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Varner v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

March 20, 2014

LASHUN T. VARNER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


PAUL R. CHERRY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Lashun T. Varner on November 21, 2012, and Plaintiff's Memorandum in Support of Her Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 17], filed on June 10, 2013. Ms. Varner requests that the Court remand the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying her disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. On August 19, 2013, the Commissioner filed a response, and Ms. Varner filed a reply on September 3, 2013. For the reasons set forth below, Ms. Varner's request is granted.


Plaintiff Lashun Varner filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on March 17, 2010. These applications were initially denied on May 27, 2010, and upon reconsideration on October 20, 2010. Ms. Varner timely requested a hearing, which took place on June 7, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge Mario Silva ("ALJ"). In appearance were Ms. Varner, her attorney Heather N. Garay, and vocational expert Leonard M. Fisher. The ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits on June 22, 2011, making the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2013.
2. The claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity during the following periods: second and third quarters of 2010 (20 CFR 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq, 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq. ).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: gastroparesis, obesity, and diabetes (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) except that she must have close proximity to and constant access to a bathroom.
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on [], 1976 and was 33 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled, " whether or not the claimant has transferrable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from February 19, 2010, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(AR 9-17).

On September 24, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Ms. Varner's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481. On November 21, 2012, Ms. Varner filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of the Commissioner's decision.

The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


A. Background

Ms. Varner was 34 years old on the date of the ALJ's decision. She has a high school education and two years of college education. She has past relevant work experience as a cashier in a casino, a retail chain, and a fast food establishment. At the time of her hearing, she lived with her teenage daughter.

B. Medical History

On July 17, 2009, Ms. Varner saw Dr. Bazaraa. She weighed 254 pounds. She reported no occupational changes. She also reported no stomach pain.

Ms. Varner saw her family practice physician, Farah Najamuddin, M.D., regarding her routine health needs, including her gastrointestinal complaints.

On February 5, 2010, Ms. Varner saw Dr. Najamuddin for a check up. She reported bouts of vomiting the week before but no more vomiting at the time of the visit. Her weight was 243 pounds. She was directed to follow up in one to two weeks.

On February 12, 2010, a Friday, Ms. Varner returned to Dr. Najamuddin. She weighed 248 pounds. She complained of nausea and vomiting since Monday that week but that she was doing better. She reported a history of gastroparesis. She was taking Reglan one time a day. Dr. Najamuddin advised increasing the Reglan.

On February 25, 2010, Ms. Varner returned for a check up and reported to Dr. Najamuddin that she was having episodes of nausea and vomiting with abdominal pain. She reported that her attacks were more frequent, occurring once a week and lasting for three or four days. She also reported that she had taken some time off from her job to have more tests and follow up. Dr. Najamuddin advised her to take Reglan four times a day. Ms. Varner's weight was recorded at 236 pounds. Dr. Najamuddin referred Ms. Varner to see Dr. Kudaimi for her gastrointestinal issues and Dr. Bazaraa for her diabetes.

On March 17, 2010, Ms. Varner visited Dr. Bazaraa. Ms. Varner's weight was 231 pounds; she indicated that she had lost 22 pounds. When asked about any significant lifestyle changes, she reported no ...

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