United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division
EDDIE MYLES, JR. Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
IAIN D. JOHNSTON, District Judge.
Plaintiff Eddie Myles, Jr. brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking remand of the decision denying him social security disability benefits. For the reasons set forth below, the decision is affirmed.
On January 31, 2011, plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income, alleging that his disability began on January 1, 2009. R. 13. He was then 35 years old and had not worked in the last 10 years. It does not appear that, up until this point, he had ever sought treatment for any mental health issues.
In early February and then again in early March of 2011, plaintiff went to the Janet Wattles Center (sometimes also referred to by the parties as Rosecrance). Set forth below is a description, written by a non-doctor employee, of plaintiff's "presenting problem" at this time:
Client has been on tracking for the last week due to suicidal ideation and inability to care for his daily grooming and hygiene needs. Cl has been isolating and not been leaving his apartment and has just experienced a loss as his partner of 6 years has found a new partner and left him. Cl states that this is very hard for him but "I just can not handle it anymore." Cl appears agoraphobic, with fear of closed places (elevators, crowds, or even being out alone at times). Cl has a long history of using cannabis to relieve symptoms and has never been prescribed medication. Cl states that he hears voices and one sounds like his auntie who says, "things are going to be alright." Cl states that these come mostly when he is using alcohol or cannabis. Cl only hears these when he is depressed. Cl has mismanaged anger by trying to run down his friend with a car. Cl shows passive self harm by biting his finger daily when he is angry. Cl has taken sleeping pills once with alcohol trying "not to wake up." Client is paranoid and does not trust many people as he has a history of them stealing from him and taking advantage of him. Cl has trouble sleeping, waking after 2 or 3 hrs with racing thoughts and has gained 25 lbs in the last 6 months which he thinks is due to overeating and depression. Cl has feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness and says he constantly worries about his family. Cl exhibits Agoraphobia without panic disorder as seen by not taking an elevator, not wanting to be outside the home alone, not standing in a crowd and panicking in the back seat of a car.
Sometime in March of 2011-the exact time is not clear - plaintiff stayed approximately a week at an overnight facility called Crisis Beds, which was run by the Janet Wattles Center. R. 40. As plaintiff's attorney explained, Crisis Beds is "kind of a step away from keeping someone out of the hospital by putting them in [Janet Wattles Center's] own residential [program] where the psychiatrist from their facility will go to the residential program." R. 44. In other words, this was not a psychiatric hospitalization.
On March 11, 2011, plaintiff was first seen by psychiatrist Shahina Jafry. R. 230. Dr. Jafry met with plaintiff for 45 minutes and diagnosed him with "Bipolar d/o II depressed Anxiety d/o nos r/o panic d/o w agoraphobia; poly substance abuse." R. 230. She noted that plaintiff had recently experienced a break-up with a partner of six years who had been cheating on plaintiff. R. 231. She prescribed several drugs ("Seroquel XR, celexa, hydroxyzine") and advised plaintiff to stay away from alcohol and attend group therapy meetings known as PATH meetings. R. 229.
Over the next year, plaintiff attended PATH meetings and periodically met with Dr. Jafry and counselors at the Janet Wattles Center. They recorded their observations in progress notes. As discussed below, Dr. Jafry generally found that plaintiff improved from this worst point during the breakup, although he still occasionally experienced some of his original symptoms, mostly when he stopped taking his medication. Dr. Jafry saw plaintiff every few months.
In April 2011, plaintiff was interviewed by a consulting clinical psychologist, Mark B. Langgut. R. 275-278. In a four-page report, Dr. Langgut summarized plaintiff's medical and life history, as reported by plaintiff, and then made various observations, including that plaintiff "presented himself as passive, allowing others to complete most activities of daily living for him, " that plaintiff's "emotional presentation was within normal limits, " that plaintiff had "deficient computational skills, " that plaintiff had "impaired judgment and requires supervision and assistance in making appropriate decisions, " and that plaintiff "had impaired insight into his own situation." R. 277-278. Under the heading "Diagnostic Considerations, " he identified plaintiff as having "BiPolar Disorder II." R. 278.
On May 8, 2011, Dr. Michele Womontree, a state agency doctor, reviewed plaintiff's medical records and completed a form stating that plaintiff had a severe impairment but that it was not expected to last for 12 months. R. 280. Her main observation was that the "[o]nset of [plaintiff's] severe mental health problems seems to coincide with the loss of [plaintiff's] significant relationship early this year (2011)" and that plaintiff "appears to be responding to treatment and may be expected to recover significantly from this low point." R. 292.
About a year later, on June 29, 2012, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") held a hearing at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified. R. 29-51. On August 31, 2012, the ALJ issued his decision, finding that plaintiff's impairments (the primary one being bipolar illness) did not meet the Listing 12.04 (affective disorders), 12.06 (anxiety disorders), or 12.09 (substance abuse disorders). R. 15-16. In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ found that plaintiff had a mild restriction in activities of daily living and had moderate difficulties in social function, but that he did not have marked difficulties in either of these two categories. R. 16. The ALJ then found that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the limitation that "he needs to work alone, performing routine work that stays the same day-to-day." R. 17.
The crux of the ALJ's analysis is that plaintiff's "main stressor was the end of a six-year romantic relationship." R. 18. The ALJ noted that until this breakup, plaintiff had never received any formal treatment or psychotropic medication. Id. Then after the breakup, plaintiff showed ...