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Sparks v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 25, 2015

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



Plaintiff Richard L. Sparks ("Mr. Sparks") 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"). For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.


A. Procedural History

On September 13, 2010, Mr. Sparks filed an application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of October 1, 2008. At his hearing, Mr. Sparks amended the disability onset date to August 5, 2010. His claim initially was denied on November 13, 2010, and again on reconsideration on February 18, 2011. Mr. Sparks filed a written request for a hearing. On May 10, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge James R. Norris (the "ALJ"). Mr. Sparks participated in the hearing and was represented by counsel. On May 30, 2012, the ALJ denied Mr. Sparks's application for DIB. On July 22, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Sparks's request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. On September 24, 2013, Mr. Sparks filed this action for judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). B. Factual Background

At the time of his alleged disability onset date, Mr. Sparks was 57 years old, and he was almost 59 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He is a high school graduate. Mr. Sparks worked for thirty years as a car salesman until 2005. Most recently, he worked as a delivery driver for a fishery through 2010. Because of the low level of earnings from the delivery driver position with the fishery, the ALJ did not consider this latter employment to be a substantial gainful activity. Since giving up his position as a delivery driver for the fishery, Mr. Sparks has not worked.

Mr. Sparks suffers from arthritis, a lipid disorder, atherosclerosis, depression, and diabetes. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007 and is able to control his diabetes through diet and medication. He does not require insulin. Mr. Sparks began suffering from depression when his father died in November 2007. To treat his depression, he takes medication, which effectively helps him manage this condition.

On August 5, 2010, Mr. Sparks went to the hospital because he discovered blood in his urine. A CT scan of Mr. Sparks's abdomen revealed an indeterminate lesion midpole of the left kidney, pancolonic diverticulosis, and a punctuated left upper pole renal calculus. Dr. Stephen Hardin ("Dr. Hardin") conducted a cystoscopy, which revealed a bladder tumor. Mr. Sparks received Bacillus Calmette-Guerin ("BCG") treatment on August 10, 2010.[1] On August 11, 2010 a renal ultrasound was performed, and it revealed an indeterminant lesion of the left kidney, left bladder wall thickening, and hypoechoic area lateral to the left bladder wall. Mr. Sparks received additional BCG treatments on August 17, August 24, August 31, September 7, and September 14, 2010.

Approximately one month after learning of his bladder cancer, on September 13, 2010, Mr. Sparks filed his application for DIB based on his bladder cancer, diabetes, and depression.

On December 3, 2010, Mr. Sparks met with Dr. Michael Koch ("Dr. Koch"). Dr. Koch explained that the BCG treatments had not been effective. He recommended a cystectomy to remove the bladder. On December 8, 2010, a CT scan was taken of Mr. Sparks's abdomen and pelvis. This scan revealed a soft tissue mass at the left posterior lateral wall of the urinary bladder with adjacent cystic lesion consistent with extension of the bladder cancer into the pelvis.

Mr. Sparks underwent a cystectomy performed by Dr. Koch on December 13, 2010. Mr. Sparks's bladder, prostate, and lymph nodes were removed and a new bladder was created. Mr. Sparks was released to go home on December 17, 2010. Unfortunately, on December 24, 2010, Mr. Sparks returned to an emergency room because he lost his catheter, was incontinent, and was leaking urine.

On January 6, 2011, Mr. Sparks had a post-cystectomy cystogram. Dr. Koch noted that Mr. Sparks was "doing great, " and the cystogram revealed no evidence of leakage. Mr. Sparks had follow-up appointments with Dr. Koch and Dr. Hardin throughout the following months. An excretory urogram dated July 29, 2011, revealed bilaterally functioning kidneys without evidence of obstructive uropathy and with good drainage into the neobladder. Mr. Sparks again met with Dr. Koch on April 10, 2012 for a sixteen-month follow-up. Dr. Koch noted that a cystoscopy revealed no obvious disease and no obvious disease recurrence.

As a result of the cystectomy, Mr. Sparks has lost the urge to urinate. He wears Depends or pads, and occasionally, he unknowingly has an accident. This has happened in public. He often leaks urine before realizing the need to void his bladder in a toilet. When he voids his bladder in the toilet, it takes Mr. Sparks about fifteen minutes and about thirty pushes to work through the process. Because of the neuropathy in his feet and the length of time it takes to empty the bladder, he has to sit down for this process. The process leaves Mr. Sparks fatigued, and he generally needs to rest after the process. He must empty his bladder every three to four hours so that the new bladder does not get too full or large or start to leak. Additionally, Mr. Sparks has to catheterize himself.

As part of his daily activities, Mr. Sparks maintains personal hygiene and dresses himself without assistance. He cooks basic meals, shops for groceries and personal items at stores, helps with housework and household chores, mows the lawn with a riding lawnmower, feeds cats, drives and rides in a car, manages his finances, plays a guitar, ...

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