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Davidson v. Colvin

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

March 31, 2015

TRACY D. DAVIDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW

TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

Plaintiff Tracy D. Davidson (“Mr. Davidson”) 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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.[1] For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On September 2, 2009, Mr. Davidson filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of January 30, 2009. H is c la ims init ia lly were denied on March 11, 2010, and again on reconsideration on June 14, 2010. Mr. Davidson filed a written request for a hearing. A hearing init ia lly was held on January 27, 2012, but because Mr. Davidson’s claims involve mental health impairments, the hearing was adjourned so that a psychologist could participate in the proceedings. On April 10, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge James R. Norris (the “ALJ”). Mr. Davidson participated in the hearing and was represented by counsel. On April 13, 2012, the ALJ denied Mr. Davidson’s applications for DIB and SSI. On July 25, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Davidson’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision, thereby making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicia l re view. After receiving an extension of time to file his Complaint, on October 25, 2013, Mr. Davidson filed this action for judicial review of the ALJ’s decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

B. Factual Background

At the time of his alleged disability onset date, Mr. Davidson was 48 years old, and he was 51 years old at the time of the ALJ’s decision. Mr. Davidson completed schooling through the eighth grade and then later received a GED. He worked as a painter, painting the interior and exterior of homes and often carried heavy ladders and climbed up and down ladders. His work involved frequent bending, walking, and carrying. He has been unable to continue working since January 30, 2009 because of swelling, pain, and limited motion.

Mr. Davidson suffers from degenerative disc disease in the lumbar and cervical spine, degenerative joint disease in the right shoulder, depression, anxiety, and alcohol dependence. In his initial applications for DIB and SSI, Mr. Davidson sought benefits because of his degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease. He later added depression and anxiety to his applications. Mr. Davidson has not received mental health treatment for depression or anxiety and has only intermittently used medication.

Mr. Davidson began experiencing back, neck, and joint pain as a result of the heavy manual labor associated with being a painter. He asserts that his condition became debilitating on January 30, 2009, leading to an inability to work. The medical records indicate that Mr. Davidson began seeking pain medication to treat his back pain before January 17, 2008. On that date, Mr. Davidson visited his family physician, Dr. Steven Gatewood (“Dr. Gatewood”) at Elwood Family Practice. He complained of lower back pain and asked for a new prescription for pain medication, which he received (Filing No. 15-7 at 69). On April 3, 2008, he returned to Elwood Family Practice and was seen by Tammy Biele, a registered nurse (“Nurse Biele”). Nurse Biele noted that Mr. Davidson’s mental status was intact and normal, and he showed no signs of depression or anxiety. She observed that Mr. Davidson’s gait and station were normal, his head and neck had normal alignment and mobility, and his upper and lower extremities had normal stability, strength, and range of motion. She also noted that Mr. Davidson’s back pain was unchanged (Filing No. 15-7 at 65). Nurse Biele added a note that Mr. Davidson came back sometime after the appointment and told her that he needed his narcotics refilled that day because he had been taking more than usual and only had a few left. Nurse Biele denied his request for an early refill (Filing No. 15-7 at 67).

On April 28, 2008, Mr. Davidson reported to Riverview Hospital’s emergency room for complaints of chest pain. His physical examination and diagnostic tests were normal, but the record noted that examination of his back revealed levoscoliosis, or a spinal curve to the side (Filing No. 15-7 at 4).

As a follow-up to his hospital visit, Mr. Davidson was seen by Dr. Gatewood on June 12, 2008. Mr. Davidson denied having depression, anxiety, or any neurologic impairments. Dr. Gatewood noted that Mr. Davidson’s mental status was intact and normal. Like Nurse Biele, Dr. Gatewood observed that Mr. Davidson’s gait and station were normal, his head and neck had normal alignment and mobility, and his upper and lower extremities had normal stability, strength, and range of motion. He also noted that Mr. Davidson’s back pain and scoliosis were unchanged. He prescribed various pain medications for Mr. Davidson (Filing No. 15-7 at 61).

Mr. Davidson was again seen by Dr. Gatewood on September 24, 2008. Mr. Davidson and his wife both were present at the appointment with Dr. Gatewood. They discussed their drug screenings and the fact that they had run out of their prescriptions. Ms. Davidson explained that she was out of medicine early because she had used more than she should have taken. Mr. Davidson again denied having depression, anxiety, or any neurologic impairments. Dr. Gatewood observed that Mr. Davidson’s gait and station were normal, his head and neck had normal alignment and mobility, and his upper and lower extremities had normal stability, strength, and range of motion. Mr. Davidson complained of chronic back pain and claimed that he still needed pain medication. Dr. Gatewood rewrote pain medication prescriptions (Filing No. 15-7 at 57).

Mr. Davidson went to Elwood Family Practice on December 5, 2008, and was seen by Nurse Bie le. Th is vis it was for a three -month check-up and to receive a flu shot. Nurse Biele again noted that Mr. Davidson’s gait and station were normal, his head and neck had normal alignment and mobility, and his upper and lower extremities had normal stability, strength, and range of motion (Filing No. 15-7 at 53). She noted that Mr. Davidson’s back pain was unchanged and decreased his Lortab prescription.

On February 17, 2009, imaging of Mr. Davidson’s cervical spine was taken. The imaging showed some mild and moderate degenerative changes (Filing No. 15-7 at 2). On February 24, 2009, Mr. Davidson met with Dr. Gatewood. He complained of continuing neck and back pain and numbness in his right arm. Dr. Gatewood prescribed additional medication and increased his Lortab prescription (Filing No. 15-7 at 50).

On April 23, 2009, Mr. Davidson again visited Dr. Gatewood. He complained of continuing neck and back pain. Mr. Davidson denied having neurologic symptoms, depression, or anxiety. Like in previous visits, Dr. Gatewood noted that Mr. Davidson’s gait and station were normal, his head and neck had normal alignment and mobility, and his upper and lower extremities had normal stability, strength, and range of motion (Filing No. 15-7 at 47). Nevertheless, Dr. Gatewood ordered an EMG test, an MRI, and an x-ray.

Nurse Biele met with Mr. Davidson on August 17, 2009. He discussed refilling his pain medication, and he was again referred to have an EMG test conducted because his condition, according to Nurse Biele, had deteriorated ...


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