suicidal thoughts (R. 738). On October 12, 1999, his medical record from Oak Forest Hospital noted "depression" and recommended a follow up appointment. In December 1999, he reported that he was doing "okay" and that he had begun working for a temporary agency (R. 736). The medical record from his next appointment at Oak Forest Hospital, from February 2000, notes that he was "not feeling suicidal" although he expressed frustration with his temporary work (R. 734).

The record contains no other references to Mr. Lavoie's mental state prior to his date last insured. The next medical record concerning Mr. Lavoie's mental health status is from October 31, 2005, when Mr. Lavoie was referred to the psychiatry clinic at Oak Forest Hospital; the referral form stated that Mr. Lavoie had depression and was "failing on a high dose of Zoloft" (R. 508). Mr. Lavoie reported to his psychiatrist, Samina Khattak, M.D., that he had been depressed for the "past 7-8 years" and that he still had periods of depression that lasted a week or two at a time, as well as "passive suicidal thoughts" that he should not have been born and that he should not be here (Id. ). Mr. Lavoie continued to receive mental health treatment from Dr. Khattak and later from psychologist John Canzona, Psy.D (R. 329-345, 407-482, 573-603).

With respect to his physical health, Mr. Lavoie's treatment consisted primarily of visits to the Oak Forest Hospital outpatient clinic for bloodwork and medication management (R. 632-749). At these appointments, he regularly reported being non-compliant with the diet prescribed for his diabetes, but there is no evidence that he needed any additional treatment with respect to his diabetes because of non-compliance (R. 734-39). Mr. Lavoie complained of ankle pain at an appointment in May 2002 and wore a brace in June 2002 because of ankle instability; ...

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