United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
GREGORY A. GOUDY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.
Plaintiff Gregory A. Goudy requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying Mr. Goudy's application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). The Court rules as follows.
I. APPLICABLE STANDARD
Disability is defined as "the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable mental or physical impairment which can be expected to result in death, or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that his physical or mental limitations prevent him from doing not only his previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering his age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity he is not disabled, despite his medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). At step two, if the claimant does not have a "severe" impairment (i.e., one that significantly limits his ability to perform basic work activities), he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). At step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, App. 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelve-month duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). At step four, if the claimant is able to perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). At step five, if the claimant can perform any other work in the national economy, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g).
In reviewing the ALJ's decision, the ALJ's findings of fact are conclusive and must be upheld by this court "so long as substantial evidence supports them and no error of law occurred." Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d 1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). "Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, " id., and this Court may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Binion v. Chater, 108 F.3d 780, 782 (7th Cir. 1997). The ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for her acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700 (7th Cir. 2004). In order to be affirmed, the ALJ must articulate her analysis of the evidence in her decision; while she "is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, " she must "provide some glimpse into her reasoning... [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to her conclusion." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.
Gregory Goudy protectively filed for SSI and DIB on November 10, 2009, alleging he became disabled on June 17, 2009, due to status post cervical discectomy and fusion, C3-4, and diabetes mellitus. Mr. Goudy was born on January 8, 1957, and was fifty-two years old on the alleged disability onset date. He graduated from high school and completed college in 2002, obtaining a certification to teach Kindergarten through sixth grade in the state of Indiana. Mr. Goudy has prior relevant work experience as an auto assembler and parts inspector for Chrysler. In April 2007, Mr. Goudy took a company buy-out, and since then he has been substitute teaching several days a week.
Mr. Goudy's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Mr. Goudy requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A video hearing was held by ALJ JoAnn L. Anderson, who presided over the hearing from Falls Church, Virginia, on May 17, 2011. Mr. Goudy was unrepresented by counsel at the hearing. The ALJ issued her decision denying Mr. Goudy's claim on October 3, 2011. The Appeals Council adopted the ALJ's findings and conclusions on October 9, 2012. Mr. Goudy then filed this timely appeal.
Mr. Goudy began treating at the Veterans Affairs Northern Indiana Health Care System in Marion, Indiana in 2009. He reported that he had been experiencing chronic neck pain since 2006, resulting in headaches and pain radiating down his arms. He was diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, mixed type, chronic pain syndrome, a degenerative disc in his neck, diabetes mellitus, and depression on March 17, 2009. He was originally prescribed hydrocodone for his pain, but due to the severe headaches and nausea it caused, his pain medication was changed to oxycodone. A cervical MRI was performed in April 2009 revealing multiple levels of disc protrusion. He was referred to a neurosurgeon for evaluation and to schedule a possible surgery.
Therefore, on June 3, 2009, Mr. Goudy saw Dr. Michael Munz at the Fort Wayne Neurological Center, NeuroSpine & Pain Center. He noted that Mr. Goudy reported having pain of seven on a scale of one to ten. He observed that Mr. Goudy had decreased range of motion in his neck, especially with regard to flexation and extension. He confirmed the MRI results, noting that the MRI revealed a large herniated disc at C3-4. Mr. Goudy elected to proceed with the surgery; on June 18, 2009, Dr. Munz performed a cervical discectomy and fusion.
Mr. Goudy was advised to see a physical therapist, which he did in August 2009. He was given a home exercise program, but reported that it did not provide much relief. In October 2009, Mr. Goudy was seen for a follow-up appointment, reporting he was still experiencing neck pain. X-rays of Mr. Goudy's cervical spine were normal, revealing no abnormalities, with evidence of postoperative changes. Again, he saw a physical therapist and was given a home exercise program to improve his posture and movement.
On February 7, 2010, Dr. Ibrar F. Paracha performed a consultative examination. He noted that Mr. Goudy had extensive limitations of range of motion on the cervical spine and mild limitations on forward flexion of the lumbar spine, and that Mr. Goudy's shoulder movements were limited due to his neck pain. Dr. Paracha concluded that Mr. Goudy had limited movement ...