United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.
Plaintiff David Komperda seeks review of the Social Security Administration's decision denying him disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 423. Komperda has an established history of depression and addiction to alcohol and drugs. On May 25, 2012, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") determined that Komperda was not disabled under federal law. The Social Security Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision and this case followed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Komperda challenges the ALJ's decision alleging that the conclusion that he is not disabled was not supported by the evidence and that the Council abused its discretion in not granting him a hearing. Specifically, he claims that the ALJ failed to sufficiently take into account his own psychiatrist's evaluation and failed to take into account other evidence regarding his physical limitations. He moved for summary judgment and seeks to have the determination of the ALJ reversed, or in the alternative, remanded for another hearing. For the following reasons, the Court grants Komperda's motion in part and remands this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Komperda applied for disability insurance benefits on January 25, 2010, alleging disability beginning on November 1, 2009. (R. 60). His claims were denied both initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 62-64, 72-75). At Komperda's request, a hearing was held on March 23, 2012, at which time an ALJ heard testimony from Komperda, represented by counsel, and Jeffrey Lucas, a vocational expert. (R. 30-59). On May 25, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Komperda benefits. (R. 10-20). The ALJ found that, while Komperda was severely impaired by substance abuse and bipolar disorder, he was not disabled under the Act. (R. 13-20). The ALJ found that Komperda does not have an affective disorder in the absence of substance use and that there was no evidence he was unable to function outside a highly supportive living arrangement. (R. 14-15). Although the ALJ did not suggest Komperda could return to lifting transmissions, he did conclude that Komperda was capable of performing various unskilled tasks. (R. 13, 15). The Appeals Council denied Komperda's appeal on March 29, 2013 and this case followed. (R. 1-6).
A. Mental Health
Komperda was born in Chicago on April 23, 1975. (R. 301). He is 39 years old and has been seeing a psychiatrist for major depression since he was a teenager. (R. 234, 236). Komperda began heavily using alcohol and cocaine in his 20s, but his substance use was in remission from around 2004 to 2009. (R. 288). Though the Record does not indicate when Komperda was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Komperda's treatment for both bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence began no later than January 7, 2008. ( See R. 343). Between 2008 and 2012, Komperda was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by four separate doctors and was hospitalized twice due to psychotic episodes. ( See R. 285 (Dr. Art Pogre); 301 (Dr. Uzoma Okoli); 343 (Dr. Daram Reddy); 445 (Dr. Kirk Boyenga)). Komperda testified before the ALJ that he has been hospitalized three or four times over the course of his life, often due to his risk of suicide and each time because he stopped taking his prescribed medications. (R. 37).
In January 2008, after being sober for about four years, Komperda began seeing psychiatrist Daram Reddy once a month to have his bipolar medications monitored. (R. 343). After over a year of seeing Dr. Reddy, Komperda stopped taking his medications. (R. 234). On July 9, 2009, six days after he stopped his medications, Komperda's mother took Komperda to the emergency room because he said voices were telling him to commit suicide and he expressed thoughts of jumping in front of a moving car. (Id. ). His blood alcohol level was 294 mg per deciliter. (Id. ). At the hospital, Komperda was again diagnosed with bipolar disorder. (R. 285).
At some point during the next several months, Komperda again relapsed into drinking and, according to his mother and stepfather, began isolating himself and threatening to hurt them when he was intoxicated. (R. 298). On February 19, 2010, Komperda presented at the Vista Medical Center Emergency Room after trying to end his life with alcohol and pills. (R. 300). He appeared agitated, anxious, and depressed. (R. 298). He was intoxicated and withdrawing from alcohol with confusion and sweating. (Id ). For a third time, Komperda was diagnosed with bipolar disorder: this time by Dr. Uzoma Okoli. (R. 301). He was also diagnosed with cocaine dependence in remission and alcohol withdrawal, and was identified as a moderate suicide risk. (R. 301, 331, 336). Komperda would later tell an evaluator that he had lost his job and was tired of being unemployed. (R. 300).
Two days after Komperda's February admission to Vista, Komperda was transferred to Glen Lake Terrace Nursing Home where he stayed for the next several weeks. (R. 388). During his residency at Glen Lake, Dr. Reddy referred Komperda to Dr. Okoli for possible electroconvulsive therapy. (R. 300). Between February 26 and March 31, 2010, Komperda underwent 12 electroconvulsive therapy ("ECT") treatments for his bipolar depression. (R. 301, 303-309, 377-382). At the end of the last session, Komperda reported feeling euthymic. (R. 382).
Komperda has maintained sobriety and been compliant with his medications since early 2010, around the time he completed ECT treatments and began living in his own apartment. ( See R. 17). Since that time, he has not been hospitalized, experienced severe mood swings, or suffered any severe psychotic episodes. ( See id ). He was, however, diagnosed with bipolar disorder yet again on June 21, 2010. (R. 445). And, a September 2010 report from Dr. Reddy stated that Komperda had marked restrictions on his concentration and ability to function socially. (R. 343-344). Dr. Reddy also noted that if Komperda were to return to work, he would likely miss three or more days of work monthly due to his bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence. (Id. ).
B. Physical Health
Aside from his mental health challenges, Komperda also suffers from persistent back pain. (R. 172, 486, 352). From December 2009 to December 2010, Komperda saw Dr. Anwuli Okoli eight times for pain evaluation and treatment. (R. 352-65, 489). During that period, Komperda told Dr. Okoli that his pain kept him from participating in daily activities such as going to work. (R. 352). Dr. Okoli treated him for various levels of pain, numbness, and tenderness in his back, chest, and legs. (R. 352-65, 489).
On November 16, 2010, after filing this application, Komperda was evaluated by Dr. Francis Vincent. (R. 479-486). Dr. Vincent reported that Komperda had a slight decrease in the range of motion of his lumbosacral spine, but had normal muscle strength, reflexes, senses, and gait. (R. 486). Dr. Vincent also found that Komperda's complaints of pain and physical limitations exceeded what would be expected based on his own objective findings. (Id. ). Dr. Vincent therefore concluded that Komperda's allegations of severe pain were only partially credible. (Id. ).
That same month, internist Dr. Scott Kale also evaluated Komperda. (R. 466). Dr. Kale reported that Komperda had minimal lumbar range of motion restriction and no physical difficulty performing maneuvers (R. 469-72). Dr. Kale did not list lumbar impairment as one of Komperda's problems and, moreover, Komperda told the ALJ that he did not have any physical problems that would prevent him from working. (R. 474, 44).
C. Work and Education
Komperda's highest level of education is twelfth grade. (R. 115). He worked fulltime as an auto mechanic from 1990 until November 1, 2009. (R. 116, 424). As an auto mechanic, Komperda rebuilt motors and transmissions, and diagnosed and repaired automotive problems. (R. 116). Though he has been unemployed since November 1, 2009, Komperda has been volunteering at a gun store owned by his father and uncle since the beginning of 2011. (R. 39, 114). Komperda estimates that he volunteers 18 hours or less per week at the gun store. (R. 40). At the gun ...