The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul Barbadoro United States District Judge
Michael Dillon seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying his applications for disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits. He argues that I should either reverse the Commissioner's decision or remand the case for further proceedings because the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in weighing the medical evidence and concluding that Dillon was not disabled. For the reasons provided below, I deny Dillon's request.
Dillon applied for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits on April 22, 2009. He alleged a disability onset date of June 1, 2003, due to post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, osteoarthritis, stomach problems, and asthma. Tr. 11. Dillon completed high school and two years of college. He then earned a certificate from a sound recording school and worked as a stage technician between 1989 and 2003. Tr. 36. Dillon also worked for about six weeks at a gourmet pet treat company in 2003.
The Social Security Administration denied Dillon's application for benefits on September 29, 2009. Following denial, he requested a hearing before an ALJ, which occurred on January 11, 2011. Dillon was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on January 28, 2011. Dillon appealed to the Decision Review Board, which affirmed the ALJ's decision on May 2, 2011.
B. Relevant Medical Evidence*fn2
1. Treatment Summary, November 2004 -- October 2006
Dillon first sought psychological treatment on November 22, 2004, at Bedford Counseling Associates. He complained of anxiety and depression, which began when his mortgage company attempted to foreclose on his home. He feared leaving his house and was anxious that he was being recorded. He claimed that anxiety and depression had prevented him from working since 2002. At the time, he was not interested in a psychiatric evaluation to determine his need for antidepressants.
On January 10, 2005, he reported struggling with loss of motivation, low energy, and low self-esteem, but felt less pressure regarding his legal problems. On February 7, 2005, he told his counselor that he was still uninterested in taking antidepressants. Dr. Elizabeth Blencowe assessed Dillon's global functioning at 55, which indicates moderate symptoms or moderate difficulty in social or occupational functioning. On March 7, 2005, he became tearful at his counseling session and expressed feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed. He expressed some interest in psychiatric medication and agreed to a medical consultation to explore the possibility of medication. Tr. 221. He underwent an evaluation later that month, but again refused antidepressants. Id. at 224. On March 24, 2005, Dillon expressed anger about the fees he was paying and refused to discuss his problems.
Dillon was transferred to a new counselor, Jessica Capuano, at the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester on March 29, 2005. Id. at 213. At his meeting with Ms. Capuano on March 29, 2005, Dillon appeared fully oriented, cooperative, pleasant, coherent and logical upon examination, although he said that the transfer had caused him stress. He showed no sign of suicidal or homicidal ideation. Ms. Capuano assessed his global functioning at 65, indicating that he had some mild symptoms or some difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning, but was generally functioning well and had some meaningful personal relationships.
On April 6, 2005, Dillon said he expected his stress levels to increase because he faced another court appearance in May. He was counseled on strategies for dealing with stress. He requested and received anger management training. He expressed feelings of helplessness regarding his mortgage issues, but reported doing small jobs that kept him busy. On April 13, Dillon said that his court date had been postponed and he was keeping busy by helping to plan his brother's wedding and helping his mother with yard work. On April 20, he expressed feelings of helplessness, but said he was keeping busy with small jobs. On May 24, he said he had an appointment to meet with Dr. Blencowe about possibly beginning medication.
On June 14, 2005, Ms. Capuano noted that Dillon presented as depressed and tearful. He reported sleep problems and blurry thoughts. Ms. Capuano noted that his mental state was apparently related to the legal proceedings involving his home, though he told her he felt optimistic about the upcoming verdict. On June 20, he told Ms. Capuano that he planned to start taking Zoloft again soon. Tr. 196. On July 18, 2005, he told Ms. Capuano that he had started taking Zoloft. Id. at 192.
On August 8, 2005, Plaintiff reported feeling "stir crazy" due to idleness because his legal problems had ebbed. Tr. 188. He was not sleeping well and had stopped using Zoloft. Id. On August 19, he reported increased anxiety and trouble sleeping because of the mortgage litigation. Id. at 186. On August 30, he felt less depressed because his litigation had ended. Id. at 184. He believed he would only need two more months of treatment and discussed decreasing the frequency of his sessions. Id. He reported having a positive, supportive relationship with his girlfriend of nine years, despite feeling generally antisocial. The counselor noted that Dillon's mood was even and his depression was decreasing; he even joked during the session. Dillon said he was sleeping well and not experiencing hallucinations. Id.
On September 14, 2005, Dillon reported experiencing greater distress because the litigation process had begun again. Id. at 182. By September 27, 2005, he resumed taking Zoloft, and said that it made him feel like he was "swimming through mud." Id. at 180. He requested sleep medication. Id. The counselor reported his mood and affect as agitated. Id.
On October 4, 2005, Dillon said his sleep medication helped him sleep but made him feel lethargic in the morning. Id. at 178. He could not discern the effects of taking Lexapro (another antidepressant), but had increased his work on "projects and jobs." Id. On October 25, 2005, Dillon told his therapist that Lexapro was "leveling him off" and that his ability to sleep continued to improve. Id. at 176. He said he was functioning better and was performing odd jobs, such as landscaping. Dillon's therapist reported that his mood, affect, and functioning were appropriate and normal. She described his thought processes as "future and goal oriented." Id. On November 1, his therapist reported that he appeared less anxious, smiled, and was more engaged in their conversation.
Id. at 164. On November 17, Dillon said he felt less depressed, though he was unsure whether his mood was due to medication or the fact that stressors had declined. Id. at 163.
Dillon missed several subsequent therapy sessions and stopped taking his medication. Id. at 174. He returned on December 19, 2005, and told his therapist that he felt stressed about the approaching holidays and his mother's illness. His mortgage litigation had resumed, and he said tearfully that he did not like or trust people. He said he was doing some odd jobs for income. On December 21, Dillon reported an increase in stress because of his mother's illness, but said he was doing "okay" and appeared less anxious, despite his continuing legal problems. There are no further medical records from The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester.
Dillon next visited a physician on October 26, 2006 at the Hooksett Medical Center. Tr. 245. At the intake session, he reported difficulty sleeping during high stress times. He reported a history of depression and anxiety. The nurse noted that Dillon presented as appropriately dressed, pleasant, and able to carry on a conversation.
In his disability appeal, Dillon stated that he stopped seeking mental health treatment at The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester after one year because he was no longer able to afford ...