United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JODY S. CURL, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
J. McKINNEY, JUDGE United States District Court
Jody S. Curl (“Curl”) requests judicial review of
the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”), which denied Watts'
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416, 423 & 1382c.
Curl asserts that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred when he (a) failed to properly
address Curl's limitations in concentration, persistence
or pace, or memory deficits in his hypothetical to the
vocation expert (“VE”); (b) failed to give proper
weight to Curl's treating physician's opinion; and
(c) failed to provide a logical bridge between uncontradicted
evidence of Curl's stress incontinence and her medically
determinable impairments. The Commissioner contends that the
ALJ properly accounted for any mental capacity limitations by
including Curl's GED Reasoning Level in his hypothetical;
he properly afforded little weight to Curl's treating
physician's opinion regarding her use of cane; and that
the ALJ properly determined that Curl's incontinence was
not a severe impairment.
21, 2012, Curl filed her applications for DIB and SSI. R. at
136-44. Therein, she alleged that she became disabled on
September 12, 2011, due to symptoms associated with
depression, back surgery, arthritis, anxiety, an “over
active bladder, ” hot flashes, bipolar disorder, chest
pain, sleep apnea, and esophageal reflux disease. R. at 163.
Curl's application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. R. at 73-76.
timely requested a hearing before an ALJ, which occurred on
February 7, 2014, at which Curl appeared with an attorney and
testified. R. at 32-72. A VE also testified. R. at 32-72.
March 27, 2014, the ALJ issued his decision in which he
denied Curl's applications because she was able to
perform jobs that existed in significant numbers in the
national economy. R. at 11-26. On May 12, 2015, the Appeals
Council denied Curl's request for review and the
ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.982,
8, 2015, Curl filed the instant appeal pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
AGE, EDUCATION, WORK HISTORY & CURL'S PERCEPTION OF HER
was forty years old at the time of the alleged onset date.
She has a high school education. Curl has past relevant work
as a tree trimmer, certified nurse assistant, and stock
clerk. R. at 62-63. At the hearing, Curl testified that her
back is her major limitation. R. at 43. She claimed that her
pain in the two years prior to the hearing averaged a 9
without mediation on a 10-point scale; a 7 with medication.
R. at 44.
also testified that her doctor prescribed a cane, which she
was using at the time of the hearing, to address her
complaints that, periodically, her right leg would go numb
and give out. R. at 47. Curl stated that she could only stand
for approximately five minutes and walk only two minutes
without a cane. R. at 48. She claimed she could stand or walk
with her cane for five minutes. Id. Curl stated that
she could only sit for five minutes without pain. R. at 49.
testified that she experienced an injury at work, but did not
receive Worker's Compensation for it. Id. Even
though she had surgery on her back in 2006, she worked quite
a bit in 2010 and 2011. R. at 50. Curl testified that she
worked through the pain during that time out of necessity,
but the pain has gotten so bad that she can no longer work
through it. Id.; R. at 55. Upon questioning by her
lawyer, she stated that she does not drive herself to
appointments because if there is a bump in the rode, the
sharp pains in her back can be paralyzing. R. at 56.
Curl stated that for the two years prior to the hearing, she
was extremely depressed, the worst possible rating, with
medication. R. at 51. Curl receives treatment of her
depression from her primary care provider; she has never been
to a mental health therapist. R. at 51-53.
testified that shortly before the hearing, she had an EGD
because she had been complaining of gastrointestinal issues.
R. at 36, 55. She claimed that she has had ulcers and
adhesions that need to be removed every couple of years. R.
at 55. Curl stated that she has stomach issues every three to
four days, which causes her terrible pain for an hour to
three hours. R. at 56.
also complained of chronic insomnia and testified that there
are periods of as long as five days during which she cannot
sleep, even with the help of medication. R. at 56.
testified that she lives with her two sons who do all the
cleaning, cooking, laundry and other chores because she
cannot do it because of her back pain. R. at 57. She stated
that approximately four months prior to the hearing she had
tried to go grocery shopping, but had to stop after five
minutes because she could not go on because of pain. R. at
also reported that she had carpal tunnel surgery on both
wrists and has poor circulation in her hands, which makes it
difficult for her to work with them consistently. R. at
57-58. Similarly, Curl testified that every couple of months
her feet swell and she has to prop them up above her heart;
this condition last several days up to a week. R. at 58. Curl
also reported difficulty with an overactive bladder that
causes her to use the restroom up to 50 times in an
eight-hour period. R. at 58.
