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Lucas v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 30, 2014

Sheila Lucas, Plaintiff,
Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



Plaintiff Sheila Lucas seeks judicial review of the decision of Defendant Carolyn Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. The Social Security Administration denied her petitions for both Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits under the Social Security Act. For the reasons stated below, the Court remands this case to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits on May 24, 2010, and Disability Insurance Benefits on June 11, 2010, alleging that she became disabled in January 2008. (R. at 154-162.) Her claims were denied. (R. at 82-95.) Plaintiff requested a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. at 96-97.) Her hearing was held on October 3, 2011. (R. at 37-66.) On December 16, 2011, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. at 18-36.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's opinion final. (R. at 1-7.)

B. Factual Background

(1) Plaintiff's Background and Testimony

Plaintiff was born in January 1967. (R. at 154.) Plaintiff graduated high school with a GED, followed by an associate's degree in general studies. (R. at 57.) Before applying for disability in May 2010, she was a certified nursing assistant from 2007 to 2008. (R. at 39, 191.) While caring for her client, Plaintiff occasionally lifted up to eighty pounds and frequently lifted and carried twenty-five pounds. (R. at 191.)

Before that, from 1998 to 2004, Plaintiff was a claims service representative for an insurance company. (R. at 190.) This required her to sit for about seven hours per shift, answering phone calls and typing insurance claims. (R. at 192.) She only stood or walked during breaks. (R. at 192.)

From 2004 to 2006, Plaintiff worked as a library assistant, where she sat for about two hours of her shift and stood/walked for the remaining three hours of her shift. (R. at 193.) Although she only occasionally lifted fifty pounds, she routinely lifted and carried twenty-five pounds, while lifting between five and fifteen pounds daily. (R. at 193.)

From 2006 to 2007, Plaintiff worked as a site coordinator for the Second Harvest Food Bank. (R. at 55, 194.) She walked and stood most of the day, with only brief periods of sitting. (R. at 194.) Plaintiff occasionally lifted up to sixty pounds, but lifted and carried between twenty-five to thirty pounds daily. (R. at 194.)

Plaintiff stopped working in January 2008 when her client passed away. (R. at 39.) Plaintiff testified that even if her client hadn't passed away, she thought that she wouldn't have been able to continue to do the job for much longer. (R. at 40.)

Plaintiff testified at the December 2011, hearing, that she can do housework, but suggested that she is not a dependable employee because "some days it's very hard just to get out of bed and do mundane things around the house." (R. at 45.) Plaintiff also testified that, although she can lift a gallon of milk, she could not sit for more than fifteen to twenty minutes because her legs will go numb. (R. at 45-46.) Plaintiff can push herself to stand and walk for more than fifteen or twenty minutes, but if she does, she's unable to get out of bed for the next two days in order to recover. (R. at 52.) Plaintiff also testified that she is unable to hold on and grasp things, and typically will drop dishes while washing them. (R. at 53.) Plaintiff also testified that she gets migraines usually once or twice a month, and after taking medication is typically bedridden until they are better. (R. at 54.) A trip to the hospital is sometimes necessary if the medication fails to work. (R. at 54.) Plaintiff also has asthma that is triggered by extreme cold or heat, wetness, and humidity. (R. at 57.)

(2) Medical Evidence

Plaintiff claimed she has diabetes, fibromyalgia, osteo-arthritis, asthma, soregensons disease, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, migraines, and allergies. (R. at 176.)

On May 4, 2010, Plaintiff had an x-ray that demonstrated degenerative changes in her right knee, indicating arthritis. (R. at 246, 289.) Plaintiff has been seeing Dr. Tran since May 2010, who suggested that she may be suffering from an undifferentiated connective tissue disorder. (R. at 246-47, 514-33.) However, another rheumatologist, Dr. Tahir, questioned Dr. Tran's diagnoses of a connective tissue disorder, mentioning a history of the disease, but concluding that currently Plaintiff "does not have many features to suggest CTD [connective tissue disorder]." (R. at 553-54.) Plaintiff has undergone a few physical and occupational therapy appointments in June 2010 for the osteoarthritis in her knee. (R. at 246, 422-36.) Also in June 2010, Plaintiff underwent a polysomnogram which indicated that she had mild obstructive sleep apnea and signs of sleep deprivation. (R. at 246, 290.)

In July 2010, Plaintiff was also seen by Dr. Krier for a mental examination, which revealed major depressive and anxiety disorders (R. at 246, 442-44.) In August 2010, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Wa'el Bakdash at the request of the Indiana Disability Determination Bureau. (R. at 246, 445-47.) He diagnosed her with fibromyalgia, type II diabetes, osteoarthritis in the right knee with a slight restriction on movement, asthma, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, migraines, allergic rhinitis, and obesity. (R. at 246, 445-47.) In June 2011, Dr. ...

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