United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
Debbie A. Stage o/b/o, Brian C. McCarty (deceased Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
JOSEPH S. VAN BOKKELEN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Debbie A. Stage seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, who denied her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits, Disabled Widow's Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security Act. For the reasons stated below, the Court affirms the decision of the Social Security Administration.
A. Procedural Background
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Disabled Widow's Benefits on January 14, 2011, and Supplemental Security Income on January 25, 2011, alleging the onset of disability on October 15, 2009. (R. at 138-150.) Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and then again upon reconsideration. (R. at 70-77, 80-87.) She requested a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. at 91-94.) Her hearing was held before ALJ Henry Kramzyk on May 23, 2012. (R. at 30-63.) On June 8, 2012, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. at 11-24.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision final. (R. at 3-5.)
B. Factual Background
(1) Plaintiff's Background and Testimony
Plaintiff was born in 1958. (R. at 165.) As an adult, she worked several semi-skilled jobs, including cooking/bartending, factory labor, and setting tables/doing dishes at a recreational center. (R. at 178.) Off and on from 1986 until 1991, Plaintiff worked in a labor position at a factory. (R. at 180.) This job required her to use machines, tools, and equipment. (R. at 180.) Then, on and off from 1996 to 2006, Plaintiff worked as a cook and bartender, while her last position before the onset date of disability was setting tables and doing dishes at a recreational center from May to October 2009. (R. at 179, 181.)
During her testimony before the ALJ, Plaintiff stated that she had to quit her job in October 2009 because she "was having a lot of problems keeping up." (R. at 38.) She claimed to have arthritis in her shoulder, hand, hip, spine, and knee, as well as a herniated disk. (R. at 42.) She also struggled to stand for periods of time because of the arthritis in her left hip. (R. at 43.) Plaintiff testified that she is constantly in pain, specifically located in the lower part of her back, hip, leg, and foot. (R. at 43.)
She relies on Vicodin to help with the pain because she believes she is allergic to arthritis medication. (R. at 44.) Plaintiff testified she struggles with walking from her bedroom to the bathroom, but can for the most part comfortably walk thirty to forty feet before having to stop and rest. (R. at 46.) She also cannot stand or sit for more than a few seconds without having to shift position. (R. at 46.) She denied the ability to clean, including dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, and straightening up. (R. at 47.)
(2) Medical Evidence
In October 2002, Plaintiff was diagnosed with mild degenerative disc disease. (R. at 381.) An xray of Plaintiff's hips was done in January 2007, where arthritic changes in her left hip were noted. (R. at 386.) In February 2007, Plaintiff was revealed to have mild disc bulging at L4-L5 and L5-S1 as well as slight degenerative changes in her articular joints. (R. at 384.)
Dr. Kondamuri examined Plaintiff in December 2010, where she complained of low back pain that radiates to her left hip and down her left leg. (R. at 388.) She was confirmed to have a lumbar disc bulge and annular between L5-S1 as well as degenerative disc disease. (R. at 389). Dr. Kondamuri suggested a steroid injection into the site that will relieve a significant portion of her pain. (R. at 390.)
During a visit with Dr. Oni a year later in November 2011, Plaintiff demonstrated a fixed flexion deformity of thirty degrees of the left hip, as well as severe restrictions on active and passive ranges of motion. (R. at 421.) Dr. Oni diagnosed her with moderately severe osteoarthritis in her left hip and suggested a total left hip replacement due to a shortening of her left leg which has resulted from a fixed flexion deformity. (R. at 421, 425.) There is a note that as of January 2012, Plaintiff had not scheduled surgery and was holding off from doing so. (R. at 421.) However, Dr. Oni found no spinal deformities other than slight degenerative disc disease. (R. at 425.)
Plaintiff met with state agency consultant, Dr. Saavedra in March 2011. (R. at 343-47.) Dr. Saavedra noted that she has a slightly hunched posture, but appeared to be comfortable seated. (R. at 345.) He also noted spinal tenderness in the lumbar region with a restricted range of motion. (R. at 346.) Plaintiff had a normal gait, but was unable to stoop and squat, and experienced difficulty when getting onto the ...