United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division
STACY K. PERKINS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, Commissioner of Health And Human Services, Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
TANYA WALTON PRATT JUDGE
Plaintiff Stacy K. Perkins ("Mr. Perkins") requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner") denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), and for Social Security Supplemental Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act. For the reasons set forth below, the Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.
A. Procedural History
On December 10, 2008, Mr. Perkins filed an application for SSI and DIB, alleging a disability onset date of July 30, 2007. These claims were denied initially on March 6, 2009, and upon reconsideration on May 18, 2009. Thereafter, Mr. Perkins filed a written request for a hearing, which was held on March 11, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge Monica LaPolt ("the ALJ"). Mr. Perkins was represented counsel. The ALJ issued an unfavorable determination on March 24, 2011. (Filing No. 17-3, at ECF pp. 9-21.) Mr. Perkins appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ on November 4, 2011, because the hearing record was partially inaudible, thus creating an incomplete record. (Filing No. 17-3, at ECF pp. 26-29.) The Appeals Council ordered the ALJ to conduct a new hearing, which was held on March 12, 2012. Mr. Perkins was represented by attorney Ashley D. Marks at the hearing. The Appeals Council also determined that a subsequent DIB application, filed on June 8, 2011, was a duplicate and ordered the ALJ to associate the claim files and issue a new decision on the associated claims. The ALJ issued a second opinion on April 9, 2012, again denying Mr. Perkins's applications for SSI and DIB. On July 10, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Perkins's request for review of the April 9, 2012 order, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. Mr. Perkins filed his Complaint in this action on September 9, 2013.
Mr. Perkins subsequently filed another application for DIB, again alleging an onset date of July 30, 2007. On January 16, 2014, the Social Security Administration determined that Mr. Perkins met the medical requirements for disability benefits, finding that he was disabled as of April 10, 2012, one day after the ALJ's decision dated April 9, 2012. (Filing No. 25-1.) Additional medical reports, submitted to the Social Security Administration in August, October, and November 2013, were used in deciding Mr. Perkins's claim.
B. Factual Background
Mr. Perkins was 47 years old at the time of his alleged onset date and 52 years old at the time of the ALJ's April 9, 2012 decision. He had a high school education and past relevant work as an automobile assembly line worker or grinder/deburring operator, picker/packer, and bakery mixer. Mr. Perkins alleges disability due to back pain, right shoulder pain, and depression.
Mr. Perkins sustained a back injury in November 2006 when he twisted suddenly while working. At that time, Mr. Perkins's physical examination was normal other than tenderness and mildly limited back flexion. In May 2007, he sought additional treatment for his back injury, where he complained of pain radiating into both legs. A physical examination revealed normal strength and sensation, mildly positive straight leg raising, normal gait, and normal ability to squat. Magnetic resonance imaging of Mr. Perkins's lumbar spine revealed some mild joint arthropathy and minimal disc bulging at L5-S1 with only mild spinal canal narrowing. In November 2007, Mr. Perkins reported to his back specialist, Dr. John Shay, M.D., that his medication allowed him to function at a reasonable level. Dr. Shay recommended pain management and re-training for a less physical line of work.
Mr. Perkins sought treatment for his back in March and April 2008. His physical examinations were normal, other than tenderness and slightly decreased range of motion. He had the normal ability to move about, walk, and squat; normal sensation; and normal straight leg raising. Mr. Perkins was advised to avoid heavy lifting and repetitive bending or stooping. He was discharged in September 2008 due to lack of compliance, and there is no evidence of further treatment for the remainder of 2008 or in the early part of 2009.
Mr. Perkins underwent a consultative examination in February 2009 at the request of the agency. The physical examination was normal other than reduced lumbar flexion and mildly reduced range of motion in the right shoulder. In May 2009, Mr. Perkins saw family physician Dr. Charles Platz, M.D., with complaints of back pain, although he was not taking any medication at that time. His examination was normal other than mild lumbar tenderness. Mr. Perkins reported worsening back symptoms in April 2010, but a May 2010 physical examination was unchanged.
In March 2011, Mr. Perkins reported that his mood was doing well on medication but that he had difficulty concentrating, sitting or standing for more than 30 minutes, and had difficultly lifting. Physical and mental examinations were unchanged from prior visits.
II. DISABILITY AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
Disability is defined as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must demonstrate that his physical or mental limitations prevent him from doing not only his previous work, but any other kind of gainful ...