Curl stated that her medication sometimes makes her sick to
her stomach and she has reported the problem to her primary
care physician. R. at 60.
RELEVANT MEDICAL EVIDENCE
September 10, 2010, Curl sought treatment for legs that jerk
at night and wake her from sleep. R. at 351. She reported
having trouble with nodding off to sleep during the day and
almost falling asleep while driving. Id. Further,
her quality of sleep was poor. Id. At that time,
Curl stated that she worked from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., and
wondered if the shift work was part of the problem.
Id. She also reported suffering from stress
incontinence. R. at 354. On examination, the nurse
practitioner noted unremarkable results in all major areas,
except depressive disorder, possible hypercholestrolium, and
malaise and fatigue. R. at 353-54. The nurse practitioner
recommended several tests. R. at 354.
result of one of the tests, Curl started Lovastatin for high
cholesterol. R. at 355.
follow up to her exam on September 10, 2010, on September 14,
2010, Curl presented for a pelvic examination, the majority
of which was normal. R. at 358-62. She was diagnosed with
stress incontinence and prescribed medication. R. at 360-61.
See also R. at 372.
referral from the nurse practitioner, on or about October 12,
2010, Curl underwent a polysomnogram, which revealed a rare
apnea, but was otherwise normal. R. at 290.
follow up visit on November 3, 2010, with Dr. Joven, her
primary care physician, Curl reported that she gets
“antsy” while waiting at work, but her depression
has improved. R. at 367. She reported continued difficulty
with leg jerks and issues with her legs feeling as though
they would give out at work. R. at 368. She was generally
diagnosed with the following problems: hypercholesterolium;
osteoarthritis; low back pain; anxiety; and depressive
disorder. R. at 369. She was prescribed medication for all of
her symptoms. R. at 369-70.
about February 9, 2011, Curl reported to the hospital with
severe abdominal pain consistent with previous issues with
abdominal adhesions. R. at 439. She underwent an adhesiolysis
to remove abdominal adhesions. R. at 439-40.
October 3, 2011, Curl reported to Dr. Joven that she was
having difficulty laying down due to pain, rated at 7.5/10,
which caused nausea; and pain in her lower abdomen. R. at
395. A physical examination showed limited range of motion in
the back with flexion reduced to fifteen degrees with severe
pain; inability to extend secondary to severe pain; and
lateral side bends reduced to thirty degrees bilaterally with
pain. R. at 395-96. No other abnormalities were notes. R. at
396. Dr. Joven prescribed Flexeril and Oxycodone for her low
back pain, and a Toradal injection administered that day.
Id. The doctor also ordered a lumbar spine x-ray.
February 7, 2012, Curl was seen in the emergency room at
Hancock Regional Hospital when she fell through a ceiling and
was caught on a rafter. R. at 249. She was complaining of low
back pain, and reported her history of same and multiple back
surgeries. Id. Upon examination, the physician noted
a hematoma and abrasion on the left flank area, with
tenderness over the abrasion and over the lower lumbar spine
and paraspinal areas. R. at 250. An X-ray of her lumbar
spine, left knee and hip showed no acute problems.
Id. Curl reported feeling much better after
medication and her hematoma had not expanded since she had
arrived in the emergency room; she was released for home
care. R. at 250-51.
February 10, 2012, presented to Dr. Joven with low back pain.
R. at 398. She reported that on February 7, 2012, she was in
the attic and put her foot through the floor to the ceiling
below. R. at 399. She was seen and treated at a hospital on
that date. Id. Upon examination by Dr. Joven on
February 10, 2012, he reported slightly diminished range of
motion on flexion, extension, lateral side bends (especially
toward the left), and ...