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Carwile v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

August 22, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



Plaintiff, Cecilia R. Carwile ("Mrs. Carwile"), requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner"), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.


A. Procedural History

On September 1, 2009, Mrs. Carwile protectively filed a Title II application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of May 1, 2009. Her claim was initially denied on March 28, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on May 5, 2010. On June 28, 2010, Mrs. Carwile filed a written request for a hearing, which was subsequently held on November 29, 2011, in Louisville, Kentucky. Mrs. Carwile appeared at the hearing before Administrative Law Judge D. Lyndell Pickett ("the ALJ") without an attorney or other legal representation. The ALJ denied Mrs. Carwile's application on February 16, 2012. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision on June 28, 2013. For the purposes of judicial review, the Appeals Council's decision represents the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481. Mrs. Carwile filed this appeal on July 16, 2013, requesting judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

B. Factual Background

Mrs. Carwile was forty-four (44) years old at the time of the alleged onset of her disability. She alleges disability due to her morbid obesity, major depressive disorder, and panic disorder; however, she also claims she suffers from bipolar disorder, anxiety, recurring bronchitis, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, acid reflux, sleeping disorder, a torn ligament in the right knee, sciatic pain, left shoulder pain, and diabetes mellitus. She is 5'4" and weighs approximately 332 pounds.

Mrs. Carwile earned a GED, and most recently worked as a certified nursing assistant from 1993 to 2006. She currently lives with her husband who is visually impaired, her adult daughter and the daughter's boyfriend. Mrs. Carwile drives and performs the majority of the household chores, but only does so once a week. She takes care of her personal hygiene independently, and her sister-in-law manages her family's finances. Her testimony at the hearing indicated that she spends most of her time alone in bed, sometimes watching television.

Over approximately the last six years, it has been established through medical evidence that Mrs. Carwile suffers from multiple physical and mental impairments. In May 2008, prior to her alleged date of onset, she underwent surgical arthroscopy of her right knee to repair a posterior horn tear of the medial meniscus. A consultation with Dr. Mehmet S. Akaydin Jr., M.D. ("Dr. Akaydin") in February 2010 revealed that Mrs. Carwile was fully ambulatory and had fully intact lower extremity function bilaterally. She was capable of heel walking, getting on and off the examination table without difficulty, and squatting 1/3 of the way down and back up. While Dr. Akaydin did discover moderate crepitus in Mrs. Carwile's left knee and minimal crepitus in her right knee, he found no "overt joint warmth, edema, erythema or deformity." (Filing no. 8-2, at ECF p. 26). Mrs. Carwile continues to receive treatment from her primary care practitioner for generalized joint pain.

Dr. Akaydin evaluated Mrs. Carwile for her claim of sciatic pain and found that she experienced "some diffuse mild to moderate subjective tenderness throughout the left lumbar paraspinal region and around the left SI joint, " as well as minimal diminishment of the range of motion in her hips. (Filing No. 8-2, at ECF p. 23). However, Mrs. Carwile demonstrated normal gait, ambulation and muscle strength in her lower extremities.

In May 2009, Mrs. Carwile was diagnosed with pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. Around that time, she began using a bi-level positive airway pressure ("BiPAP") machine and inhalers to help her breathing. An X-ray from June 2009 indicated that her pneumonia had improved with treatment. A pulmonary functioning test in July 2009 returned essentially normal results. In August 2009, Mrs. Carwile was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea. She continues to use her BiPAP machine and inhalers to control her symptoms.

In October 2009, Mrs. Carwile went to the emergency room with complaints of a cough. She was diagnosed at that time with asthma with cough and early posterior left pneumonia. She was treated with antibiotics. Chest x-rays taken at that time demonstrated low lung volumes without active disease. Mrs. Carwile was treated again for breathing issues in January 2011. Chest x-rays taken at that time "revealed stable hilar and mediastinal structures with no abnormal focal opacities." (Filing No. 8-2, at ECF p. 26). In May 2011, Mrs. Carwile sought treatment from a new pulmonologist and sleep specialist, Dr. Azmi Draw, M.D. ("Dr. Draw"). Dr. Draw altered her BiPAP titration, and she received no further care from him. Mrs. Carwile continues to treat her chronic bronchitis under the supervision of her primary care practitioner.

In August 2009, Mrs. Carwile was hospitalized with complaints of chest pain. The hospital conducted an echocardiogram, which revealed "borderline enlargement of the left ventricle with uniform and probably appropriate contractility with an estimated ejection fraction of fifty percent (50%)." (Filing No. 8-7, at ECF p. 72). Her blood pressure at that time was elevated at 150/84. However, there was no evidence of myocardial infarction. She was discharged after two days. In September 2009, Mrs. Carwile underwent a cardiac catheterization procedure. Her coronary arteries were found to be unremarkable, and she has not received any treatment from a cardiologist since the procedure.

In January 2011, Mrs. Carwile was treated in the emergency room for a contusion to the left shoulder resulting from a fall. X-rays indicated left AC joint alignment, an intact scapula, and no evidence of acute bony injury or fracture. In February 2011, Mrs. Carwile saw an orthopedic specialist for continued left shoulder pain. Her primary care practitioner treated her for left shoulder pain in both February and September 2011. Despite Mrs. Carwile's complaints of continuous pain, there was no indication of a shoulder abnormality in any physical examination conducted for the purposes of the disability determination.

Mrs. Carwile alleges that she is disabled due to complications with anxiety, major depression, panic disorder and bipolar disorder. Mrs. Carwile was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder by her primary care physician Vincent Waldron, M.D. ("Dr. Waldron") who treated her with anti-anxiety medications for the past 10-12 years.

Two state agency psychologists evaluated Mrs. Carwile's mental condition in January 2010, for the purposes of determining her disability status. Kimberly A. Green, Ph.D. ("Dr. Green") diagnosed Mrs. Carwile with Major Depressive Disorder, Chronic and Panic Disorder. Dr. Green assigned Mrs. Carwile a Global Assessment Functioning ("GAF") score of 61, indicating that Mrs. Carwile had mild difficulties with mood, social, and occupational functioning. Dr. Green noted that Mrs. Carwile's "affect appeared dysphoric and she was tearful during the evaluation." (Filing No. 8-9, at ECF p. 4). Upon being asked why she had not sought treatment for mental health issues in the past, Mrs. Carwile told Dr. Green "I don't want to talk about things that I've been through, " and revealed that she was abused as a child. (Filing No. 8-9, at ECF p. 3). Mrs. Carwile also informed Dr. Green that she was fired from the job she most recently worked for excessive ...

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