United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
TANYA WALTON PRATT, District Judge.
Plaintiff Beth Ann Padgett ("Ms. Padgett") requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner"), denying her 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 July 11, 2011, Ms. Padgett filed applications for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of December 2002, due to back problems, hepatitis C, neuropathy, arthritis, and cirrhosis. She later amended her alleged onset date to March 29, 2010. Her claims initially were denied on August 23, 2011, and again on reconsideration on September 15, 2011. Ms. Padgett filed a written request for a hearing on November 1, 2011. On July 27, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Roxanne J. Kelsey (the "ALJ"). Ms. Padgett participated in the hearing and was represented by counsel. On August 23, 2012, the ALJ denied Ms. Padgett's applications for DIB. On September 28, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Ms. Padgett'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. Thereafter, Ms. Padgett filed this timely action for judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
B. Factual Background
At the time of her alleged disability onset date, Ms. Padgett was 54 years old, and she was 56 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. Ms. Padgett lives with her husband and her 29 year old son. Her son does not work, but her husband maintains fulltime employment. Ms. Padgett's employment history includes working as a bartender, chair assistant, receptionist and waitress. She worked after her alleged onset date as a waitress but only for approximately 12 hours a week. She was unable to work more than that due to neuropathy in her feet and problems with her back and spine. Ms. Padgett has not worked since October 2011.
Ms. Padgett is able to drive short distances such as thirty minutes but otherwise gets fatigued. She has her GED. She is able to do "a little" bit of chores such as washing dishes and light vacuuming. She is also able to load and unload the laundry but needs help carrying it to and from the basement. She does not do any outside chores such as gardening. Her hobbies include leather braiding. Ms. Padgett seldom watches television or reads for entertainment. She gets along okay with other people and gets together with friends occasionally, approximately once every three weeks, to sit outside or have a cookout; however, her husband does the cooking. She uses her telephone alarm to remind her to take her medication.
Ms. Padgett was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2001. She testified that she underwent five weeks of Interferon treatment in March 2010, however, her red and white blood count plummeted and her doctor at the time said she was not qualified to continue treatment. At that time she was working as a waitress three days a week. She then changed doctors and at the time of the hearing had been undergoing treatment for approximately eight or nine months and she had been virus free since week 12 of her treatment. She stated that she has been struggling with her blood work and she is on "rescue drugs" for her red and white cell count. The drugs have helped but she is still short of breath and anemic. She had six weeks left in her 48 week course of treatment. She has also dealt with funguses, itching, and rashes.
Ms. Padgett takes naps throughout the day for her fatigue but does not sleep due to restless leg syndrome. She has numbness problems with her hands due to neuropathy. Ms. Padgett testified that she has pain in her feet due to neuropathy and pain in her back. She has back pain if she does any lifting or bending over. Her feet hurt and are numb all the time and she takes Neurontin for this condition. Her medication is bad for her memory and it feels like a brain fog. She indicated that stretching helps her back and rubbing her feet is also helpful. She estimated that she can lift five to ten pounds and is able to sit for maybe 30 minutes. She can stay on her feet for about 30 minutes as well but could not stand that long in one place. She believes she could walk for about one minute. She stopped using alcohol in 2008 but smoked marijuana daily.
Ms. Padgett's medical records show that in September 2011 she switched physicians and began treatment with gastroenterologist and liver transplant specialist Dr. Paul Kwo ("Dr. Kwo") who noted that Ms. Padgett had genotype hepatitis C, with early cirrhosis. In December 2011, Ms. Padgett was tolerating therapy well except for some neutropenia, anemia, fatigue, abdominal cramping, and intermittent headaches, which Dr. Kwo explained was probably related to medications and abdominal cramping. In January 2012, fatigue remained an issue and Ms. Padgett had some atypical chest pain. Dr. Kwo found Plaintiff had on-treatment response to Peg-interferon and ribavirin and Boceprevir. However, she was doing well, and was stable and up to date on screening for Hepatoma. Dr. Kwo noted that Ms. Padgett was managing the side effects well.
At an appointment with Dr. David Josephson ("Dr. Josephson") in January 2011, Ms. Padgett's gait and station were normal, her motor examination did not reveal any arm drift, weakness, tremor, or abnormal tone and sensory examination showed some mild decreased pinprick sensation distally in the lower extremities and upper extremities. Dr. Josephson noted evidence of both cervical spondylosis and sensory neuropathy. Ms. Padgett tried Elavil but this caused her to be drowsy and she could not tolerate it.
In August 2011, state agency medical consultant M. Brill, M.D., ("Dr. Brill") opined that Ms. Padgett could do light work except she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Dr. Brill additionally opined that Plaintiff could occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, should avoid unprotected heights, and could occasionally reach bilaterally overhead. This assessment was affirmed in September 2011 by state reviewing physician J. Sands, M.D.
In July 2012, Ms. Padgett's treating physician, Jama Edwards, M.D. reported diagnoses of hepatitis C, sensory neuropathy, cervical spondylosis with spinal stenosis, and liver cirrhosis. Dr. Edwards opined that Ms. Padgett could stand/walk for less than 1 hour in an 8 hour workday, sit for 1 hour in an 8 hour workday, occasionally and frequently lift less than five pounds, and can occasionally bend, stoop, and balance. Dr. ...