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Peirson v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 24, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Nicole Peirson requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying Ms. Peirson'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.


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 her physical or mental limitations prevent her from doing not only her previous work, but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering her 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 she is not disabled, despite her 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 her ability to perform basic work activities), she 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 her past relevant work, she 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, she 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 his 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 his analysis of the evidence in her decision; while he "is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony, " he must "provide some glimpse into [his] reasoning... [and] build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [his] conclusion." Dixon, 270 F.3d at 1176.


Nicole Peirson protectively filed for SSI and DIB on June 3, 2010, alleging she became disabled on February 1, 2009, primarily due to severe depression and panic attacks. Ms. Peirson was born on July 6, 1972, and she was thirty-three years old on the alleged disability onset date. Ms. Peirson obtained a GED and took classes through an online college, earning a two-year degree in Human Resources. She has prior relevant work experience as a telemarketer and in customer service.

Ms. Peirson's application was denied initially on August 30, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on October 28, 2010. Following the denial upon reconsideration, Ms. Peirson requested and received a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). A hearing, during which Ms. Peirson was represented by counsel, was held in front of ALJ William M. Manico on November 9, 2012. The ALJ issued his decision denying Ms. Peirson's claim on February 9, 2012. The Appeals Council also denied Ms. Peirson's request for review on October 26, 2012. After the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, Ms. Peirson filed this timely appeal.

Medical Evidence

Ms. Peirson's medical evidence begins in August 2009, when she saw Dr. Hatimi, her primary care physician. Ms. Peirson complained of an earache, blurred vision, cough, vertigo, depression, anxiety, hallucinations, and fatigue. Dr. Hatimi diagnosed Ms. Peirson with endometriosis menorrhagia, hypertension, and sinusitis. Furthermore, he noted Ms. Peirson's nicotine abuse and family history of diabetes. Dr. Hatimi prescribed Depo-Provera, Veramyst, and Claritin, in addition to ordering labs and an electrocardiogram. Ms. Peirson met with Dr. Hatimi again on September 14, 2009, for a follow-up appointment. She complained of depression and frequent urination; Dr. Hatimi thus prescribed Celexa and Detrol LA. He also recommended counseling for Ms. Peirson's depression.

On October 26, 2009, Ms. Peirson went to the Anderson Psychiatric Clinic complaining of depression, panic attacks, and anxiety. A Mental Status Examination was performed, and she was diagnosed with depressive disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. She was also assessed a score of 48 on the Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") Scale. Ms. Peirson went to the Anderson Psychiatric Clinic several times thereafter, treating with Robert Hacks, a social worker. Her treatment at the Anderson Psychiatric Clinic concluded in June 2010 because Ms. Peirson "failed to return" and her "goals were partially achieved." Ms. Peirson's GAF at discharge had risen to a score of 55.

On November 11, 2009, Ms. Peirson met with Dr. Hatimi for a check-up. She explained that she was experiencing side effects from her medications; specifically, she was experiencing dizziness from Celexa. At the appointment, Ms. Peirson indicated having a medical history of anxiety and depression; however, during his evaluation, Dr. Hatimi noted that Ms. Peirson denied depression, anxiety, memory loss, mental disturbance, suicidal ideation, hallucinations, and paranoia. Nevertheless, Dr. Hatimi diagnosed Ms. Peirson with anxiety and depression. He advised her to continue taking Celexa and also prescribed Buspar for her anxiety.

Ms. Peirson met with Dr. Hatimi for another follow-up appointment in December 2009. She complained that the Buspar medication was not working. Dr. Hatimi diagnosed her with ...

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