United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
ROGER B. COSBEY, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Ricky Lee Jaggers appeals to the district court from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application under the Social Security Act (the "Act") for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). (Docket # 1.) For the following reasons, the Commissioner's decision will be REVERSED, and the case will be REMANDED to the Commissioner for further proceedings in accordance with this Opinion.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Jaggers applied for DIB in December 2009, alleging disability as of November 1, 2008. (Tr. 176-82.) He was last insured for DIB on March 31, 2009 (Tr. 122); therefore, he must establish that he was disabled as of that date. See Stevenson v. Chater, 105 F.3d 1151, 1154 (7th Cir. 1997) (explaining that a claimant must establish that he was disabled as of his date last insured in order to recover DIB benefits).
The Commissioner denied Jaggers's application initially and upon reconsideration, and Jaggers requested an administrative hearing. (Tr. 122-24, 131-40.) On May 24, 2011, a hearing was conducted by Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Terry Miller, at which Jaggers, who was represented by counsel; his wife; and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 52-121.) On June 20, 2011, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision to Jaggers, concluding that he was not disabled because despite the limitations caused by his impairments, he could perform a significant number of jobs in the economy. (Tr. 36-47.) The Appeals Council denied Jaggers's request for review, at which point the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 15-18.)
Jaggers filed a complaint with this Court on January 16, 2014, seeking relief from the Commissioner's final decision. (Docket # 1.) In this appeal, Jaggers argues that: (1) the residual functional capacity ("RFC") assigned by the ALJ is flawed because he failed to fairly consider both the findings of Dr. John Taylor, a consulting examiner, and Jaggers's post-colectomy problems with bowel urgency; (2) the ALJ failed to consider and fairly characterize all of the relevant evidence when assessing the credibility of his symptom testimony; and (3) the Appeals Council erred in finding that the additional physical therapy records he submitted were not material. (Social Security Opening Br. of Pl. 6-17.)
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
On his date last insured, Jaggers was fifty-two years old (Tr. 47, 122); had a ninth grade education and a commercial driver's license (Tr. 10, 204-05); and had past work experience as a flooring installer, delivery van driver, and in produce sales (Tr. 205). Jaggers alleged in his DIB application that arthritis, high blood pressure, and problems with both knees limit his ability to work. (Tr. 203.)
B. Jaggers's Testimony at the Hearing
At the hearing, Jaggers, who was six feet, two inches tall and weighed 235 pounds at the time, testified that he lives with his wife in their one-story home. (Tr. 58-60.) He is independent with his self care. (Tr. 84.) In a typical day, he performs some household tasks (such as laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and preparing meals), cares for chickens, and watches a little television. (Tr. 82-86, 90-92.) He also supervises his two grandchildren, ages seven and eight, for several hours after school and helps them with their homework. (Tr. 82-84.) He drives a car, occasionally goes grocery shopping, and mows grass with a riding lawnmower in fifteenminute increments; he attends church every Sunday. (Tr. 60, 85-87, 89-90.) Throughout his daily routine, he frequently takes breaks and lies flat on the floor to reduce his pain. (Tr. 91-92, 94-95.)
In that regard, Jaggers complained of bilateral knee pain, reporting that cortisone shots had been helpful in the past. (Tr. 67-68.) His doctors recommended a knee replacement, but he decided not undergo the surgery. (Tr. 70, 109.) He also complained of constant "sharp pain" on his "left side"-that is, his back, hip, and knee-when walking due to arthritis. (Tr. 71.) He reported intermittent swelling in his right leg, particularly if he sits a lot, since suffering a deep vein thrombosis in 2008. (Tr. 73-74.)
Jaggers takes over-the-counter and herbal medications for his knee and other arthritic pain, and when he had health insurance, he attended physical therapy. (Tr. 71-72, 75-76.) He estimated that, with some pain, he could walk about an eighth of a mile once a day and stand for fifteen to thirty minutes at a time. (Tr. 77-78.) In the last six months, he started using a cane when he first gets up in the morning, although it was not prescribed by a doctor. (Tr. 78-79.) He thought he could sit for thirty minutes at a time (Tr. 79); bending over bothers his back, and he does not climb many stairs (Tr. 80).
Jaggers testified that ever since the removal of a section of his colon three years earlier, he experiences bowel urgency immediately after eating. (Tr. 65-67, 98.) His surgeon told him it was because they had to "cut [him] so low." (Tr. 66; see also Tr. 99-100.) Therefore, to avoid soiling himself, Jaggers does not eat when he is away from home. (Tr. 63, 97.) He testified that he was able to return to work as a self-employed delivery driver after his colectomy only because he could "carry a bucket [in his van]" for bowel emergencies to "get by through the day." (Tr. 65.)
C. Summary of the Medical Evidence