United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
LAVONYA J. MOORE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Andrew P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
This matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, LaVonya J. Moore, on April 24, 2014. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
The plaintiff, LaVonya J. Moore, first applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income in May 2005, alleging a disability onset date in September 2001. (Tr. 126). Initially, the Commissioner denied her application. (Tr. 126). Upon reconsideration, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) awarded her a closed period of disability from July 18, 2004 through November 15, 2005, the date she returned to work. (Tr. 99–103). Moore agreed with the decision at that time. (Tr. 126).
Moore filed a second application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on March 12, 2008, alleging a disability onset date of February 1, 2006. (Tr. 126–27). The Commissioner denied her application initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 127). Moore subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing. (Tr. 127). A hearing was held on September 21, 2009 before ALJ Yvonne Stam, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 6, 2009. (Tr. 127). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 127). Moore then filed a complaint in the Northern District of Indiana on December 3, 2010. (Tr. 127). On June 23, 2011, Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey affirmed the Commissioner’s decision. (Tr. 126–38).
Moore filed the instant application for Disability Insurance Benefits on July 14, 2011 and for Supplemental Security Income on July 20, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of November 7, 2009. (Tr. 242, 249). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Moore’s application on October 11, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on January 19, 2012. (Tr. 163–69, 172–77). Moore subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on February 4, 2012. (Tr. 178). A hearing was held on January 16, 2013 before ALJ L. Raquel BaileySmith, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 6, 2013. (Tr. 139–153). The Appeals Council granted review, vacated the February 6, 2013 decision, and remanded the case to an ALJ to evaluate further Moore’s knee problems, her prescription for a cane, and to clarify her residual functional capacity (RFC). (Tr. 159–161).
A second hearing was held on November 6, 2013 before ALJ Steven J. Neary, and the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision on November 25, 2013. (Tr. 8–20). Vocational Expert (VE) Amy Kutschbach, Niyoka Moore, Moore’s daughter, and Moore testified at the hearing. (Tr. 11). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1–5).
The ALJ determined that Moore met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012. (Tr. 13). At step one of the five step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Moore had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 7, 2009, her alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 13). At step two, the ALJ determined that Moore had the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis and chondromalacia in both knees, obesity, disorders of the spine, and right shoulder pain. (Tr. 14). Additionally, the ALJ determined that Moore’s skin problems, thyroid issues, hypertension, dyslipidemia, menstrual problems, and mental impairments were not severe. (Tr. 14–15). At step three, the ALJ concluded that Moore did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 15).
The ALJ then assessed Moore’s RFC as follows:
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) (lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently and, in an eight-hour period, sitting for a total of 6 hours and standing/walking for a total of 2 hours) except that she is not able to climb at all and she can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, [and] crawl. She is also not able to reach overhead with her right upper extremity.
(Tr. 16). The ALJ explained that in considering Moore’s symptoms he followed a two-step process. (Tr. 17). First, he determined whether there was an underlying medically determinable physical or mental impairment that was shown by a medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic technique that reasonably could be expected to produce Moore’s pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 17). Then, he evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they limited Moore’s functioning. (Tr. 17).
Moore alleged that she suffered constant pain in her knees, back, and right shoulder. (Tr.17). She could stand and walk for a couple of hours on some days and could sit for a couple of hours on some days. (Tr. 17). Moore could lift ten pounds and took Tylenol Extra Strength at times. (Tr. 17). She did not take her medications because they caused rectal and oral bleeding. (Tr. 17). Moore used a knee brace and a walker, could not crawl, and had difficultly climbing steps and caring for her personal needs. (Tr. 17). Her daughter, Niyoka Moore, testified that Moore’s worst problem was her knees, which prevented Moore from walking fast. (Tr. 17).
The ALJ found that Moore’s impairments could cause the alleged symptoms but that her allegations regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects not entirely credible. (Tr. 17). However, the ALJ noted that he found a more restrictive RFC than the State Agency opinion that determined that Moore could perform a limited range of light work. (Tr. 17). Additionally, the ALJ indicated that the RFC was consistent with the opinion of Dr. Bacchus Jr., who concluded that Moore had some limitations with prolonged stepping and climbing, squatting, kneeling, crawling, and walking on uneven ground. (Tr. 17).
Dr. Hopen found that Moore could not walk three quarters of a mile without assistance, that she needed assistance climbing three twelve inch steps at times, and that she only could walk a quarter mile without assistance. (Tr. 17). Additionally, Drs. Jenkinson and Kaplansky determined that Moore could not work more than twenty or twenty-five hours per week. (Tr. 18). However, the ALJ gave those opinions little weight because they were not supported by the objective medical evidence. (Tr. 18). The ALJ found no evidence of muscle atrophy or significant deficits in muscle strength, sensation, or reflexes. (Tr. 18). Additionally, he noted that Moore was prescribed a cane in March 2010, but he concluded that there was no convincing evidence that it ...