United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ERIC L. CLANTON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Eric L. Clanton (“Clanton”) requests judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), denying his applications for
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”), and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.For the following
reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.
March 8, 2012, Clanton protectively filed applications for
DIB and SSI, alleging a disability onset date of August 4,
2010, due to coronary artery disease, hypertension,
cellulitis, lower back pain, ankle pain, and obesity. His
claims were initially denied on August 30, 2012, and again on
reconsideration. Clanton timely filed a written request for a
hearing and on March 24, 2014, a hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge John H. Metz (the
“ALJ”). Clanton was present and represented by
counsel. A medical expert, Robert B. Sklaroff, M.D.
(“Dr. Sklaroff”), and a vocational expert,
Deborah A. Dutton-Lambert (the “VE”), testified
at the hearing. On April 11, 2014, the ALJ denied
Clanton's applications for DIB and SSI. Following this
decision, Clanton requested review by the Appeals Council. On
June 18, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Clanton's
request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner
for purposes of judicial review. On July 17, 2015, Clanton
filed this action for judicial review of the ALJ's
decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
time of his alleged disability onset date, Clanton was fifty
years old, and he was fifty-four years old at the time of the
ALJ's decision. Clanton has a high school education.
Prior to the onset of his alleged disability, Clanton had
been employed as a parts control inspector for a medical
supply company for fifteen years from 1995 to 2010. He
stopped working in August 2010 as a parts control inspector
because of his eighteen-month incarceration for a driving
offense. He alleges that his disability began in August 2010.
Clanton is 6'2” and at the time of his hearing
weighed 262 pounds.
2001, Clanton was diagnosed with coronary artery disease, and
he required placement of a stent because of an occluded left
anterior descending artery. In 2008, Clanton required a
second stent because of a right coronary artery blockage.
(Filing No. 12-7 at 9.) However, after those
procedures, Clanton was not fully compliant with his
April 2012, Clanton went to the hospital emergency room
because he was experiencing chest pain. Clanton reported that
the chest pain had been intermittent for two weeks. The pain
would last for only a few moments and would come on either by
exertion or when at rest. He developed leg swelling a couple
of days before going to the hospital. Clanton complained of
shortness of breath and chest pains after walking two to
three blocks. Clanton admitted to the medical professionals
that he had not been taking his medications for several
months because he had run out of them and had no insurance or
money to refill the prescriptions. He had chest x-rays, an
EKG, and an ECG performed. The chest x-ray indicated no acute
cardiopulmonary disease, and everything was within normal
limits. The EKG was within normal limits also. The ECG
revealed normal left ventricular ejection fraction of 65%.
When Clanton was discharged from the hospital, he was
directed to continue taking his medications and to begin a
“heart healthy” diet. (Filing No. 12-7 at
his time at the hospital, Clanton underwent a Lexiscan Stress
ECG, which revealed normal blood pressure responses, no chest
discomfort with stress testing, and no fixed or reversible
perfusion defects. Id. at 12-14. Clanton was
diagnosed with angina and given nitroglycerin while he was in
the hospital. The nitroglycerin was effective. He also had
uncontrolled blood pressure when he entered the hospital, but
it was improved on medication. Id. at 14.
underwent a consultative medical examination on June 27,
2012, as part of the disability process. Clanton was examined
by Andrew J. Sonderman, M.D. (“Dr. Sonderman”).
Clanton explained to Dr. Sonderman that he was seeking
disability benefits because of his coronary artery disease
and chronic low back pain. He explained that he had stents
placed in 2001 and 2008 and that he was taking nitroglycerin
for his occasional chest pain. Dr. Sonderman noted that
Clanton had some swelling in his legs. (Filing No. 12-7
reported to Dr. Sonderman that he had been experiencing
chronic low back pain for approximately twenty years. Twenty
years earlier, Clanton suffered a gunshot wound to the back,
and the bullet lodged near his spinal cord. He underwent
surgery to have the bullet removed, but he suffered paralysis
from the waist down for about three months. Clanton spent six
to seven months in rehabilitation to learn how to walk again.
