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Barnes v. Colvin

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

March 7, 2014

CHERYL D. BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Cheryl D. Barnes ("Ms. Barnes"), requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administrator (the "Commissioner"), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Insurance Benefits ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Ms. Barnes filed her applications for DIB and SSI on May 25, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of May 25, 2010. These claims were initially denied on August 9, 2010, and upon reconsideration on October 7, 2010. Thereafter, Ms. Barnes requested a hearing, which was held on August 24, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge John H. Metz ("the ALJ"). On September 2, 2011, the ALJ denied Ms. Barnes' applications, and the Appeals Council denied review on December 4, 2012, thus making it the final decision of the Commissioner for the purposes of judicial review. 20 C.F.R § 416.1481. On January 15, 2013, Ms. Barnes filed this appeal requesting judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

B. Factual and Medical Background

Ms. Barnes was fifty five (55) years old at her alleged onset in May 2010. She has a myriad of physical problems, many of which stem from her obesity; she is 5'4" and weighs about 280 pounds. She has a high school education and worked as an accounts receivable bookkeeper for nearly twenty years. Most recently, she was a credit collection manager from 2000 to 2009, after which she no longer worked claiming a disability onset date of May 25, 2010.

Ms. Barnes lives with her husband and uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around. She has consistent pain in her lower back and neck, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, and a partial Achilles tendon rupture. She also reports having crying spells daily, occasional headaches, and arthritis in her hands and fingers. At home she dresses herself, occasionally cooks, bathes daily, does most of the grocery shopping, drives herself, pays bills online, and helps with the laundry.

Over the past decade Ms. Barnes has seen dozens of doctors and has been in and out of the hospital on several occasions. These various doctor visits have firmly established that Ms. Barnes suffers from several severe physical impairments, many of which are not contested here. The medical findings at issue here relate to Ms. Barnes' mental impairments, ability to handle stress, and her ability to perform daily tasks.

On July 14, 2010, Ms. Barnes was given a psychological evaluation by Dr. Alfred R. Barrow ("Dr. Barrow"), a social security psychologist. He concluded that, while Ms. Barnes presented symptoms of depression, her mental capacity for abstraction, memory functioning, concentration, formal judgment, computational ability, and comprehension were adequate. He further concluded that Ms. Barnes functioning was adequate despite her depression and she was capable of managing her funds independently without supervision.

Donna Unversaw, Ph.D. ("Dr. Unversaw") completed the Psychiatric Review Technique form on July 26, 2010. In her rating of Ms. Barnes' functional limitations, Dr. Unversaw identified Ms. Barnes' daily living restrictions as "mild." Furthermore, she found that Ms. Barnes had no severe psychiatric impairments, no difficulties in maintaining social function, no difficulties in concentration, persistence or pace, and no episodes of decompensation. She concluded that the intensity of the symptoms Ms. Barnes reported were not consistent with the totality of the evidence.

The next day, Ms. Barnes was administered a pulmonary function test by Dr. Doug Poplin ("Dr. Poplin"). Dr. Poplin found that Ms. Barnes was morbidly obese, but had no limitations in meeting the demands of the examination. He concluded that Ms. Barnes had a mildly decreased ability to perform fine motor tasks, but did not comment on her mental condition or her ability to perform daily tasks.

On July 30, 2010, Dr. J.V. Corcoran ("Dr. Corcoran") completed the Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form. He found that Ms. Barnes was capable of occasionally lifting twenty pounds, frequently lifting ten pounds, standing or walking for six hours in an eight hour work day, and sitting for six hours. He also concluded that Ms. Barnes had some limitations in her fine motor skills. On October 5, 2010, Dr. Joelle Larsen reviewed the findings of Dr. Unversaw and affirmed them as accurate. On October 7, 2010, Dr. J. Sands reviewed the findings of Dr. Corcoran and also affirmed them as accurate.

On August 16, 2011, Dr. Abboud Kawak ("Dr. Kawak"), the pulmonologist who had treated Ms. Barnes on many occasions, completed a Pulmonary Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire. Dr. Kawak stated that Ms. Barnes' pain and other symptoms would constantly interfere with her concentration and attention. The doctor further concluded that Ms. Barnes was incapable of performing low-stress jobs, could not sit for more than fifteen minutes without needing to get up, could not stand for more than five minutes without needing to sit down, and could neither sit nor stand for more than two hours in an eight hour work day. In ...


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