United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CURTIS J. DEMPSEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
VALDEZ United States Magistrate Judge
action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (the “Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff Curtis Dempsey's (“Plaintiff”)
claims for Social Security Income (“SSI”) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”).
The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United
States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment [Doc. No. 10] is denied and the
Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment [Doc.
No. 18] is granted.
filed an application for SSI on October 24, 2011, alleging a
disability onset date of September 23, 2010, due to lead
poisoning, attention deficit disorder (“ADD”),
bronchitis, depression, and a stutter. (R. 180-85, 194.) His
initial application was denied on December 19, 2011, and
again at the reconsideration stage on April 27, 2012. (R.
75-76.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on May 30, 2012.
(R. 95-97.) The hearing was held on June 25, 2014. (R.
38-74.) Plaintiff appeared at the hearing with his
non-attorney representative and offered testimony.
(Id.) A vocational expert and medical expert also
appeared and offered testimony. (Id.) On September
24, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable written decision,
finding Plaintiff is not disabled. (R. 14-37.) The Appeals
Council (“AC”) denied review on February 4, 2016,
leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the
Commissioner and, therefore, reviewable by the District Court
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Haynes v.
Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005); Herron
v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 332 (7th Cir. 1994); (R. 1-6).
was born on June 14, 1990 and was twenty-four years old at
the time of his administrative hearing. (R. 180.) He
completed one year of high school and has no prior work
experience. (R. 46, 49.)
first examination of record is a Formal Mental Status
Evaluation performed by Dr. Dennis Karmitis, Psy.D., on
December 1, 2011, where Plaintiff reported that he suffered
from ADD, sadness, and depression. (R. 255-58.) In order to
formulate his assessment, Dr. Karamitis asked Plaintiff to
answer several questions and perform mental exercises.
(Id.) In general, Plaintiff was reluctant to
participate in the examination, and reported that he did not
know his own marital status or the meaning of the words
“job”, “condo”, and
“hobby.” (Id.) When asked, he was unable
to name five large cities or correctly name the current
President of the United States. (R. 257.)
stated that his daily activities typically consisted of
sleeping, watching television, and looking out the window.
(R. 256.) Plaintiff specifically noted that he did not cook
or assist with household chores. (Id.) He explained
that his mother often had to remind him to take care of his
personal hygiene, and Dr. Karamitis noted that his grooming
and hygiene were acceptable for the setting. (R. 256-57.) Dr.
Karamitis stated that Plaintiff had no evidence of cognitive
difficulties relative to his mental processing, and then
diagnosed him with depressive mental disorder. (R. 258.)
after his examination with Dr. Karamitis, on December 15,
2011, Plaintiff's record was reviewed by Dr. Michele
Womontree, Psy.D., a non-examining consultant. (R. 259-272.)
Based in part on the findings of Dr. Karamitis, Dr. Womontree
found that Plaintiff had the medically determinable
impairment of depressive disorder which would result in mild
difficulties in his ability to maintain both social
functioning and concentration, persistence, or pace. (R.
four months later, on April 16, 2012, Plaintiff presented for
a second psychological examination, this time with Dr. Henry
Fine, M.D. (R. 273-76.) Plaintiff reported that he had ADD,
and went on to explain that his troubles in school were a
result of lead poisoning as a child. (R. 273.) He also
presented with bronchitis. (R. 274.) In contrast to his
examination with Dr. Karamitis, Plaintiff's attitude and
degree of cooperative were good. (R. 273.) Plaintiff's
speech was understandable with no obvious stuttering, and his
grooming was neat. (R. 274.) At this examination, Plaintiff
was able to name five large cities, and correctly reported
that Obama was the President of the United States. (R. 275.)
However, when asked how a bush and a tree are alike,
Plaintiff stated “What is a bush.” (Id.)
Dr. Fine determined that Plaintiff suffered from a complex
learning disability with ADHD symptoms, related to his lead
poisoning and complicated by dysthymic disorder, as well as
bronchitis. (R. 276.)
days later, on April 24, 2012, Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr.
