United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
I. SCHENKIER United States Magistrate Judge
Moore has filed a motion for summary judgment seeking
reversal or remand of the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner")
denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits
("SSI") (doc. # 23: PL's Mot. for Summ. J.).
The Commissioner has filed a motion seeking affirmance of the
decision denying benefits (doc. # 25), and claimant has filed
a reply (doc. # 30). For the following reasons, we grant Mr.
Moore's motion and remand the case.
Moore filed his claim for benefits on September 19, 2013,
claiming a disability due to high blood pressure, diabetes,
depression, "feet, " and "mental" (R.
101). He alleged an onset date of January 24, 2013
(Id.). His claim was initially denied on December 5,
2013 and on reconsideration on August 29, 2014 (R, 107, 125).
Mr, Moore then appeared at a hearing in front of an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALT') on April 8, 2016
(R. 27-61). On June 6, 2016, the ALJ ruled that Mr. Moore was
not disabled, and Mr. Moore filed a request for review (R.
7-26). On October 27, 2016, the Appeals Council upheld the
ALJ's determination, making the ALJ's determination
the final opinion of the Commissioner (R. 1-6). See
20 C.F.R. § 404.981; Varga v. Colvin, 794 F.3d
809, 813 (7th Cir. 2015).
Moore was born on February 22, 1959 (R. 101). He is an army
veteran who was honorably discharged after one year of
service; he receives the majority of his medical treatment
through the Veterans Administration ("VA") (R. 37,
77-80). The parties do not dispute that Mr. Moore has a
longstanding problem with alcohol abuse (R. 31-33). As we
explain below, the lead issue on which we grant summary
judgment concerns the ALJ's analysis of Mr. Moore's
impairments and how they affect his ability to work both when
abusing alcohol and when sober.
at least as early as 2009, Mr. Moore visited the Jesse Brown
VA hospital regularly for treatment of a number of health
conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure,
pancreatitis, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and
alcoholism (see generally, R. 268-270, 299, 305-340,
527-550). On May 16, 2011, Mr. Moore underwent a
consultative examination with Sujatha Neerukonda, M.D., in
connection with his first claim for benefits (R. 498-506),
Mr. Moore's physical health was mostly normal, but with
respect to his mental health, Dr. Neerukonda noted that Mr,
Moore reported being too depressed to leave his apartment (R.
500) Dr. Neerukonda assessed Mr, Moore's affect as
"significantly depressed" and noted that he did not
make eye contact, was passively cooperative, distant, and
guarded, and his hygiene and grooming were good
May 16, 2011, Mr. Moore underwent a mental health
consultative examination with Patricia Morrin, Psy.D. (R.
507-511). Dr. Morrin noted that Mr. Moore was appropriately
groomed, cooperative and polite (R. 507). Mr. Moore reported
that he drank alcohol daily, that he did not like to be
around other people, and that he only enjoyed drinking
alcohol (R. 508-09). Dr. Morrin assessed Mr. Moore as having
a downcast mood and moderately depressed affect (R. 511). She
diagnosed alcohol dependence and substance induced mood
disorder (Id.). Neither Dr. Neerukonda nor Dr.
Morrin opined on whether Mr. Moore was able to work.
Moore continued to visit the VA for treatment of his various
physical and mental health issues. Medical records from June
2011 through January 2012 document his continued alcohol
abuse and disinterest in seeking treatment for his alcoholism
(R, 628, 635, 651). In July and August 2011, Mr. Moore
visited the VA complaining of "depression from
isolation, " reporting that he had been depressed
"for years" (R. 639-40, 655), He was diagnosed with
depressive disorder, alcohol-induced mood disorder, and
alcohol abuse (R. 646). During this time, Mr. Moore's
diabetes was not well-controlled, in part because of his
pancreatitis; progress notes indicate that his pancreatitis
and liver problems were a direct result of his drinking
(see generally, R. 636-62).
21, 2013, Mr. Moore was hospitalized for two days for acute
pancreatitis, likely caused by his drinking (R. 767, 770).
Intake notes from his visit to the emergency room note that
Mr. Moore had a similar episode in 2010 (Id., 771).
After being released from the hospital on July 23, 2013, Mr.
Moore began an outpatient alcohol treatment program; VA
progress notes indicated he was discharged from the program
for "noncompliance" on September 3, 2013, and was
reinstated, at his request, on September 18, 2013 (R. 794).
After being reinstated in the program, Mr. Moore stopped
drinking until early 2014 (R. 750-762, 797,
records from Mr. Moore's monthly appointments at the VA
show that he reported abstaining from alcohol from
approximately October 2013 to January 2014 (R. 797, 808). The
records indicate that Mr. Moore was aware of the way that his
alcoholism affected his physical health, and that he was in
generally good spirits (Id.). However, in response
to a mental health diagnostic study performed in November
2013, Mr. Moore indicated that he felt "depressed,
anxious, angry or very upset" and had trouble sleeping 9
to 15 days per month (R. 806). Mr. Moore relapsed and began
drinking again around late January 2014 (R. 814-17, 836).
Although other medical records discuss renewing Mr.
Moore's treatment plan, it is not clear from the medical
record if or when he reentered an alcohol treatment program,
or how much or often he was drinking after February 2014 (R.
794-797, 839, 845).
25, 2014, Mr. Moore underwent a mental health consultative
exam with Edmond Yomtoob, Psy.D. (R. 894-96). Dr. Yomtoob
described Mr. Moore as uncooperative during the examination,
but stated that he obtained enough information to make an
assessment (R. 894). Mr. Moore told Dr. Yomtoob that he
experienced depression during the day and sometimes heard
voices in his head (R. 895). Dr. Yomtoob diagnosed Mr. Moore
with alcohol abuse and depressive disorder, and suggested
additional testing to rule out post-traumatic stress disorder
and antisocial traits (Id.) Dr. Yomtoob agreed that Mr.
Moore had some mental health issues, but also stated that
"his overriding difficulty may be that of alcohol
abuse" (Id.). Given Mr.Moore's alcoholism,
Dr, Yomtoob also stated that Mr. Moore would not be a good
candidate for managing his funds (R. 896).
medical record is then silent until July 2015, when Mr. Moore
was hospitalized at Norwegian American Hospital with acute
pancreatitis; he reported on admission that he had been