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Green v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

June 18, 2015

RICKY N. GREEN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


ANDREW P. RODOVICH, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Ricky N. Green, on July 3, 2014. For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.


The plaintiff, Ricky N. Green, filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on September 29, 2010, alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 2007. (Tr. 19). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Green's application on December 30, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on May 24, 2011. (Tr. 86-89, 93-94). Green subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on June 28, 2011. (Tr. 19). A hearing was held on December 18, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Patricia Melvin, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 7, 2013. (Tr. 19-31). Vocational Expert (VE) Marie N. Kieffer and Green testified at the hearing. (Tr. 19). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1).

At step one of the five step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Green had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 29, 2010, the application date. (Tr. 21). At step two, the ALJ determined that Green had the following severe impairments: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), multi-level spondylosis of the cervical and lumbar spine, a history of left hip arthritis with left hip replacement, obesity, and depression. (Tr. 21). At step three, the ALJ concluded that Green did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 22). In determining whether Green had an impairment or combination of impairments that met the severity of one of the listed impairments, the ALJ considered Listing 1.04 for spinal disorders, Listing 1.02 for dysfunction of major joints, Listing 3.02 for chronic pulmonary insufficiency, and Listing 12.04 for depression. (Tr. 22-25). For Listing 12.04, the ALJ considered the Paragraph B criteria and the Paragraph C criteria. (Tr. 24-25).

As part of the Paragraph B criteria, the ALJ found that Green had moderate difficulties in social functioning. (Tr. 24). Green's wife described his demeanor as anxious and hateful, which the ALJ found consistent with Dr. Roy's treatment records regarding Green's home interactions. (Tr. 24). The ALJ found that Green's problems with social interactions were limited to his home interactions with close family members. (Tr. 24). The ALJ noted that Green had poor relationships with family members who were abusive to him in the past but had good relationships with other family members. (Tr. 24). Green's wife noted that he would talk with others on the phone and visit his children. (Tr. 24). Dr. Hedrick described Green as pleasant, and Green stated that he never had been fired or laid off for failing to get along with others. (Tr. 24).

The ALJ found that Green had mild difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 25). On November 29, 2010, at an examination with Dr. Sherwin Kepes, Green reported severe, transient symptoms of depression. (Tr. 25). However, at that examination, Green performed well on concentration and memory tests. (Tr. 25). Additionally, he knew relevant details about himself and current events, performed addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tasks with only one error, and his judgment and commonsense were not grossly compromised. (Tr. 25).

The ALJ then assessed Green's residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:

the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift ten pounds occasionally and to lift/carry less than ten pounds frequently; stand/walk for 2 hours out of an 8-hour work day; sit for 6 hours out of an 8-hour work day; he must never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, ramps, or stairs; he can only occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; he must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, chemicals, and irritants such as fumes, odors, dust, and gases; and, he is limited to only occasional interaction with coworkers, supervisors, and the public.

(Tr. 25-26). The ALJ explained that in considering Green's symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 26). First, she 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 Green's pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 26). Then, she evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they limited Green's functioning. (Tr. 26).

The ALJ considered the opinion of state agency psychological consultant, Maura Clark, Ph.D., who concluded that Green had limitations consistent with semi-skilled work and had the ability for constant, superficial interaction with co-workers and supervisors. (Tr. 27). The ALJ noted that a second state agency psychological consultant, Kenneth Neville, Ph.D., agreed with Dr. Clark's assessment. (Tr. 27). The ALJ afforded those opinions great weight because she found them consistent with the evidence. (Tr. 27). However, she found greater social limitations and that Green could perform other unskilled jobs. (Tr. 27). The ALJ indicated that the consultants' opinions would not preclude any of the unskilled jobs mentioned at step five. (Tr. 27).

The ALJ noted that, outside of his psychiatric care records, Green often denied having significant psychiatric problems and that his treating physicians did not suggest such problems independently or regularly. (Tr. 27). For example, Green denied having psychiatric symptoms to Dr. Hedrick on September 13, 2012 and told his treating psychotherapist on October 24, 2011 that he was primarily applying for disability for medical as opposed to psychiatric reasons. (Tr. 27). Green was diagnosed with depression based on an inability to adjust to reduced financial circumstances. (Tr. 27-28).

Following his diagnosis, Green was prescribed several psychiatric medications, which the ALJ concluded were helpful. (Tr. 28). For example, on November 28, 2012, Green reported that Buspar had decreased his symptoms of anxiety and depression and had improved his ability to sleep. (Tr. 28). On September 18, 2012, Dr. Kay Roy indicated that his sleep had improved. (Tr. 28). Dr. Roy also reported that Green enjoyed spending time with his five children, which she interpreted to show significant retained abilities for social function and a non-disabling degree of depression. (Tr. 28). At that time, Dr. Roy assessed Green's level of distress as moderate, but Green did describe significant relationship issues at home. (Tr. 28).

The ALJ found other reports or evaluations of Green's greater symptoms of depression as transient problems or of doubtful character. (Tr. 28). In May 2010, Green referred himself to an intake evaluation for psychiatric care but had never received such care before. (Tr. 28). At that time, Green stated he was applying for disability and needed help, which the ALJ concluded suggested a secondary purpose for the visit. (Tr. 28). In September 2011, at a second intake evaluation, Green reported significant depression to Klinton Krause, M.S., L.M.H.C., but stated that he was ...

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