United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
AMANDA S. GILLESPIE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL G. GOTSCH, SR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
November 14, 2014, Plaintiff Amanda S. Gillespie
(“Gillespie”) filed a complaint in this Court
seeking reversal or remand of the Social Security
Commissioner's Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social
Security's (“Commissioner”), final decision
denying her application for Social Security Income
(“SSI”) and Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). (Doc. No. 1 at 1). On May 22, 2015,
Gillespie filed her opening brief. (Doc. No. 19). On August
27, 2015, Defendant, Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”), filed a Memorandum in
Support of the Commissioner's Decision requesting the
Court to affirm the decision denying SSI and DIB. (Doc. No.
25). On November 05, 2015, Gillespie filed a reply brief.
(Doc. No. 28). This Court may enter a ruling in this matter
based on the parties consent, 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
September 7, 2011, Gillespie filed an application for SSI and
DIB with the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) alleging disability beginning September
30, 2008. The SSA denied Gillespie's application
initially on December 12, 2012, and then again on February 8,
2012, after reconsideration was granted. On August 6, 2013, a
hearing was held before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) where Gillespie, Gillespie's
fiancé Steve Newsome, and an impartial vocational
expert appeared and testified. On January 14, 2014, the ALJ
issued his decision finding that Gillespie was not disabled
at Step Five of the evaluation and denied her application for
DIB and SSI. On September 17, 2014, the Appeals Council
denied Gillespie's request for review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
Through this action, Gillespie seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision pursuant to sentence four
of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
was born on February 25, 1975, making her 33 years old on the
date of her SSI and DIB applications, and has at least a high
school education. (Doc. No. 11 at 36). At the time of the
August 2014 hearing, Gillespie was unemployed. Prior to the
alleged onset date, Gillespie reportedly worked as a bench
press operator and a certified nurse aide. (Doc. No. 21 at
Relevant Medical Evidence of Gillespie's Mental
part of her disability application, Gillespie provided the
ALJ with medical evidence from her mental health counselor,
psychiatrists, nurse practitioner, and primary care
physicians over the twelve years between November 2001 and
October 2013-two months past the date of her hearing.
Throughout this period, Gillespie was treated with a varying
medication regimen for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety
disorder, and polysubstance abuse. She was hospitalized for
brief periods in July 2007 for suicidal thoughts and in
October 2013 for opiate withdrawal. The record shows that her
symptoms ebbed and flowed as she was treated.
submitting her DIB and SSI application, Gillespie was
examined by State Agency physicians. In November 2011, Dr.
Russell G. Coulter-Kern examined Gillespie diagnosing her
with bipolar II disorder and social anxiety disorder. Dr.
Coulter-Kern noted Gillespie's poor immediate but fair
recent and past memory as well as her appropriate eye contact
with a logical and persistent thought process. In February
2012, H. M. Bacchus, Jr., M.D., performed a physical
consultative examination in which he assessed Gillespie's
bipolar disorder and depression noting that she had a
slightly depressed mood and an intact memory.
greatest relevance to this action, Gillespie was examined by
State Agency psychologist, Benetta E. Johnson, Ph.D. in
December 2011. On December 9, 2011, Dr. Johnson completed a
Psychiatric Review Technique (“PRT”) worksheet,
in which she rated Gillespie's functional limitations
related to the Paragraph B criteria involved in the Step
Three Listing Analysis. On the PRT, Dr. Johnson opined that
Gillespie had mild restrictions in maintaining social
functioning and activities of daily living, moderate
difficulty with maintaining concentration, persistence, and
pace, and no episodes of decompensation of extended duration.
same day, Dr. Johnson also completed a mental residual
functional capacity (“MRFC”) assessment intended
to assist the ALJ in his RFC determination. In Section I of
the MRFC form, entitled “Summary Conclusions, ”
Dr. Johnson checked boxes in several categories assessing
Gillespie's limitation in sustained concentration and
persistence. In Section III of the MRFC form entitled
“Functional Capacity Assessment, ” Dr. Johnson
provided a narrative about Gillespie's mental
limitations. In January 2012 and February 2012, State Agency
psychologist, Joseph A. Pressner, Ph.D., affirmed Dr.
Johnson's opinions after reviewing the evidence in
Gillespie's file to date.
ALJ hearing, Gillespie testified that she was unable to work
due to her inability to take care of herself by doing
household chores or taking medications. She also expressed
difficulty with concentration. Gillespie also testified that
her symptoms were cyclical, and her depressive periods
occurred five to six times per month. In addition, Gillespie
explained that her medications and visitations with her
psychiatrist every month helped her condition. She also noted
that she lived with her four-year-old son and Steve Newsom
(“Newsom”), her fiancé, and that she could
drive to the gas station, grocery store, and doctor
appointments. Furthermore, Gillespie testified that she could
perform basic activities, including taking care of her dogs,
watching television, taking her son to the park, and cleaning
her house. Similar to Gillespie's testimony, Newsom
testified that Gillespie would endure day-long crying spells
and odd ...