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Swanson v. Colvin

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

August 19, 2014




Plaintiff Tywon Swanson ("Mr. Swanson") requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administrator (the "Commissioner"), denying his 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.


A. Procedural History

Mr. Swanson filed his applications for DIB and SSI on May 25, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of April 2008. Thereafter, on December 6, 2010, Mr. Swanson requested a hearing. On December 16, 2011 there was a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Stephen E. Davis (the "ALJ"), where Mr. Swanson (represented by counsel) and his father testified. On February 24, 2012, the ALJ denied Mr. Swanson's applications and, on May 31, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Swanson's request for review of the ALJ's denial, thus making it the final decision of the Commissioner for the purposes of judicial review. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. On July 26, 2013, Mr. Swanson filed this appeal requesting judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

B. Factual and Medical Background

At the time that the of his alleged onset date, Mr. Swanson was twenty-four years old and twenty-seven years old at the time of his hearing. Mr. Swanson completed the 12th grade and did not attend special education classes. (Filing No. 13-6 at ECF p. 12). He has previously worked as a truck loader and a security guard in the time period from 2005-2008.

In early September 2008, or five months after the onset of the alleged disability, Mr. Swanson suffered an injury to the elbow of his left, non-dominant arm. He was admitted to St. John's Hospital, where X-ray scanning confirmed Mr. Swanson had sustained a "comminuted fracture" of his left distal humerus (upper arm bone). After his left arm was splinted, Mr. Swanson left and returned a week later to undergo an open reduction and internal fixation of the comminuted fracture. Mr. Swanson was discharged and instructed to follow up with physicians in seven to fourteen days. No follow up care related to the surgery was sought.

In July 2010, Mr. Swanson was presented by the state agency to Timothy Shoemaker, M.D., for a physical consultative exam pursuant to his claim. Though Mr. Swanson claimed disability secondary to migraine headaches, dizzy spells, blackouts, blurry vision and rods and pins in his left arm, he explained to Dr. Shoemaker that he had not been evaluated by his primary care doctor for any of the above. Mr. Swanson subjectively indicated that the pain in his left arm was constant and worsened with activity.

Dr. Shoemaker's physical exam revealed that Mr. Swanson had no signs of cyanosis, clubbing or edema, that pulses were present in all four extremities, and that there were no varicosities or ulcerations. Mr. Swanson was alert and oriented times three, had a normal posture and gait, and had no difficulty getting on and off the examination table. The musculoskeletal portion of the exam revealed that his active and passive ranges of motion were within normal limits, he was able to stand on heels and toes, as well as tandem walk, hop, and squat. The exam also revealed that Mr. Swanson had appropriate gait and station, which was dually noted by Dr. Paul J. Roberts, M.D., during a psychological evaluation a month earlier. Dr. Roberts also documented in his evaluation that Mr. Swanson did not utilize any assistive devices, had coordinated gross and motor movements, and no observable difficulties with balance or coordination.

During the psychological evaluation administered in June 2010 by Dr. Roberts, Mr. Swanson's chief complaints for disability were frequent dizzy and fainting spells, along with the rod and pin placement in his left humerus. He also reported persistent, daily migraine headaches. Mr. Swanson stated that he had no previous employment, but, as Dr. Roberts noted, his account was inconsistent with the submitted Social Security paperwork. Mr. Swanson also reported that, in terms of daily living activities, he was cognitively capable, but physically incapable, of performing them.

Dr. Roberts administered a comprehensive mental status examination and concluded that, from a neurocognitive standpoint, Mr. Swanson appeared to be of lower cognitive functioning. Mr. Swanson answered "I don't know" to most of the questions and Dr. Roberts noted concern that Mr. Swanson made "no attempts" to guess at a possible response to questions posed. The exam revealed that Mr. Swanson lacked the presence of any auditory and/or visual hallucinations, did not respond to any internal stimuli, and had an affect that both was appropriate for the subject and setting and was normal and stable. His thought pattern was unremarkable, and without any evidence of delusions. During the exam, Mr. Swanson was alert and oriented times three. He also had fair attention and sustained concentration, had intelligible, appropriate, purposeful and goal-directed speech, and also had no display of any anti-social behaviors.

At the conclusion of the exam, Dr. Roberts opined that, despite the fact that claimant may benefit from further cognitive assessment, Mr. Swanson did not present any noteworthy psychopathology from a psychiatric standpoint and his presentation and behaviors did not appear to meet the criteria for any major psychiatric disorder. Furthermore, Dr. Roberts concluded that Mr. Swanson's psychiatric status would not be an obstacle to obtaining gainful employment.

In September 2010, state agency reviewing psychologist Donna Unversaw, Ph.D. reviewed the record and noted in a prior application for benefits the previous year, Mr. Swanson had no mental impairment allegations and reported that he had no problems with hygiene, dressing, or bathing: was able to cook simple meals, do laundry, mow the lawn, shop and care for his young daughter. Dr. Unversaw opined that Mr. Swanson had no medically determinable mental impairment and that his complaints were not credible. In October 2010, state agency reviewing psychologist Joelle J. Larsen, Ph.D., affirmed Dr. Unversaw's assessment.

In April, 2011, Dr. Leny Phillip, M.D., assessed Mr. Swanson as having unspecified backache, anxiety, depressive disorder, and unspecified epilepsy without mention of intractable epilepsy. Dr. Phillips treatment history was limited to one visit.

At his hearing, Mr. Swanson testified that he stopped working because he could not stand on his feet for long periods of time and he had passed out at work. He experiences headaches, whole body pain and extreme incontinence of both his bladder and bowels. However, Mr. Swanson did not take any medication or treat with a physician for any of his conditions because he could not ...

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