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Eastwood v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

March 21, 2014

DAVID A. EASTWOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant,

OPINION AND ORDER

CHRISTOPHER A. NUECHTERLEIN, Magistrate Judge.

On August 14, 2012, Plaintiff David Eastwood ("Eastwood") filed a complaint in this Court requesting reversal and remand of the decision of the Commissioner denying Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). On March 21, 2013, Eastwood filed his opening brief, and on May 28, 2013, Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Carolyn W. Colvin ("Commissioner") responded. Eastwood filed a reply brief on September 6, 2013. This Court may enter a ruling in this matter based on the parties' consent. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

I. PROCEDURE

On March 16, 2010, Eastwood filed a Title II application for DIB and a Title XVI application for SSI, alleging limited use of his right arm from his rotator cuff tear and loss of memory, lack of coordination, and limited use of his right arm due to strokes. Eastwood alleged a disability onset date of January 23, 2010. His claims were initially denied on June 9, 2010, and upon reconsideration on August 26, 2010. Eastwood appeared at a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) on April 11, 2011.

On May 26, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision that Eastwood was not disabled, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 23, 2010, through the date of the decision. Eastwood requested review by the Appeals Council on July 5, 2011, and the request was denied on June 14, 2012, making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. See Fast v. Barnhart, 397 F.3d 468, 470 (7th Cir. 2005); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981; 416.1481.[1]

II. ANALYSIS

A. Facts

Eastwood was 52 years old at the alleged onset date and 54 years old on the date of the ALJ decision. He is a high school graduate with one year of college. He also completed truck driving school. His past relevant work was as a semi-truck driver.

On January 22, 2010, Eastwood went to the emergency room after he felt a pop in his right shoulder, accompanied with pain. Doctors diagnosed him with a rotator cuff tear, and Eastwood was sent home. The following day on January 23, 2010, Eastwood went to the emergency room after he experienced prolonged periods where he could not concentrate and he was dizzy. Eastwood was admitted to the hospital, and doctors determined he had suffered from a stroke. Doctors also diagnosed him with chronic airway obstruction; an abnormally large opening in the atrial septum; hardening of the arteries; tobacco use disorder; alcohol abuse; mitral valve disorder; a rotator cuff sprain; and a personal history of a transient ischemic attack[2] and cerebral infarction. Eastwood was discharged from the hospital on January 30, 2010.

On February 8, 2010, Eastwood was admitted to the hospital complaining of severe dizziness, slurred speech, and numbness in the right side of his body. He was diagnosed with a cerebral artery occlusion with infarction, hemiplegia, shoulder joint pain, hyperlipidemia, anemia, and a personal history of transient ischemic attack and cerebral infarction without residual deficits.[3] Eastwood returned home from the hospital on February 13, 2010.

Eastwood was hospitalized again on November 29, 2011, through December 2, 2011, with complaints of increased weakness and numbness in his right arm and "hazy" mental functioning. (Tr. 634). Doctors determined that he possibly could have suffered stroke, and Eastwood was released from hospital care on December 2, 2011.

Eastwood alleges he has limited use of his right arm from his rotator cuff tear, loss of memory, lack of coordination, and limited use of his right arm due to his stroke. He also complains that he experiences frequent headaches and becomes tired easily, having to take multiple naps a day.

1. Claimant's Hearing Testimony

During the ALJ hearing, Eastwood testified that he was discharged from his job as a semi-truck driver when his company would no longer allow him to drive due to his risk of strokes. He stated that he no longer worked but that he had a job as a clerk at a tobacco store for a week in the summer of 2010. Eastwood recalled that the store quickly discharged him because he was not able to process information fast enough to work a check-out counter.

Eastwood reported that he is able to get out of bed on his own in the morning and make a small breakfast. He said that he lives with his mother who has a full time caretaker for her own use. Eastwood testified that the caretaker usually cooks enough for his mother and himself. He also said that the caretaker cleans around his home. Eastwood reported that he does his own laundry, but he said that if he has to do more than one load at a time he often forgets to finish it.

Eastwood testified that he gets short of breath and that he smokes a pack of cigarettes about every two or three days. He reported that he is unable to walk from the basement to the second floor of his house without a rest. He testified that he has constant pain in his right shoulder and numbness in his right arm all the way to his fingertips. Eastwood also reported that his right hand hurts when he writes and that he is unable to pick up coins from a table. He alleged that he could not use his right hand to carry a gallon of milk without dropping it. Eastwood ...


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