United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
Michael A. Wilson, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Michael A. Wilson seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security, who denied his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act. Because Plaintiff has failed to identify any error in the ALJ's decision, the Court's affirms that decision.
A. Procedural Background
On May 8, 2013, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Jennifer Fisher issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled because he was still able to work in his previous profession as a welder; in addition, he could do a significant number of light-level jobs in the national economy. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for a review, thus making the ALJ's decision final. Plaintiff appeals to this Court.
After the Commissioner's response to Plaintiff's opening brief, Plaintiff filed three motions: a motion for discovery (DE 21); a motion for court subpoena (DE 22); and a motion for summary judgment (DE 23). These motions relate to the Commissioner's argument that Chiropractor Joshua Martens's treatment notes regarding Plaintiff show only mild impairments. Plaintiff submits that he does not know who Joshua Martens is and that he has never been treated by him. He wants to review Dr. Marten's records for his alleged treatment. However, the documents he is seeking are already in the record and, during his administrative hearing in February 2013, Plaintiff attested that the record was accurate. Therefore, Plaintiff's request for a subpoena to produce Dr. Martens's documents is moot. Moreover, Plaintiff points to no statute, regulation, rule, or case allowing plaintiffs to conduct discovery on appeal from the Commissioner's decisions. However, since Dr. Marten's records aren't necessary for this Court to decide Plaintiff's appeal, the Court will not consider them.
B. Parties' Contentions
Plaintiff's opening brief gets to the point: he suffered a back injury at work in 1999 and settled with his employer for a payment of $5, 500, accounting for a 5% permanent partial impairment. According to Plaintiff, "they wouldn't have paid [him] unless there was hurt." (Pl.'s Opening Brief, DE 11-1, at 2). The doctor who evaluated him told him that his "condition would only get worse over time if [he] didn't have surgery for repairing degenerating disks." ( Id. ) Since then, he has applied three times for disability insurance benefits with the Social Security Administration, but without success.
He is appealing his third determination because the last physician to evaluate him, Dr. Thomas Barbour, found his condition to be severe: "widespread back, hip and foot issues along with severe hypertension and depression." ( Id. at 2-3.) Dr. Barbour's finding also included a recommendation for a walking cane. Additionally, Dr. Barbour prohibited Plaintiff from driving and noted that he had significant limitations in sitting and walking. ( Id at 3.) Plaintiff wonders why he was sent to this doctor unless the doctor's findings are honored, and that, in essence, is Plaintiff's main contention in his four-page opening brief.
In his Reply brief he submits that he has been suffering from these ailments for some time but has been unable to get medical care because he is uninsured and poor. He also complains that the ALJ did not have a medical expert at the administrative hearing. Apparently, he had some questions prepared but did not get a chance to ask them.
As for the Acting Commissioner, she points to multiple inconsistencies in the record between Plaintiff's subjective complaints and clinical records as well as contradictions in what Plaintiff said over the years. The Acting Commissioner's main argument amounts to this: it is not so much Dr. Barbour whom the ALJ disbelieved, but Plaintiff, upon whose subjective complaints Dr. Barbour made his diagnoses.
B. Summary of Medical Evidence Considered by the ALJ
Plaintiff argued before the ALJ that his disability began on August 15, 2010, but it all started in 2000 when he suffered a work-related back injury that rendered him 5% permanently impaired.
His next visit to a doctor is in March 2009 (remember, Plaintiff disputes that he was ever treated by the chiropractor), when Plaintiff was examined at the request of the state agency by Dr. Strong. Dr. Strong found no limitations except for mild pain when Plaintiff was bending and flexing. Although Plaintiff came with a cane to the exam, Dr. Strong could not find a medical need for the cane. Moreover, Dr. Strong concluded that Plaintiff had no limitations in his ability to sit, stand, walk, carry, or lift.
A year and a half later, in November 2011, Plaintiff saw Dorwyn C. Colier, M.D., at the request of the state agency. Plaintiff told Dr. Collier that he took over-the-counter aspirin for his back pain. Dr. Collier found that Plaintiff had normal posture and gait and had no issues moving around. ...