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Patterson v. Colvin

United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 10, 2014

DAVONNA L. PATTERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF’S BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF APPEAL

Tim A. Baker United States Magistrate Judge

The parties appeared by counsel February 25, 2014, for an oral argument on Plaintiff’s claim for disability benefits. Set forth below is the Court’s oral ruling from the bench following that argument. As set forth below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the ALJ’s decision be affirmed, and that judgment be entered against the Plaintiff and in favor of the Defendant. Any objections to the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation shall be filed with the Clerk in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Failure to file timely objections within fourteen days after service shall constitute waiver of subsequent review absent a showing of good cause for such failure.

THE COURT: Okay. I will now give you my recommended decision in this case. I appreciate the argument of counsel, as well as the briefs that were filed in this case, which raise four issues on appeal.

First, whether the ALJ erred in failing to summon a medical advisor, specifically a psychologist; second, whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that the plaintiff was not disabled; third, whether the ALJ's credibility determination is contrary to Social Security Ruling 96-7P and thus patently erroneous; and, fourth, whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding at Step Five that Plaintiff could perform jobs in the national economy.

This case has a lengthy procedural history, which I'll briefly set forth. Plaintiff filed for supplemental Social Security -- excuse me, supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits in February of 2004, claiming that her disability began on January 5th, 2004. An ALJ found her not to be disabled on August 2nd, 2007. The Appeals Council vacated the denial and remanded the case to the same ALJ for another hearing.

On the remand, her application was denied, which the Appeals Council affirmed. The district court then remanded the case pursuant to the stipulation of the parties. The most recent hearing took place on October 6, 2010.

In an April 8, 2011, decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled before February 13, 2011. Beginning February 13, 2011, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's age category changed and found Plaintiff disabled as of that date. In considering the issues presented, the Court notes that it is the Court's role to uphold the ALJ's decision if substantial evidence supports the ALJ's findings. Blakes, B-l-a-k-e-s, v. Barnhart, B-a-r-n-h-a-r-t, 331 F.3d 565 at 568, Seventh Circuit, 2003.

Plaintiff first argues that the ALJ erred in failing to summon a medical advisor to determine whether the claimant's -- the claimant's multiple combined impairments medically equaled any listing or impairment before February 13, 2011. The decision on whether to summon a medical advisor is left to the judgment of the ALJ if he believes he lacks sufficient information and it is necessary to obtain expert opinions to adequately develop the record. Clifford v. Apfel, A-p-f-e-l, 227 F.3d 863 at 873, Seventh Circuit, 2000.

Here the ALJ adequately developed the record without the need to summon a medical advisor. The ALJ discussed a variety of evidence, including Plaintiff's consistent intact thought processes and judgment -- that's in the record at 463 through 464 -- her socially appropriate manners, her ability to use public transportation, to shop, handle money, and her statement that her impairments were primarily physical, not mental. That's in the record at 456 through 457.

An April 2008 psychological exam noted by the ALJ observed Plaintiff's activities of daily living were limited by her physical impairments, but not by a mental one. It's in the record at 456 and also at 264.

Moreover, the ALJ found the plaintiff did not meet the medical listings for degenerative joint disease of the lumbar spine because there was no compromise of nerve root or the spinal cord; no spinal stenosis; only slightly limited ranges of motion in her lumbar spine; and no significant and persistent neurological abnormalities. That's in the record at 455 and 459.

Medical evidence from 2002 through 2008 showed that the plaintiff had mild osteoarthritis of the knee and no instability of the knees, so she failed to meet a listing. That's in the record at 458 through 459.

Overall, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's medical listings finding and his decision not to summon a medical advisor.

The more significantly interesting issue raised by this appeal relates to the interaction of Social Security Ruling 83-20 and the medical vocational guidelines, also known as the grid. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in applying the grid instead of Social Security Ruling 83-20 in making his disability onset determination. The parties take very ...


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