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Norris v. Colvin

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

November 19, 2014

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


PAUL R. CHERRY, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by Plaintiff Patricia A. Norris on July 30, 2013, and Plaintiff's Brief [DE 17], filed on January 15, 2014. Plaintiff requests that the December 4, 2013 decision of the Administrative Law Judge denying her claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income be reversed for an award of benefits or remanded for further proceedings. On April 23, 2014, the Commissioner filed a response, and Plaintiff filed a reply on May 5, 2014. For the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiff's request for remand.


On March 29, 2011, Plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income, alleging an onset date of January 1, 2011. The applications were both denied initially on June 29, 2011, and upon reconsideration on October 13, 2011. Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on November 11, 2011, which was held on June 22, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") David Skidmore. In appearance were Plaintiff, her attorney, and a vocational expert. The ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits on December 4, 2013, making the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2011.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2011, the alleged onset date.
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: lumbar disc disease, arthritis, depression, and anxiety disorder.
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). She can lift and carry 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally; she can walk, stand, and sit for up to six hours each in an eight-hour workday; she can perform simple, routine tasks such that she can understand, remember and carry out simple work instructions, tolerate occasional changes in the work setting in terms of processes and products, and exercise no more than simple work place judgments.
6. The claimant is capable of performing her past relevant work as a housekeeper. This work does not require the performance of work related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity.
7. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2011, through the date of this decision.

(AR 24-30).

On May 31, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981 and 416.1481. On July 30, 2013, Plaintiff filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of the Agency's decision.

The parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


A. Background

Plaintiff Patricia A. Norris, was 56 years old on her onset date. She has an eleventh grade education. Plaintiff's past relevant work was as a housekeeper manager and a laborer.

B. Relevant Medical Evidence

1. Patel Medical Associates, P.C.

Plaintiff was treated by Kantilal Patel, M.D., between May 2009 and January 2011 for degenerative joint disease, arthritis, and anxiety, for which Dr. Patel prescribed Xanax and Vicodin. An MRI of the lumbar spine dated December 27, 2010, showed a large herniation at L4-5 to the right of the midline with narrowing of the right neural foramina and deformity of the thecal sac and degenerative disease at L5-S1 with bulging disc with mild neuroforaminal narrowing bilaterally. On January 31, 2011, Plaintiff was seen for a routine follow-up for her arthritis, COPD, hypertension, and degenerative joint disease; her medications were refilled.

Sometime after the January 31, 2011 visit but before June 21, 2011, Dr. Patel completed a "Multiple Impairment Questionnaire" form provided by Plaintiff's attorney. On the undated form, Dr. Patel opined that Plaintiff was able to sit three hours total and stand/walk less than one hour total in an eight-hour workday. She also needed to get up and move around every twenty to thirty minutes when sitting. According to Dr. Patel, Plaintiff could occasionally lift ten pounds. Dr. Patel further opined that Plaintiff was limited in her use of her upper extremities for grasping, turning, and twisting objects. Dr. Patel noted that Plaintiff would have good days and bad days, but would be absent from work more than ...

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