He reported pain in his lower back that radiated down his
right leg, which was aggravated by bending and lifting. He
explained that he did not experience numbness in his leg.
Clanton was taking Vicodin and Aleve to manage the pain.
reported to Dr. Sonderman that he was able to “open a
jar, pick up a coin off of the table, tie his shoes, button
and zip his clothing, dress and undress himself, bathe
himself, push a full grocery cart, pull, sweep, mop, and
write clearly.” (Filing No. 12-7 at 48.)
Clanton also reported being able to walk for thirty minutes
before needing to rest, stand for twenty minutes at a time,
stand for three hours total in a work day, and sit for seven
hours total in a work day. Clanton reported that he could
lift twenty pounds with either arm. Id. at 47.
the examination, Clanton denied any heart murmurs,
palpitations, syncope, or shortness of breath. Dr. Sonderman
noted that Clanton was stable at station and comfortable in
the seated and supine positions. On examination, Dr.
Sonderman found that Clanton had normal musculoskeletal
functioning and a negative bilateral straight leg raise test.
A review of the peripheral vascular system revealed 1
pretibial pitting edema. Dr. Sonderman noted that Clanton
walked with a limp because of decreased range of motion in
his right ankle. Clanton could stand on his left leg alone
but not on his right leg. He could walk on his heels and walk
on his left toes but not on his right toes. All other systems
and functioning were normal. Id. at 48-50.
sought medical treatment for cellulitis from July through
December 2012. His condition was described as an open wound
on his right leg, and he was referred to receive physical
therapy. His progress notes showed that the wound was treated
with antibiotic ointment and compression wrapping. After
thirteen visits to physical therapy, Clanton's wound was
healed by December 20, 2012, and by January 2013, he was
discharged from further services. His discharge summary
showed that he was given compression garments. (Filing
No. 12-7 at 64-65, 78-80; Filing No. 12-8 at
Social Security medical consultant completed a residual
functional capacity assessment in August 2012 and determined
that Clanton could lift and carry ten pounds occasionally and
less than ten pounds frequently. He could stand and walk at
least two hours in an eight hour work day and could sit about
six hours in an eight hour workday. The medical consultant
noted a July 2012 x-ray of Clanton's lumbar spine that
revealed degenerative disc disease at ¶ 2-3 and L4-5 and
only mild spondylosis. The medical consultant also opined
that Clanton could frequently balance; occasionally climb
ramps or stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; and should
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. It was opined that
Clanton should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat
and cold, fumes, odors, gasses, dusts, poor ventilation, and
hazards such as machinery and heights. The medical consultant
also noted that Clanton was noncompliant with his
medications, and Clanton reported that he could mow the
grass. (Filing No. 12-7 at 66-73.)
a medication check and follow-up examination in October 2012,
Clanton's blood pressure was slightly evaluated; however,
he had no edema in his lower extremities. (Filing No.
12-7 at 81-82.) An ECG showed normal blood pressure
responses and no chest discomfort with stress testing.
Id. at 82. In February 2013, Clanton returned for a
follow-up cardiac appointment at the clinic and reported that
he was doing well and not experiencing any cardiac symptoms.
He reported that he was walking three to four blocks without
any symptoms. His ECG results were again within normal
limits. (Filing No. 12-8 at 11-12.) At his six-month
follow-up appointment in August 2013, Clanton reported that
he was doing very well and had no complaints. He had only
occasional chest pain, but it was not severe and did not last
very long. He could walk about four to six blocks without any
chest pain or shortness of breath. He reported shortness of
breath with heavy exertion. His ECG results were again within
normal limits. Id. at 12-13.
January 2014, Clanton went to the emergency department for
recurrent sub-sternal chest pain. An initial EKG and chest
x-rays did not reveal signs consistent with an acute heart
attack, but subsequent EKGs showed development of anterior
Q-waves. Because of ongoing chest pain and increasing cardiac
markers from abnormal EKGs and ECGs, Clanton was sent for
emergent cardiac catheterization, which showed 100% blockage
of the mid left anterior descending artery stent. It was
determined that Clanton had suffered an acute heart attack.
Clanton underwent thrombectomy and balloon angioplasty to