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Brundige v. Colvin

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

August 23, 2016

CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         The Plaintiff, Patricia M. Brundige, seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. The Plaintiff alleges that her disability began on March 20, 2012. An ALJ conducted a one-hour hearing in December 2013, at which the Plaintiff-who was represented by an attorney-her husband, and a vocational expert (VE) testified. On April 22, 2014, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, mild carpal tunnel syndrome, history of bilateral rotator cuff repair, depression, pain disorder, asthma/COPD/allergies, plantar fasciitis, and gastrointestinal disorders including alcoholic pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis/diverticulitis, and history of multiple hernia repairs. However, the ALJ ultimately concluded that the Plaintiff is not disabled. On June 24, 2015, the Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. The Plaintiff then initiated this civil action for judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision.


         The Plaintiff was 48 years old at the time of her alleged onset date, and she turned 50 during the pendency of her claim. The Plaintiff has a high school education and a beauty college certificate. Her past relevant work includes cafeteria attendant, which was unskilled and light per the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) and medium as performed; cashier, which was light as performed as part of the cafeteria attendant job, and; food worker, which was an unskilled light job per the DOT and medium as she performed it.

         A. The Plaintiff’s Testimony

         The Plaintiff believes she cannot work because of pain from head to toe. (R. 51.)

My stomach is the worst. I can get really sharp pains. What’s worse now is the swelling and the pain in there that it’s causing, and it goes through to my back, which initially will set off my back problems and my hips, and which initially will go down my legs to me knees, once in a while to my toes. I have the sciatic pains. Plantar fasciitis, which is very painful in my feet.

(Id.) The Plaintiff also testified about her concern with “trigger thumb” on her right hand. (Id.)

         The Plaintiff admitted that her pain medications, Neurontin and Bentyl, “take the worst of the pain out, ” but that she continued to have pain. (R. 52.) Side effects included sleepiness, dizziness, and forgetfulness. (R. 53.) The Plaintiff testified that she had to take a nap “[a]lmost every day, ” because she did not sleep more than four hours at a time, but also stated that Zoloft helped her sleep at night. (R. 61-62.) She did not take more heavy-duty narcotics because she had become “hooked on them” in the past. (R. 58.)

         In describing a typical day, the Plaintiff stated that she got up in the morning, tried to do her stretches, and fed the dog. “And basically I’m up and down off of the sofa. I try to do-I visit the restroom often, very often. Most of the time I’m down, either sitting or laying.” (R. 56-57.) On a good day, she would visit the restroom about six times over a period of about six hours. On a bad day, when she was experiencing diarrhea, she would use the restroom at least 10 to 12 times. (R. 57.) According to the Plaintiff, she had more bad days than good days in a week. A bad day involved “staying in bed, going back and forth to the restroom, when everything’s hurting. When you hurt so bad you can’t get up and go take your medicines and make it feel a little bit better.” (Id.)

         The Plaintiff had not had any recent emergency room visits, but wanted to go about a month earlier for “a real bad bout of vomiting and diarrhea for four hours straight, ” but decided to stay home when it subsided. (R. 53.)

         For household chores, the Plaintiff did dishes, but did not finish the job if there were a lot of them. She also dusted. Vacuuming hurt her back too much. The Plaintiff did some grocery shopping, but her husband did the majority of the shopping.

         B. Testimony from the Plaintiff’s Husband

         Mr. Brundige testified that he worked from 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., and that when he arrived home, his wife was usually laying down in bed, he would fix his own dinner. Mr. Brundige thought that his wife had more bad days than good days. He stated that he did all of the chores outside the house, and everything inside except dusting and the dishes.

         C. Treating Sources

         In December 2013, the Plaintiff obtained opinions from two of her treating physicians, Gastroenterologist Imad Horani, and pain specialist Jon Karl.

         1. Dr. Horani

         In a Medical Source Statement, Dr. Imad Horani listed the Plaintiff’s diagnoses to include chronic alcoholic pancreatitis, diverticulosis, acute pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, and diarrhea reflux. (R. 774.) His prognosis was that this was a chronic disease. Dr. Horani cited abnormal blood work values, abnormal imaging studies, and distended small bowel in the left upper quadrant as the clinical findings and objective signs for her medical conditions. Dr. Horani described her pain as abdominal and epigastric “occurring daily with bouts of increasing pain waxing and waning.” (R. 775.) With respect to her functional limitations at full time employment, he indicated that she “may need day off from time to time” for “abdominal pain not controlled by medication.” (R. 776.) He opined that she would miss work more than three times per month, and that she would be able to stay on task in unskilled work for 80% to 84% of a workday.

         2. ...

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