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Jesse Donold Robinson v. Commissioner of

January 24, 2012

JESSE DONOLD ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Jesse Donold Robinson ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 -- 433, 1381 -- 1383f ("Act"). This matter comes before the court on cross motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 10, 12). The record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

II.PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff applied for DIB on May 7, 2008 and SSI on January 29, 2009, claiming that he was disabled from all work as of April 15, 2008 due to both physical and mental impairments.

(R. at 102 -- 16).*fn1 Plaintiff was initially denied benefits on December 18, 2008. (R. at 70 -- 74). A hearing was scheduled for May 19, 2010, and Plaintiff appeared to testify represented by counsel. (R. at 33 -- 56). A vocational expert also testified. (R. at 33 -- 56). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued his decision denying benefits to Plaintiff on July 1, 2010. (R. at 8 -- 32). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on May 11, 2011, thereby making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 1 -- 5).

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this court on June 10, 2011. (ECF No. 3). Defendant filed his Answer on September 23, 2011. (ECF No. 5). Cross motions for summary judgment followed. (ECF Nos. 10, 12).

III.STATEMENT OF FACTS

A. General Background

Plaintiff was born November 29, 1966 and was forty three*fn2 years of age at the time of his administrative hearing. (R. at 38). Plaintiff was separated from his wife, and lived with his sister in her home. (R. at 38). Plaintiff had eight children. (R. at 215). Plaintiff only completed formal schooling through the eleventh grade, but ultimately earned his GED. (R. at 38 -- 39). He had no post-secondary education or vocational training. (R. at 38 -- 39). He last worked in April 2008 as a laborer with a construction company. (R. at 39).

In his own self-report, Plaintiff claimed that he was unable to work because of asthma, depression, alcoholism, and back problems*fn3 . (R. at 118). He had no difficulties with personal care. (R. at 129). When needed, he could "cook most things well." (R. at 130). He helped with housework and yardwork when he was still living with his wife. (R. at 130). He would drive his car, or ride with others. (R. at 131). He went grocery shopping, and he paid his bills and handled checking and savings accounts. (R. at 131). Plaintiff went fishing or played games with his family for recreation. (R. at 132).

Most of Plaintiff's day was spent lying around the house. (R. at 128). He noted that he would go outside eight to ten times per day, but that he tired quickly. (R. at 131 -- 32). He was depressed, and could sometimes be forgetful. (R. at 133). He claimed that he had been laid off from work in the past because of difficulty getting along with other people, that he did not handle stress well, that he did not handle changes in routine well, and that he often had unusual behaviors and fears. (R. at 134).

B. Medical History

Plaintiff was admitted to UPMC Braddock Hospital, in Braddock, Pennsylvania, on March 30, 2008. (R. at 181 -- 97). Plaintiff sought detoxification for alcohol addiction. (R. at 181 -- 97). Plaintiff reported drinking a fifth of liquor every day. (R. at 181 -- 97). He claimed that his longest period of abstinence was twelve months. (R. at 181 -- 97). When he appeared at the hospital, he was in no acute distress. (R. at 181 -- 97). A global assessment of functioning*fn4 4

("GAF") score of 37 was given at admission. (R. at 181 -- 97). He was discharged on April 4, 2008 after completing the detoxification protocol and making adequate progress. (R. at 181 -- 97).

The record shows that Plaintiff first sought psychiatric care at Mercy Behavioral Health ("Mercy") in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 7, 2008. (R. at 424 -- 26). Plaintiff had just been released from a detoxification program at a local hospital. (R. at 424 -- 26). Plaintiff claimed that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and that as a result, he drank alcohol excessively -- up to a fifth of liquor daily. (R. at 424 -- 26). It was noted that Plaintiff had previously been placed on psychiatric medications. (R. at 424 -- 26). He reported feeling depressed, anxious, and angry. (R. at 424 -- 26).

Plaintiff began group therapy in Mercy's intensive outpatient day program on April 14, 2008. (R. at 458). Plaintiff reported sobriety since March 30, 2008. (R. at 458). He had not yet attended Alcoholics Anonymous ("AA") or Narcotics Anonymous ("NA") meetings at that point. (R. at 458). He received a GAF score of 45. (R. at 458).

Plaintiff was evaluated more thoroughly on April 18, 2008 for purposes of a provisional diagnosis and to formulate a treatment plan. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Plaintiff's primary diagnoses were alcohol dependence and paranoid schizophrenia. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Initially, Plaintiff's goals were to maintain sobriety, learn healthy coping skills, gain control of mental health issues, and attend therapy several times per week. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Plaintiff claimed that his longest period of sobriety was one year. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Domestic issues with his wife, job loss, ulcers, a diagnosis of fatty liver, and loss of interest in daily activities were attributed to Plaintiff's alcohol intake. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Generally, Plaintiff's appearance, speech, behavior, affect, thought processes, perceptions, insight and judgment, and cognition and intellectual functioning were normal. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Plaintiff's mood, however, was sad, and his thought content was paranoid and persecutory. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Plaintiff had an established history of alcohol abuse and detoxification attempts. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). His GAF score was 38. (R. at 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72). Plaintiff was to engage in therapeutic programs as well as medication management. (R. at 213, 398 -- 423, 466 -- 72).

