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Reynolds v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

October 15, 2014

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


ROGER B. COSBEY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Reynolds appeals to the district court from a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application under the Social Security Act (the "Act") for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI").[1] ( See 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.


Reynolds applied for DIB and SSI in August 2012, alleging disability as of January 16, 2012. (Tr. 91-97.) The Commissioner denied his application initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 41-42, 59-61, 64-66.) After a timely request (Tr. 57-58), a hearing was held on June 20, 2013, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Terry Miller, at which Reynolds, who was represented by counsel; his wife; and a vocational expert testified (Tr. 590-650). On July 3, 2013, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision to Reynolds, concluding that he was not disabled because he could perform a significant number of jobs in the economy despite the limitations caused by his impairments. (Tr. 25-36.) The Appeals Council denied his request for review, at which point the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 6-9.)

Reynolds filed a complaint with this Court on November 15, 2013, seeking relief from the Commissioner's final decision. (Docket # 1.) In this appeal, Reynolds alleges that the ALJ: (1) assigned a residual functional capacity ("RFC") that is not supported by substantial evidence; (2) improperly assessed the medical source opinions, including Dr. Bacchus's; (3) failed to consider the combined impact of his impairments; (4) improperly discounted the credibility of his symptom testimony; and (5) failed to cite a significant number of jobs at step five. (Pl.'s Br. in Supp. of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of Social Security 11-25.)


A. Background

At the time of the ALJ's decision, Reynolds was forty-nine years old (Tr. 91); had a high school education and one year of college (Tr. 110, 598); and had work experience as a material handler, production supervisor, and stocker (Tr. 111, 211). He alleges that he became disabled due to coronary artery disease, fibromyalgia, and anxiety. (Tr. 110, 119, 121, 167, 609-10.)

B. Reynolds's Testimony at the Hearing

At the hearing, Reynolds, who was five feet ten inches tall and weighed approximately 245 pounds, testified that he lives with his wife and adult child in a one-story home. (Tr. 596-97.) Reynolds is independent with his self care, but his wife performs most of the household chores and manages their finances. (Tr. 626-28, 630.) He drives a car, visits the library on his own, and occasionally attends his grandson's soccer games (Tr. 597-98, 631); after attending an hour-long game, he goes home to bed (Tr. 631). His daily routine involves caring for pets, playing computer games, napping, watching sports, and reading. (Tr. 626-27.) He plays with his grandchildren while lying on the couch or sitting in a lawn chair. (Tr. 629-30.)

As to his physical problems, Reynolds complained of chronic muscular pain due to fibromyalgia and shortness of breath after walking one block. (Tr. 606-08.) He can "walk a little bit" and stand or sit for ten minutes (Tr. 614, 616-17, 633); if he mows the yard, it takes him three or four days to recover (Tr. 614). If he picks something up, he is afraid he will drop it; he feels he is losing grip strength. (Tr. 618-19, 637.)

Reynolds stated that his pain is from "head to toe, " "never, ever lets up, " and "the bigger the muscle, the more pain involved." (Tr. 611; see also Tr. 614, 616-17, 636.) He described it as intense, extreme, achy, burning, aching, throbbing, or stabbing in nature. (Tr. 633-35.) On a scale of one to ten, he rated his hip pain a "seven" and his back pain an "eight." (Tr. 635-36.) He testified that most of his prescribed medications were not effective; only Tramadol "scrapes the edge of the pain to where it's more easily manageable." (Tr. 612-13.)

As to his mental symptoms, Reynolds complained of significant "fibro fog" causing him difficulty with concentration and memory. (Tr. 614-15; 622-23.) He sometimes cannot recall if he took his medications. (Tr. 623.) He also asserted that although he has always suffered from anxiety and depression, his symptoms have significantly worsened since the onset of his physical problems (Tr. 620-22). He takes Clonazepam for anxiety, but nothing for depression (Tr. 621, 624); he characterized his anxiety problems as "three times worse than [his] depression" (Tr. 624). Reynolds stated that although his anxiety medications work pretty well, he is still easily angered and at times can feel "almost out of control" (Tr. 621, 623-24), especially when he is out in public or thinking about finances (Tr. 621).[3]

C. Summary of the Relevant Medical Evidence

In January 2012, Reynolds had a myocardial infarction; he then underwent cardiac catheterization with stenting of the right coronary artery, followed by cardiac rehabilitation. (Tr. 223-24, 258, 261, 280-81, 346, 501, 554.) The following month, Dr. Basil Genetos, a cardiologist, noted that Reynolds continued to have a lot of fatigue, as well as arthralgias of uncertain etiology. (Tr. 341-42.) A March 2012 perfusion study was abnormal, showing left ventricular cavity dilation and evidence of previous infarction of the inferior wall. (Tr. 280-81.)

Reynolds was readmitted on March 21, 2012, for progressive angina secondary to his underlying multi vessel coronary atherosclerosis. (Tr. 304.) Cardiac catheterization showed occlusion of a branch of the right coronary artery (Tr. 304), but this was of no consequence (Tr. 366).

On April 2, 2012, Dr. W. Wilson, a cardiologist, noted that Reynolds reported marked daytime fatigue, increased leg fatigue during cardiac rehab, joint pain, and lack of energy. (Tr. 338-39.) He adjusted Reynolds's medications. (Tr. 339.) Similarly, on April 7, Dr. Genetos documented that Reynolds reported profound fatigue and muscle aches since his myocardial infarction. (Tr. 334.) He further adjusted Reynolds's medications in the event they were causing his symptoms. (Tr. 334.) On May 1, Dr. Genetos observed that Reynolds had recovered well from a cardiac perspective with no ongoing cardiac symptoms; accordingly, he released him to return to work. (Tr. 328-29.) He noted, however, that Reynolds reported ...

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