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Clubb v. Colvin

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

September 16, 2014

DENNIS W. CLUBB, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Dennis L. Clubb requests judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). The Court now rules as follows.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Clubb filed his application for DIB on August 5, 2010, alleging disability beginning July 15, 2003, due to a number of ailments.[1] Clubb's application was initially denied on January 25, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on May 2, 2011. Thereafter, Clubb requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The hearing was held on January 11, 2012, via video conference before ALJ Rebecca LaRiccia. Clubb and his counsel appeared in Indianapolis, Indiana, and the ALJ presided over the hearing from Oak Brook, Illinois. During the hearing, Thomas F. Dunleavy also testified as a vocational expert. On March 2, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Clubb's application for benefits. The Appeals Council upheld the ALJ's decision and denied a request for review on May 30, 2013. This action for judicial review ensued.

II. EVIDENCE OF RECORD

The relevant medical evidence of record follows.

Prior to applying for benefits, Clubb worked in the food service industry for almost thirty years. In 2003, however, Clubb had a bowel obstruction that required surgery to correct. Thereafter, he returned to work as a supervisor in the food service industry, but was unable to continue his job due to pain and other side effects from his abdominal surgery.[2] Then, in October 2004, Clubb had a second bowel obstruction surgery. He did not return to work after the second surgery. In July 2008, Clubb had a third abdominal surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. During the hearing before ALJ LaRiccia, Clubb described the side effects from his abdominal surgeries as follows:

I cannot bend over and pick a piece of paper up. The doctor told me not to. I cannot sleep in a totally prone position. I have to have my head up and shoulders elevated and my feet elevated so I don't tear the repair up, the tissue in the side where my surgeries were because I have no stomach wall left to replace it. When [the doctor] gave me my prognosis for [a] fourth surgery, he said it would not be good.[3]

Tr. at 36. Clubb also has to eat pureed foods and take Metamucil (a fiber supplement) so that his digestive system does not become blocked again. He wears an abdominal binder and must sit down to shower and do most other tasks. According to Clubb, he also "has no control on the timing of when [he'll] evacuate [his] bowels." Id. at 44. As a result, sometimes he finds himself "extricating or going to the restroom without having control over [it]." Id. Clubb maintains that he is unable to work, even at a sit down job, because his stomach repairs could "tear at any time... [i]f [he] twist[s] the wrong way." Id. at 43.

In August 2007, Clubb was also diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ("COPD"). Since then, he has used a combination of inhalers to treat his breathing problems.[4]

Clubb was also diagnosed with degenerative disc disease with sciatica in 1992, which progressively worsened over the years. Clubb's back pain was further confirmed by an MRI on May 27, 2009. The MRI revealed the following:

Degenerative disc disease with left posterior disc herniation and annular tear at L4-5.
Degenerative disc disease with central disc herniation and ...

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