Plaintiff continued in the rehabilitation program at Mercy through June 2008. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). Plaintiff generally received GAF scores of 45. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). He had sporadic attendance at AA and NA meetings. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). Plaintiff struggled with anxiety, but managed to maintain his sobriety. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). His paranoia was noted as minimal to mild, and his depression and anxiety were mild. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). Plaintiff requested clearance from Mercy to return to work in May 2008. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). He then began to miss his regular therapy sessions. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). By June 2, 2008, Plaintiff's case was closed and he was discharged from the rehabilitation program at Mercy due to an ongoing failure to attend treatment. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65). Plaintiff's GAF at discharge was 45, and he had made only minimal progress. (R. at 432 -- 50, 452 -- 57, 462 -- 65).

On June 12, 2008, Plaintiff was admitted to the Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (R. at 198 -- 207). Plaintiff complained of experiencing nausea and vomiting for seven days prior to his admission. (R. at 198 -- 207). Hospital staff noted a history of alcoholism and withdrawal related seizure. (R. at 198 -- 207). Plaintiff reported binge drinking during the previous month. (R. at 198 -- 207). He claimed that he drank up to a fifth of whiskey every day, in addition to an unknown quantity of beer. (R. at 198 -- 207). Plaintiff was observed to be in no acute distress, but was anxious, depressed, and paranoid. (R. at 198 -- 207). Plaintiff had not been taking his psychiatric medications. (R. at 198 -- 207). He was placed in detoxification. (R. at 198 -- 207). Plaintiff stabilized, and upon completion of the detoxification program, was released June 13, 2008 to attend outpatient rehabilitation. (R. at 198 -- 207). Plaintiff was diagnosed with cirrhosis, fatty liver, gastritis, anemia, and alcohol abuse. (R. at 198 -- 207). He was advised to refrain from drinking again. (R. at 198 -- 207).

Plaintiff was admitted to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 10, 2008. (R. at 249 -- 83). Plaintiff presented with complaints of chest pain, nausea, and vomiting. (R. at 249 -- 83). Plaintiff was considered to be experiencing slight withdrawal.

(R. at 249 -- 83). Plaintiff described imbibing up to a fifth of alcohol per day. (R. at 249 -- 83). He stated that his last drink was the day prior to his hospital admission. (R. at 249 -- 83). Plaintiff reported to the physician that he had been through a detoxification program three times, and that his longest period of abstinence was two years. (R. at 249 -- 83). Plaintiff was observed to be alert and oriented, with a stated history of acute and chronic alcoholism, depression, and schizophrenia. (R. at 249 -- 83). Plaintiff had not been taking his psychiatric medications. (R. at 249 -- 83). He blamed his non-compliance on insurance-related issues. (R. at 249 -- 83). Plaintiff was discharged on October 14, 2008 following improvement in his condition. (R. at 249 -- 83). At that time he was diagnosed with alcohol withdrawal, atypical chest pain, nausea and vomiting, hypertension, fatty liver, asthma, lumbar disc disease, history of ulcers, depression, and alcohol abuse. (R. at 249 -- 83). He was advised to avoid drinking. (R. at 249 -- 83).

Plaintiff reinitiated treatment at Mercy on February 13, 2009. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). Plaintiff was evaluated for purposes of diagnosis and formulating a treatment plan. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). Plaintiff's primary problem to be addressed was his anxiety. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). Plaintiff claimed that he frequently experienced panic attacks. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). He also claimed that his longest previous period of sobriety was two years. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). Mercy staff noted Plaintiff's appearance, speech, behavior, affect, thought processes, perceptions, insight and judgment, and cognition and intellectual functioning to be within normal limits. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). Plaintiff's mood, however, was sad, and his thought content was paranoid and persecutory. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). Plaintiff denied past visits to AA and NA. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). He reported multiple detoxifications. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). Plaintiff was diagnosed with depressive disorder and anxiety. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). His GAF score was 45. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61). He was recommended for individual therapy and medication management. (R. at 366 -- 88, 460 -- 61).

Plaintiff was discharged from the rehabilitation program at Mercy on April 16, 2009. (R. at 427 -- 30). Plaintiff failed to attend any treatment programs. (R. at 427 -- 30). He also failed to respond to outreach by Mercy staff. (R. at 427 -- 30).

Plaintiff sought treatment at Mon Yough Community Services ("Mon Yough") for treatment of his paranoia and anxiety on May 14, 2009. (R. at 485 -- 86). He was seen by psychiatrist Dennis Wayne, M.D. (R. at 485 -- 86). Plaintiff reported paranoia and depression, worsened by the consumption of alcohol. (R. at 485 -- 86). Plaintiff claimed that he drank up to two liters of wine per day, and occasionally half of a case of beer. (R. at 485 -- 86). Plaintiff described the nature of his alcohol use as long-standing and progressively worsening. (R. at 485 -- 86). Plaintiff was diagnosed with fatty liver, and was just short of a diagnosis of cirrhosis. (R. at 485 -- 86). Upon examination, Dr. Wayne noted Plaintiff to be alert and oriented, neatly dressed, irritable, fatigued, and of above-average intelligence. (R. at 485 -- 86). He noted that Plaintiff complained of sleep disturbance, nervousness, and extreme paranoia. (R. ...


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