Leon Jackson, Ph.D., a non-examining consultant. (R. 277-79.)
In his evaluation, Dr. Jackson considered the April 2012
statements provided by Dr. Fine, but ultimately affirmed the
opinion of Dr. Womontree due to the lack of severe findings
or longitudinal history. (R. 278-79.)
October 11, 2013, Plaintiff presented to Jenny Lemus, M.H.P.,
at Mount Sinai Hospital (“Mount Sinai”), after
experiencing symptoms of depression and increased anger. (R.
287.) Plaintiff was asked to list his strengths and
interests, to which he responded, in part, by stating that he
liked to drive and cook. (R. 292.) Upon review, Ms. Lemus
determined that Plaintiff had poor insight with current
mental health needs. (Id.) Her findings were later
signed by Catherine Ortiz, Psychotherapist, L.C.S.W.,
L.P.H.A. (R. 293.)
December 4, 2013, Plaintiff returned for another evaluation
at Mount Sinai, but was seen by Tracy McDonald, N.P., for
problems sleeping, decreased appetite, and decreased energy.
(R. 294.) He stated he often felt angry, was easily
irritated, yelled, and “g[ot] into other people's
faces.” (Id.) His anger episodes typically
lasted for one hour. (Id.) Ms. McDonald noted that
Plaintiff was appropriately dressed and exhibited fair
grooming and hygiene. (R. 295.) Plaintiff was noted to be
independent at shopping, housekeeping, accounting, food
preparation, and transportation; however, his independence in
transportation was limited due to his panic and anxiety.
(Id.) His thought processes were logical, goal
oriented, and coherent. (Id.) Despite knowing that
some of his behaviors were inappropriate, Ms. McDonald noted
that Plaintiff did not seem motivated to change.
addition to the foregoing evidence, Plaintiff's record
also contains a function report, completed by
Plaintiff. (R. 199-207.) In his report, Plaintiff
explained that he relied on his mom to help remind him to
bathe himself, cook his meals, perform housework, and take
him outside one per month. (R. 200-202.) He explained that he
does not spend time with others or get along with authority
figures. (R. 203-05.) In a similar report, Plaintiff's
sister indicated that he had also suffered from a stutter
“all of his life.” (R. 222.)
record also contains two slips from Richard J. Daley College
which indicate Plaintiff's achievement levels in math and
reading as of August 2012. (R. 235-36.) The scores reveal
that he performed at a beginning fourth grade level in math
and a late fifth grade level in reading. (Id.)
was present and testified at his June 2014 administrative
hearing. He testified that he could not work because he
struggles to stay focused, is easily distracted, and suffers
from anger issues. (R. 61.)
order to manage his anger, Plaintiff stated that that he
attended monthly, one hour sessions with a psychologist. (R.
56-57.) As of the date of his hearing, he testified that he
had met with his psychologist at least six times. (R. 57.)
point, Plaintiff had obtained a driver's license;
however, he explained that he had subsequently misplaced it,
and therefore no longer drove. (R. 48.)
about one month, Plaintiff attended GED courses at a Richard
J. Daley College, with his cousin, two to three times per
week. (R. 58.) He stated that he did not feel confident
commuting to school on his own and that he was generally
uncomfortable using public transportation individually
because he had gotten lost before. (R. 49, 59.)
explained that he did not cook. (R. 60-61.)
and psychological expert, Ellen Rozenfeld (the
“ME”) was also present and testified at
Plaintiff's hearing. After review of the medical evidence
of record, the ME opined that Plaintiff's record was
consistent with a diagnosis of learning disorder (R. 64.)
Although the ME did not have access to any IQ scores, she
based her finding on Plaintiff's records from Richard J.
Daley College which indicated he was below his peers in
reading and math abilities. (Id.) She stated the
record likewise supported diagnoses of depressive disorder
and dysthymic disorder. (R. 64-65.) She explained that with
regards to the evidence of file, Plaintiff did not meet or
equal any of the listings. (R. 65.)
then assigned Plaintiff a moderate limitation in his
activities of daily living, social functioning, and in