United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
Robert A. Cash, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Robert A. Cash seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, who denied his application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits under the Social Security Act. For the following reasons, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.
A. Procedural Background
On December 20, 2010, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits alleging a disability onset beginning August 31, 2005. (R. at 139.) He later amended his onset date to September 15, 2009. (R. at 139.) The Agency denied his claims initially on March 16, 2011, and upon reconsideration on April 11, 2011. (R. at 74-81, 83-88.) On May 12, 2011, Plaintiff requested a hearing, and he received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Henry Kramzyk on May 17, 2012. (R. at 29, 89-90.) On June 20, 2011, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not disabled and therefore not entitled to disability benefits. (R. at 24.) His opinion became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 29, 2013. (R. at 2-5.) Before Plaintiff's ALJ hearing, the SSA notified Plaintiff of his right to have counsel present during the hearing. (R. at 91-92.) Later, at the start of the hearing, the ALJ told Plaintiff about the ways a representative could assist him with his case, informed him that a representative's fees were limited by statute and regulations, told him the exact amount, and explained that there were attorneys who would not charge a fee unless they helped Plaintiff win his case. (R. at 32-33.) But Plaintiff unequivocally waived his right to counsel. (R. at 33.)
B. Factual Background
(1) Plaintiff's Background and Testimony
Plaintiff was born in 1965. (R. at 37.) He has a high school equivalency degree. (R. at 39.) He can read but has trouble with spelling. (R. at 39.) He is single and lives with his mother. (R. at 37.)
Before 2009, Plaintiff worked by selling and installing garage, entry, and storm doors for about twenty-two years. (R. at 43.) For six of those twenty-two years, he was self-employed. ( Id. ) This type of work required him to lift about 50-100 pounds repeatedly each day when he installed residential doors. (R. at 45, 46.) He performed this work alone. (R. at 46-47.) It also required he spend the majority of his work days either standing, walking, bending, or climbing. (R. at 45.) The only time he sat was for about two hours each day when he would drive to the different work sites. (R. at 47.) For one of his employers, he had to do heavier lifting because he had to install larger commercial doors. (R. at 46.) He had a helper when he installed the larger commercial doors. ( Id. )
Also, for a short time from 2001-2002, Plaintiff worked seasonal summer hours as an auto parts sales person at Auto Zone. (R. at 63.) The heaviest objects he had to lift at this job were cases of oil, which weighed about twenty-five to thirty pounds. (R. at 63-64.) He is currently unemployed, but he applied to WiseWay Foods and discussed potential employment with a Menards employee. (R. at 68.) At the time of the hearing, he had not received any interviews or job offers from these inquiries. ( Id. )
Plaintiff testified that he cooks, cleans regularly, and launders small loads of clothes every once in a while. (R. at 56.) He can shop, drive, shower, and bathe by himself. (R. at 57.) He can also shop for and repair lawn mowers and bicycles to re-sell them. (R. at 58.) However, he said he has no fun at all, does not meet with friends or family at restaurants for lunch and dinner, and does not go to movie theatres. (R. at 55-56.) He also says he is depressed and takes medication for this. (R. at 52-53.)
He claims he can only safely lift a maximum of about ten pounds, walk for about half a mile before he has to take a break, and stand for a few minutes before needing to sit. (R. at 55.) Plaintiff can then remain sitting for about thirty minutes before needing to change positions. ( Id. ) He can bend at the waist and squat, while also being able to grasp, feel, and manipulate objects with his hands. ( Id. )
Plaintiff still maintains relationships with a few friends. (R. at 59.) His uncle lives next door, and Plaintiff socializes with him as well. (R. at 59, 61.)
(2) Medical Evidence 
Plaintiff alleges severe, medically determinable impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine at L5-S1, blurry vision, depression, abdominal problems, recurring and severe headaches, left leg pain and numbness, and obesity. (R. at 16.)
(a) Severe Physical Impairments
Plaintiff visited Porter Hospital several times in December 2008 and complained of abdominal pain. (R. at 212.) Both physical examinations and diagnostic testing results were normal. (R. at 219-21, 223-25, 227-29, 353.) More than a year later, in January 2010, Plaintiff visited Community Hospital in Munster, complaining of abdominal pain, but the CT scan was normal. (R. at 230-37.)
About five months later, in June 2010, he went to St. Mary Medical Center with pain behind his left eye, but the CT scan of his head was normal, other than the revelation that he had mild to moderate sinus disease. (R. at 248, 254, 356, 395.) About three months later, in September 2010, he visited North Shore Health Center complaining of pain, but the physical examination was normal and negative for everything other than some abdominal pain. (R. at 272-74.) About a week later, he went to St. Mary Medical Center with abdominal pain. (R. at 255.) Both the physical examination and CT scan were normal. (R. at 258, 266.)
Next month, state agency physician, Dr. Dean Shoucair examined Plaintiff. (R. at 294-97.) The physical examination revealed that both of his arms and legs had good ranges of motion; he could sit and move on and off the examination table; and he had no abdominal tenderness. (R. at 295-96.) He was also able to heel, toe, and tandem walk-without a walker or cane-with no problems. (R. at 296.) Further, Plaintiff denied having any eye blurriness, and he had 20/40 vision in both eyes, without glasses. (R. at 295.)
In February 2011, Dr. Jennifer Maya determined he had depression, noted direct tenderness in his abdomen, and sent him to the emergency room to rule out cholecystitis or pancreatitis. (R. at 327-28.) Later that day, diagnostic testing showed no clinically significant abnormalities, while a physical examination of his right side showed mild tenderness. (R. at 212-13.) A week later, an x-ray showed degenerative disk disease at the L5-S1. (R. at 333-34.) A few days later, diagnostic testing of the lumbar ...