United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. NUECHTERLEIN, Magistrate Judge.
On March 28, 2013 Plaintiff Kasandra Jo Jordan, ("Jordan") filed her Complaint against Defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner"), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Jordan Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). On July 16, 2013, Jordan filed her opening brief requesting reversal or remand of the Commissioner's decision. On December 2, 2013, the Commissioner responded asking the Court to affirm her final decision on Jordan's disability benefits application. Jordan filed a reply brief on December 12, 2013. This Court may enter a ruling on this matter based on the parties' consent, 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g).
On April 29, 2010, Jordan applied for DIB and SSI alleging disability due to Crohn's disease, depression, and cervical spin degeneration and stenosis with an alleged onset date of May 16, 2007. Her claims were initially denied on August 12, 2010, and were denied again on reconsideration on January 3, 2011. Jordan appeared before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on November 21, 2011, for a hearing.
On December 2, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision holding that Jordan was not disabled and therefore not entitled to SSI or DIB. On February 2, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Jordan's request for review of the ALJ's decision rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §404.981, 416.1481. Jordan now seeks review of the Commissioner's decision in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Jordan was 37 years old at the time of her hearing before the ALJ. She completed high school and attended college until she was a sophomore. Jordan is divorced and lives with her mother and her 17-year old daughter. Jordan testified that she had not worked since her alleged onset date of May 16, 2007. She had discontinued her work due to an auto accident. Jordan performed past relevant work as an Inventory Clerk, Retail Department Manager, Teller, and Customer Service Representative. Jordan began her last job in January 2007 working at Kroger in the meat department where she was responsible for inventory, management and ordering, and stocking. When she started the job, Jordan was able to lift and carry approximately 50 pounds or more of meat for at least eight hours a day while standing/walking the entire period. However, after the auto accident in May 2007, Jordan had to quit her job at Kroger after only working there for approximately five months.
B. Medical Background
1. Back, Neck, and Abdominal Pain
In December 2007, Jordan began seeing Steven Posar, M.D., a pain management specialist, for the treatment of her neck, shoulder, and low back pain. Dr. Posar's initial tests in early 2008 showed changes in her cervical spine as well as disc bulging. By the end of 2008, Jordan's pain had gotten better even though her mobility was "not very good". Doc. No. 8 at 429. To alleviate the pain and other effects, Jordan received a series of epidural steroid injections from Dr. Ralph Carbone over about fifteen months. While receiving the injections, Jordan continued to see Dr. Posar. Dr. Posar noted no major changes even after Jordan was involved in a second car accident in April 2009.
In June 2009, Jordan was hospitalized for five days due to abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. A History and Physical form, completed by Dr. John Taylor during Jordan's hospitalization, indicated that Jordan's neck pain was controlled with medication and that her physical exam showed no spinal tenderness. The cause of the abdominal pain was not confirmed at that time. In September 2009, Jordan was hospitalized again for a diagnostic laparoscopy for pelvic endometriosis with no complications.
In October 2009, Jordan returned to Dr. Posar for further treatment of neck and back pain. Physical examination revealed that there was no distress and that Jordan had a normal gait and station. Dr. Posar noted that Jordan had moderated neck stiffness, but did have full range of motion without pain. Additionally, he noted full motor strength and made no mention of any radicular symptoms.
In March 2010, an MRI revealed that Jordan had a broad posterior disk osteophyte complex in her cervical spine. Based on this diagnosis, Jordan began physical therapy in May 2010. Jordan complained that the physical therapy caused her headaches, but an MRI revealed no problems with her brain. In June 2010, however, Jordan was discharged from physical therapy after failing to meet long-term goals after she cancelled or "no-showed" three straight sessions.
In July 2010, consultative examiner Dr. Peter Sices examined and evaluated Jordan as part of her disability benefits application. Dr. Sices noted that Jordan had a normal gait and walk with some limitations in her range of motion. Furthermore, Dr. Sices noted no joint swelling or synovitis and that Jordan was able to get on and off the exam table without difficulty. Dr. Sices concluded after the exam that Jordan had no impairment as to gait, coordination, vision, hearing, speech, memory, concentration, attention span, or fine and gross manual dexterity.
During the late part of July 2010, Jordan was evaluated by physical therapist Kristy Showley to determine if more physical therapy was appropriate. Jordan told Showley that she was not driving at that time, had headaches/migraines, was unable to do light housework, experienced pain when watching her daughter play sports, and was unable to lay in supine position. Showley noted that Jordan had a positive Waddell's sign,  and noted contradictions, such as Jordan's ability to fix her hair without demonstrating any deficits despite her claims of excessive pain. Showley provided for a "precautionary" two-pound weight restriction, which does not appear to have been reinforced by a doctor's diagnosis. In August 2010, Dr. Posar noted that Jordan's second round of physical therapy had been discontinued because ...