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Jacobs v. Berryhill

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

March 15, 2017



          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment [8, 16] arising from the Commissioner of Social Security's decision to deny plaintiff Jeffrey Jacobs' request for disability insurance benefits. Jacobs asks the Court to reverse the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) determination that she is not disabled and entitled to benefits, or to remand for further proceedings. Defendant contends that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed. For the reasons stated herein, this Court grants Jacobs' motion and remands the matter for further consideration by the agency.

         Procedural History

         Jacobs applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d), 1381a, on May 24, 2011, alleging in both applications that he became disabled on April 1, 2008, due to “affective mood/mood disorders” (depression) and “anxiety related disorders”. (Administrative Record (“A.R.”) at 154, 158). The Social Security Administration denied the applications initially on June 27, 2011, and upon reconsideration on September 21, 2011. (A.R. at 69, 87). Jacobs timely filed a request for hearing and appeared before Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”) on October 5, 2012. (A.R. at 33). The ALJ heard testimony from Jacobs, who was represented by counsel, as well as from vocational expert Pete D. Hardy III (the VE”). The ALJ found that Jacobs is not disabled because he can perform work as a kitchen helper, hand packager, or storeroom laborer. (A.R. at 17-28). The Appeals Council denied Jacobs request for review. (A.R. at 1-3). Jacobs seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Jacobs argues that this Court should remand this matter because the ALJ failed to give the proper weight to the opinions of Jacobs' treating psychiatrist and therapist, and made an improper credibility determination. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Jacobs filed the complaint for judicial review now before this Court. For the reasons that follow, this Court finds that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence and must be remanded for further consideration.

         Factual Background

         Jacobs was born on June 18, 1971. (A.R. at 26). As of alleged disability onset date of April 1, 2008, Jacobs was 36 years old. Jacobs earned a law degree in 1998 and worked as an attorney prior to 2008. He was discharged from his last place of employment, a law firm, on March 30, 3007. (A.R. at 186).

         A. Relevant Medical History

         The first medical record available is the discharge summary from Leyden Family Service and Mental Health Center. (A.R. at 259-266). Jacobs presented at the facility on April 2, 2008, because he had been experiencing vegetative symptoms of depression for the past month. The psychiatric evaluation report from April 3, 2008, states that Jacobs was bereft and despondent and had been experiencing passive suicidal ideation. The evaluating physician, Richard S. Goldberg, M.D., noted that Jacobs reported having multiple vegetative symptoms of depression, including insomnia, a ten pound weight loss in the past month, a loss of interest in usual activities. He had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital at age 13 for depression. Dr. Goldberg diagnosed Jacobs with recurrent major depression and mixed personality disorder with dependent and narcissistic features. He prescribed Lexapro and recommended counseling, psychotherapy of a supportive nature on an outpatient basis as soon as possible. (A.R. at 263-264).

         The next record is from January 13, 2009, when Jacobs presented at the emergency room of Good Samaritan Hospital with suicidal ideation. (A.R. 269-271). The nursing intake notes states that Jacobs was experiencing depression and was feeling suicidal, hopeless and worthless. His appetite and sleep were poor. The nurse noted an intact memory with poor focus and concentration. (A.R. at 272). Good Samaritan Hospital transferred Jacobs to John J. Madden Mental Health Center the following day, where he was admitted for treatment. (A.R. at 281). Additional records from Resurrection Behavioral Health from January 2009-June 2011 reflect regular visits with therapists, primarily Michele Bailey, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (“LCSW”), for recurrent major depressive disorder. (A.R. at 308-407). Also in the medical records are Dr. Haidari Shikari's progress notes from psychiatric evaluation and medical monitoring between February 7, 2011, and November 14, 2011. (A.R. at 431-434). On December 21, 2010, the Progress Note from Resurrection Behavioral Health states that it had been four months since Jacobs' last appointment, but that he wants to reengage in treatment despite his ongoing financial issues that caused him to suspend treatment. The note further reflects that “[w]ithout treatment this [client] would definitely decompensate needing a much higher level of care and rehospitalization.” (A.R. at 360). The progress note from group therapy on February 9, 2011, states that Jacobs “is managing symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder Recurrent, Unspecified which causes clinically significant distress and impacts daily functioning.” (A.R. at 374). On April 26, 2011, the therapist's progress note states that Jacobs presented with severe symptoms of depression (rumination about the past, tearful, increased sleep, low self-esteem) significantly impact client's functioning and he requires services to prevent further decompensation and hospitalization.” (A.R. at 398).

         The Psychiatric Review completed by a consultant for the State agency, Howard Tin, Psy.D., on June 27, 2011, found that an RFC (Residual Functional Capacity) assessment was necessary. (A.R. at 408). Dr. Tin found that Jacobs suffered from Major Depressive Disorder with Anxiety and Borderline Personality Traits. The Psychiatric Review further indicates that Jacobs had mild restriction of activities of daily living, moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning, moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, and no episodes of extended duration of decompensation. (A.R. at 418). Dr. Tin also completed the RFC Assessment. (A.R. at 422-425).

         Dr. Shikari and Michele Bailey, LCSW, also each completed a medical assessment form on May 7, 2012, at the request of Jacob's attorney for the disability benefit application. (A.R. at 439-444). Dr. Shikari noted that he had been treating Jacobs for major depressive disorder since 2009 and that Jacobs' condition was unchanged in that time. Dr. Shikari noted that his prognosis for Jacobs was “guarded” because he is unable to afford psychotherapy. Dr. Shikari further noted that Jacobs has difficulty in social functioning due to the symptoms of his depression and that he is likely to decompensate if exposed to work setting and schedule. (A.R. at 440).

         Michele Bailey performed a Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment, finding that Jacobs is moderately limited in all areas of understanding and memory; moderately limited in all areas of sustained concentration, except he is not significantly limited in his ability to carry out very short and simple instructions and is markedly limited in the ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without interruption from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods. (A.R. 441-442). Bailey also found moderate limitations in most areas of social interaction and in the ability to be aware of normal hazards and take appropriate precautions, and the ability to set realistic goals or make plans independently of others. (A.R. at 442). Bailey concluded that Jacobs' symptoms significantly impair his ability to perform work activities within a schedule, make work-related decisions, and maintain regular attendance or punctuality. (A.R. at 443).

         B. The October 5, 2012, ...

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