United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
Patricia A. Shumaker, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Patricia A. Shumaker seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, who denied her application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits under the Social Security Act. For the following reasons, the Court affirms the decision of the Administrative Law Judge.
A. Procedural Background
Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income disability benefits in 2011, alleging disability beginning on June 30, 2009. (R. at 15.) Her claim was denied initially, as well as upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). ( Id. ) Her hearing was held before ALJ Warnecke Miller. On June 6, 2012, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not been disabled as defined in the Social Security Act from her alleged onset date through the date of the ALJ's decision. (R. at 27.) The ALJ's opinion became final when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 2, 2013. (R. at 1-3.)
B. Factual Background
(1) Plaintiff's Background and Testimony
Plaintiff is 50-years-old. (R. at 169.) Her highest level of education is the 10th grade. (R. at 173.) Since the alleged onset date of June 30, 2009, Plaintiff's only income has been unemployment benefits. (R. at 22.) In the proceeding fifteen years before the hearing, Plaintiff worked as a housekeeper, molder-tender, and furniture assembler. (R. at 39-41.)
During Plaintiff's six-year tenure as a housekeeper, she had to lift fifty pounds. (R. at 39-40.) When she worked as a molder-tender, Plaintiff had to lift up to fifty pounds daily. (R. at 40.) As a furniture assembler, Plaintiff lifted up to seventy-five pounds. (R. at 43.)
Plaintiff claimed her disability began June 30, 2009, when she and her husband were in a motorcycle accident. (R. at 45.) Plaintiff testified that, since her accident, she can barely use her right arm, and has constant pain in her shoulder blade and arm socket. (R. at 45-46.) She attempts to control the pain with Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and rest. (R. at 46, 53.) Plaintiff previously took other medications for pain, but discontinued their use because they caused nausea and anxiety. (R. at 61.) Plaintiff told the ALJ that she can barely lift anything with her left arm, and her husband assists her with brushing her hair and getting dressed. (R. at 46-47.) She testified that on a ten-point scale, her daily pain is between a six and a nine. (R. at 59-60.) Plaintiff further testified that she spends her free time watching TV, playing computer games, sewing, gardening, and doing word searches. (R. at 49-51.)
Plaintiff testified that she does the dishes at home, but stops after five minutes. (R. at 55.) Plaintiff further testified that she primarily eats with her left hand because of the pain in her right arm, and can't reach an object two feet away from her. (R. at 56.) She stated that she only sleeps two or three hours every night because of the pain she feels if she sleeps on her back or right side. (R. at 57.) Plaintiff naps between five and thirty minutes throughout the day, but consistently awakens because of pain or nightmares. (R. at 57-58.) Plaintiff said that some days her pain is so great that she just lays in the sofa or recliner. (R. at 60.)
In addition to arm pain, Plaintiff testified that she suffers from headaches about twice a month that can last for several hours. (R. at 52-53.) Plaintiff also fractured her right big toe in the accident, and testified that she continues to suffer pain from it. (R. at 53-54.) This pain is aggravated when she walks down stairs, stands on her tiptoes, or walks barefoot. (R. at 54.) Plaintiff previously broke three bones in that foot, and had to shift her weight to her left foot when working. (R. at 54-55.) Plaintiff also stated that she is dyslexic and has had a poor memory since childhood. (R. at 58-59.)
Plaintiff's husband testified that Plaintiff seems more forgetful since the motorcycle accident. (R. at 63.) He told the ALJ that he helps Plaintiff get dressed, open car doors, and get objects that are out of reach for her. ( Id. )
(2) Medical Evidence
Plaintiff claimed that her severe, medically determinable impairments were dysthymic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, right clavicle and scapula fracture, obesity, and disorder of the right foot. (R. at 17.)
Plaintiff suffered a fractured right scapula, right clavicle, right humeral head, and right big toe in a motorcycle accident in July 2008. (R. at 237). In addition Plaintiff fractured her ribs and suffered "road rash" on her right shoulder, upper arm, elbow and forearm. ( Id. ) Plaintiff was initially treated with a right shoulder sling and a cast shoe for her right toe. (R. at 242.) She was also prescribed Vicodin for pain. ( Id. ) The following month, Dr. David A. Goertzen, an orthopedist, prescribed Plaintiff physical therapy three times a week for six weeks to improve range of motion in her right shoulder. (R. at 330.)
Plaintiff's condition continued to improve until she fell and hit her right shoulder in September 2008. (R. at 329, 423.) Ultimately, her clavicle did not heal properly, and in November 2008, Plaintiff underwent surgery to insert a plate and screws into it. (R. at 273.) Following the surgery, Plaintiff was again prescribed physical therapy. (R. at 324.) In December, Dr. Goertzen opined that Plaintiff's condition had improved significantly, and she could return to work one-handed, or at full duty if she felt up to it. (R. at 320.)
In February 2009, Plaintiff told Dr. Goertzen she still suffered from a "bit of pain, " but she was found to only have trouble lifting overhead, and was cleared to return to work. (R. at 318.) She was also discharged from occupational therapy. (R. at 278.) However, in May 2009, Plaintiff continued to complain of neck pain and underwent an MRI. (R. at 314.) The MRI found only a mild, broad-based ...