United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
BONNIE L. FIELDS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Bonnie Fields seeks review of the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2).
Plaintiff asks the Court to reverse the Commissioner's
decision and award benefits, or in the alternative, remand
the decision for further proceedings. For the following
reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff's request for remand.
January 10, 2012, Plaintiff applied for DIB alleging that she
became disabled on September 27, 2011. (R. 9.)
Plaintiff's application was initially denied and again
upon reconsideration. (R. 68-71, 72-75.)
9, 2013, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held
a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert
testified. (R. 21- 64.) On September 20, 2013, the ALJ issued
a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled and denied
her DIB claim. (R. 9- 6.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform light work, with certain non-exertional
limitations. (R. 13.)
January 6, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-3.) Plaintiff now
requests judicial review of the ALJ's decision denying
her DIB claim.
was born on January 6, 1957, and was 54 years old at the time
of the alleged onset date of her disabling condition. (R.
169.) She graduated from high school and completed one year
of college. (R. 28, 173.) Plaintiff previously worked as a
general manager at a fast food restaurant for fifteen years.
Overview of Medical Evidence
records from 2011 through 2013 document that Plaintiff
suffers from a number of severe ailments, including
degenerative disc disease in her cervical and lumbar spines,
and arthritis in her thoracic spine. (R. 254, 292.) An MRI of
Plaintiff's cervical spine indicated mild to moderate
broad-based posterior disc osteophyte complexes at ¶
4-C5 and C6-C7, bilateral foraminal narrowing, and bilateral
joint hypertrophy. Id. She underwent a partial
fusion of her cervical spine at ¶ 5-C6. Id.
Plaintiff's neck showed a decreased range of motion with
flexion, extension, and side bending rotation to the right.
(R. 52, 308.) A CT indicated chronic moderate facet arthritic
changes bilaterally at ¶ 4-L5. (R. 259.) She was also
diagnosed with facet arthritis at ¶ 8-T9. (R. 316.)
Plaintiff's bone scan indicated subtle focal uptake in
the dorsal spine at ¶ 8 or T9. (R. 256.) Plaintiff was
initially prescribed Percocet for her back pain and later
took over-the-counter Ibuprofen. (R. 36, 308, 313.)
suffers from additional chronic health problems. She has
migraine headaches and requires Imitrex injections to treat
her symptoms. (R. 34, 307.) Plaintiff has dysphagia
(difficulty swallowing) and her physician diagnosed
Schatzki's ring (a narrowing of the lower esophagus) with
reactive squamous change. (R. 275, 277, 281, 282, 301.) This
condition is compounded by a small to moderate sized hiatal
hernia and erosive gastropathy. (R. 272.) Plaintiff was
diagnosed with obesity and prescribed Fastin for weight loss.
(R. 307-08.) She also receives treatment for depression,
anxiety, upper right quadrant neuropathic pain, hyperplastic
and adenomatous polyps, incontinence, chronic bronchitis,
hypertension, and hypokalemia (potassium deficiency). (R.
265, 270, 271, 279, 285, 307, 311, 313-15, 363.)
testified she became disabled on September 27, 2011, as a
result of severe headaches and back and neck pain. (R. 29.)
She took a three-month medical leave from work and, when she
returned to work, in January 2012, she learned her position
had been filled. (R. 29-31.) Plaintiff testified she did not
have health insurance and could not afford to go to the
doctor. (R. 33, 42-43.) She suffered from migraine headaches
for many years and Imitrex helped to alleviate her symptoms
if the injection was given at the onset of the headache and
she was able to lie down. (R. 34.) Plaintiff explained her
headaches often lasted for two to three days and she woke up