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Payne v. Colvin

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

June 17, 2015

ZAN PAYNE, Plaintiff,



Plaintiff Zan Payne (“Payne”) requests judicial review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”), which denied Payne’s application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits under title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c.

Payne argues that the ALJ improperly discredited Payne’s treating physician. The Commissioner denies that the ALJ erred in any way.



Payne filed for SSI alleging disability on December 6, 2011. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 19[1]. The claim was denied on March 21, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on April 19, 2012. Id. Payne filed a request for a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (“ALJ”) on May 1, 2012, pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.1429, which was granted. Id. The hearing was held on April 16, 2013. Id. Michael L. Blankenship, an impartial vocational expert (“VE”) appeared at the hearing; Payne was represented by attorney Michael G. Myers. Id.

After the hearing, the ALJ found that Payne has a disability, but that medical evidence showed that his substance abuse disorders are “a contributing factor material to the determination of disability under section 1614(a)(3)(j) of the Social Security Act, ” therefore voiding the disability claim. Id. Pursuant to that statute, the ALJ denied his application, concluding that Payne was not under a disability according to the Social Security Act at any time since the date of his application through the date of her decision. Id.


At the hearing, Payne testified that he was born in November, 1968. Dkt. No. 12-2 at 39. He was 43 years old at the time he initially filed for SSI in December, 2011, and 44 years old at the time of the hearing. He also testified that he finished the eighth grade, but failed to attain his GED. Dkt. No. 12-2 at 40. He last worked five or six years prior to the hearing. Id. His work history includes employment at a foundry, a McDonald’s, and most substantially, at Progress Holding as a laundry technician. Dkt. No. 12-2 at 41.

Payne testified that his treatment at Gallahue Mental Health Services (“Gallahue”), which began in 2011, includes one-hour dual diagnosis group sessions three times per week, meetings with a social worker twice per week, in-home meetings with a care coordinator once per week, and medicine checks with his doctor or advanced practice registered nurse once per month. Dkt. No. 12-2, 44-47.

Payne testified that he has lived with his girlfriend, who is also his son’s mother, Anita Sanford (“Sanford”), for ten years. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 42-43. He testified that she maintains the house, does all of the household shopping, reminds him to shower and shave, and tells him what to wear. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 55-56. Payne stated that his care coordinator helps him make sure he has his other needs covered, such as working with Sanford to pay the rent and keeping his anger in check. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 56.

Payne testified that he struggles with anger outbursts triggered by paranoia and by voices in his head. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 58. He testified that he has trouble following what is going on in television shows. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 60. Payne does not have a driver’s license and testified that he would have difficulty maintaining a regular schedule and would get lost without help. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 62.

Payne testified that he started taking Invega as soon as he began treatment at Gallahue. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 43. Invega is the only medication he has taken for his symptoms, but Payne recently switched from taking Invega in pill form to receiving monthly injections after his arrest for operating a scooter while intoxicated. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 47. Because of this arrest, he has to take three breathalyzer tests daily and has stopped drinking entirely. Id. Prior to that arrest, Payne testified that he was drinking “almost every day, ” dkt. No. 12-2, at 52; and felt the pill was not helping. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 47. He also admitted that he was not taking his pill every day as instructed while drinking and was often turned away from the dual diagnosis group sessions for having alcohol on his breath. Dkt. No. 12-2, at 53. Payne testified that since beginning the injections a month prior to the hearing (and beginning the breathalyzer tests), his symptoms have improved “somewhat.” Dkt. No. 12-2, at 60.

At an April 4, 2013, Gallahue dual diagnosis group session, Payne reported feeling “great” after one month of sobriety and noted how his anger outbursts had “greatly decreased” since getting sober. Dkt. No. 12-9, at 7. He also ...

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