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Johnson v. Colvin

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

January 19, 2017

JAMES JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SUSAN E. COX UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff James Johnson (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff disability insurance benefits or supplemental security income under Title II (“DIB”) and Title XVI (“SSI”) of the Social Security Act. The Court grants the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 17), and denies the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 21). The Court reverses the Commissioner's decision and remands the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         STATEMENT

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed dual DIB and SSI applications on March 26, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of March 8, 2013, due to bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, post-acute withdrawal syndrome, depression, and potential drug use. (R. 219-22, 249.) His initial applications were denied on July 25, 2013, and again at the reconsideration stage on May 13, 2014. (R. 89-90, 121-22.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on July 18, 2014, and the hearing was scheduled on March 12, 2015. (R. 39-70, 149.) At the hearing, Plaintiff who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified. (R. 39-70.) A vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared and offered testimony. (Id.) On March 31, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI benefits. (R. 19-33.) Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's opinion, which was denied, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 2.) Plaintiff then filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c).

         II. Medical Evidence

         A. Treating Physician

         The medical evidence of record indicates that Plaintiff reported being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, and was psychiatrically hospitalized as early as 2004. (R. 412.) On March 5, 2012, Plaintiff was examined by his treating psychiatrist, Pradeep Thapar, M.D. (R. 512-13.) Dr. Thapar diagnosed Plaintiff with bipolar 1 - most recent episode hypomanic, alcohol dependence, opioid dependence; assigned Plaintiff a Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) Score of 50;[1] and prescribed Plaintiff Neurontin, Abilify, Lunesta, Klonopin, and Adderall. (R. 512-13.) Plaintiff continued to follow-up with Dr. Thapar approximately every four weeks through January 6, 2015. (R. 477-563.) At each session, Dr. Thapar gave Plaintiff a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, most recent episode hypomanic, alcohol dependence and drug dependence, and assigned Plaintiff a GAF score of 50. (Id.) Dr. Thapar continued to prescribe psychotropic medications at each session, including Lamictal, Lithium Carbonate, Trazadone and Seroquel, adjusting the medications as needed. (Id.) At most sessions, Dr. Thapar noted no abnormalities on the mental status examinations. (Id.) However, Dr. Thapar indicated at several sessions that Plaintiff's manic symptoms and manic processes continued, (R. 487, 528, 544, 547), that Plaintiff experienced depressive symptoms, (R. 524, 548), or that psychotic processes continued. (R. 498.)

         On January 27, 2014, Dr. Thapar opined that Plaintiff was “not able to work at this time due to his disability” and was “disabled from his work schedule and not able to perform his work duties at this time.” (R. 477.) Similarly, Dr. Thapar concluded on April 29, 2014, that Plaintiff had “mild to moderate limitations, ” was “not able to return to work at this time, ” and was “not capable in social and occupational functioning, and daily stressful situations.” (R. 540.) Finally, on January 6 2015, Dr. Thapar opined that Plaintiff was “totally disabled without consideration of any past or present drug and/ or alcohol use.” (R. 563.)

         B. Hospitalizations and Substance Abuse Treatment

         Plaintiff was hospitalized at the Palos Community Hospital for voluntary alcohol detoxification from January 29, 2013 to February 2, 2013. (R. 373.) While hospitalized, Harcharan Sandu, M.D. performed a psychiatric evaluation. (R. 378-79.) Dr. Sandu diagnosed Plaintiff with alcohol dependence and cocaine dependence by history, and assigned Plaintiff a GAF score of 40[2] at admission and a GAF score of 60[3] upon discharge. (R. 379.) Plaintiff returned to the emergency room at Palos Community Hospital on February 15, 2013 “requesting detox” and was prescribed Xanax for anxiety. (R. 356, 372.)

         From February 26, 2013 to March 4, 2013, Plaintiff was hospitalized at Advocate Christ Medical Center due to an exacerbation of depression, severe alcohol dependence and abuse, suicidality, and a longstanding history of bipolar disorder. (R. 466-67.) Plaintiff was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, most recent episode depressed and alcohol dependence, and was assigned a GAF score of 30[4] upon admittance and a GAF score of 65[5] at discharge by his treating psychiatrist, Dr. Thapar. (R. 466-67.)

         Plaintiff received substance abuse treatment at Gateway Foundation from March 8, 2013 through April 15, 2013. (R. 409-410.) Plaintiff was diagnosed with alcohol dependence, opioid dependence, and bipolar disorder, and was assigned a GAF Score of 45 upon admittance and a GAF score of 60 at discharge. (R. 409, 414-15.) Plaintiff was referred to Christ Hospital for intensive outpatient treatment and for continued outpatient psychiatric care from Dr. Thapar. (R. 409-10.)

         C. ...


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