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Wimmer v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

February 11, 2014

RODNEY E. WIMMER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


ROGER B. COSBEY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Rodney E. Wimmer appeals to the district court from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application under the Social Security Act (the "Act") for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI").[2] ( See Docket # 1.) For the following reasons, the Commissioner's decision will be AFFIRMED.


Wimmer applied for SSI in November 2009, alleging disability as of June 1, 2008. (Tr. 155-59.) The Commissioner denied his application initially and upon consideration, and Wimmer requested an administrative hearing. (Tr. 95-98, 106-12.) On November 24, 2010, a hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Bryan Bernstein, at which Wimmer (who was represented by counsel); Tammy Draper, a family friend; and a vocational expert ("VE"), testified. (Tr. 30-92.) On May 27, 2011, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision to Wimmer, concluding that he was not disabled because he could perform a significant number of jobs in the economy despite the limitations caused by his impairments. (Tr. 11-22.) The Appeals Council denied his request for review, at which point the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 3-5.)

Wimmer filed a complaint with this Court on November 1, 2012, seeking relief from the Commissioner's final decision. (Docket # 1.) In this appeal, Wimmer contends that the ALJ improperly evaluated the opinion of Dr. Carl Hale, a consultative neuropsychologist. (Opening Br. of Pl. in Social Security Appeal Pursuant to L.R. 7.3 ("Opening Br.") 7-9.)


A. Background

At the time of the alleged onset date, Wimmer was forty-five years old, had graduated from high school, and lived by himself on a thirty acre farm. (Tr. 155-58.) Wimmer has worked on his farm since high school and had previously supplemented his income by working random construction jobs with his father. (Tr. 324-26, 379.) He alleges that he became disabled as of June 1, 2008, due to chronic obstruction pulmonary disease ("COPD"); organic brain damage; learning disability; history of tachycardia; chest pain; hypertension; obesity; and adjustment disorder with anxiety. (Opening Br. 2.)

B. Wimmer's Testimony at the Hearing

At the hearing, Wimmer testified that although he graduated from high school, he is illiterate and was enrolled exclusively in special education classes where everything was read to him. (Tr. 42-43.) While in school, Wimmer worked on his grandfather's farm (which he later inherited, and currently lives on), and also occasionally sharecropped and worked construction with his father. (Tr. 43-48.) Wimmer's father and neighbors have always managed his finances and perform any reading and writing he needs done. (Tr. 50.) Wimmer stated that since his father's passing, however, he has had difficulty maintaining his farm and house, and has had to increasingly rely on his neighbors for help. (Tr. 50-51.)

On a typical day, Wimmer tends to his animals, attempts to clean up around his house and farm, and drives over to his mother's house to help take care of her. (Tr. 48, 51-54, 57, 70.) Wimmer testified that although he used to be able to perform farm work and construction, in recent years his work has been limited to light maintenance and sitting in a tractor. (Tr. 53, 63-64.) Wimmer represented that he can only work for short periods of time without a rest, and he constantly feels light-headed and sweaty, and has pain in his lungs. (Tr. 57.)

Wimmer stated that he would like to work, but his illiteracy and heart problems limit his ability to do so. (Tr. 56.) He testified that he is currently on medication for his heart and high blood pressure, and that he previously had been prescribed Nitroglycerine, but could no longer afford it. (Tr. 58-61.)

B. Summary of the Relevant Medical Evidence

In July 2007, Wimmer was admitted to the Marion General Hospital with complaints of lightheadedness, dizziness, and shortness of breath; he was diagnosed with bronchitis and hypertension. (Tr. 232-33.) In June 2008, he was hospitalized with chest pain and shortness of breath, and was diagnosed with mild hypokalemia and hyperlipidemia. (Tr. 279-82.) Later that month, Wimmer saw Dr. Abdul Basher, who diagnosed him ...

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