United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
E. MARTIN, MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff on April 23, 2015, and on Plaintiff's Brief in
Support of Reversing the Decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security [DE 16], filed by Plaintiff on October 19,
2015. The Commissioner filed a response to Plaintiff's
brief on February 1, 2016, and on February 11, 2016,
Plaintiff filed a reply.
August 2013, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance
benefits with the United States Social Security
Administration (“SSA”), alleging that he had
become disabled as of October 1, 2009. Plaintiff's claim
was denied initially and on reconsideration. On November 6,
2014, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Romona
Scales held a hearing at which Plaintiff, represented by
counsel, and a vocational expert (“VE”)
testified. On January 20, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision
denying Plaintiff benefits on the ground that Plaintiff was
opinion, the ALJ made the following findings under the
required five-step analysis:
1. The claimant did not engaged in substantial gainful
activity from August 9, 2013, the application date, to the
date of the hearing .
2. The claimant had the following severe impairments:
degenerative joint disease/arthritis of the bilateral knees,
status post bilateral knee surgery, a gallbladder disorder,
3. The claimant did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled any of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
4. The claimant had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b) except that the claimant could only
occasionally climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds, and she could occasionally balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl.
5. The claimant was capable of performing past relevant work
as a dealer because it did not require performing
work-related activities precluded by the claimant's RFC.
6. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, since August 9, 2013, the date the
application was filed.
March 2, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the
final decision of the Commissioner. On April 23, 2015,
Plaintiff filed the underlying Complaint seeking reversal of
the adverse SSA determination.
parties filed forms of consent to have this case assigned to
a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further
proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in
this case. Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction to decide
this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C.
January 30, 2011, Plaintiff slipped and fell on a patch of
ice, injuring her left knee. On November 21, 2012, Plaintiff
reported pain in both knees, the right knee having been
injured by another fall earlier that year. Plaintiff was
treated for this knee pain, and that treatment included
injections, aspirations, surgeries, physical therapy, and
September 2011 and April 2013, Plaintiff was also diagnosed
with lumbar and thoracic spine issues, including fractures
and contusions. On April 13, 2012, Plaintiff visited an
emergency room for injuries to her left ankle and right knee
after yet another fall. From April 12 through April 14, 2013,
Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for injuries to her
right wrist and her back, sustained after falling from a
ladder. Plaintiff has also been diagnosed with obesity,
chronic cholecystitis, acid reflux disease, mental health
issues, and a hiatal hernia.
November 21, 2013, Dr. Brett Brechner, Plaintiff's
primary care physician, examined Plaintiff based on her
reports of bilateral knee pain and numbness. Dr. Brechner
observed that Plaintiff had limited range of motion and
tenderness in her knees. Dr. Brechner prescribed pain
medication to increase Plaintiff's ability to perform
daily activities. On November 3, 2014, Dr. Brechner opined
that Plaintiff could walk up to one block without rest or
severe pain, sit up to thirty minutes at a time, and stand
with a cane ten minutes at a time. He also opined that
Plaintiff could sit only two hours a day in an eight-hour
workday, and that she could stand and walk only two hours in
an eight-hour workday. Dr. Brechner further opined that
Plaintiff would be limited to lifting and carrying lest than
ten pounds, and that she could not twist, bend, squat, climb
stairs, or climb ladders. Dr. Brechner estimated that
Plaintiff would miss more than four days of work per month
due to her limitations.
Sherwin Ho, an orthopedic surgeon, treated Plaintiff for knee
pain multiple times from January through August 2012. Dr. Ho
noted that Plaintiff had limited range of motion, swelling,
and tenderness in both knees, and grinding in her right knee.
Dr. Ho diagnosed Plaintiff with arthritis in both knees and
treated Plaintiff with steroid injections. On March 24, 2014,
and November 3, 2014, Dr. Ho opined that Plaintiff could not
walk without a cane and that she could not walk more than one
block at a reasonable pace, could not walk on rough or uneven
surfaces, could not use public transportation or carry out
simple daily activities, and could not climb several ...