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Bowers v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 26, 2016

LINDA L. BOWERS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Linda L. Bowers (“Bowers”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On April 25, 2012, Bowers filed an application for SSI, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2008, due to major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), schizophrenia, psychotic disorder, and osteoporosis. (Filing No. 13-2 at 23.) Her claims were initially denied on August 8, 2012, and again on reconsideration. Bowers timely filed a written request for a hearing and on April 9, 2014, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge John H. Metz (the “ALJ”). Bowers was present and represented by counsel. A medical expert, Don A. Olive, Ph.D. (“Dr. Olive”), and a vocational expert, Ray O. Burger (the “VE”), appeared and testified at the hearing. Id. On May 1, 2014, the ALJ denied Bowers' application for SSI. Id. Following this decision, Bowers requested review by the Appeals Council and on August 18, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Bowers' 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. Id. at 2-4. On October 12, 2015, Bowers filed this action for judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (Filing No. 1.)

         B. Factual Background

         At the time of her January 2008 alleged disability onset date, Bowers was forty-two years old. She was forty-six years old at the time she filed an application for SSI. (Filing No. 13-2 at 47: Filing No. 16 at 3.) Bowers has a ninth grade education and attended regular classes. (Filing No. 13-2 at 48-49.) Prior to the onset of her alleged disability, Bowers had three short-term jobs. For approximately three months, January to April 1995, she prepped food at a fast food restaurant. Id. at 51. Bowers stopped working at the fast food restaurant because it was too stressful. Id. For approximately two months in 2005, she worked as a deli clerk in a grocery store. Id. at 51-52. Bowers quit her job as a deli clerk because it was also too stressful. Id. at 52. She most recently worked as a cashier in a convenience store for about two months in 2007. Id. Bowers was fired from the convenience store because she missed several days of work after becoming sick due to a switch in her medication. Id. at 53. Bowers has not worked since June of 2007.

         Bowers has a history of four in-patient psychiatric hospitalizations. Id. at 30. She was first referred by Middletown Center staff for psychiatric in-patient care in January 1997. (Filing No. 13-10 at 6-7.) Bowers suffered from possible withdrawal symptoms from Xanax and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Id. at 7-8. In July 2000, Bowers was admitted to the psychiatric unit on an emergency detention status by police officers after she was aggressive toward her husband. Id. at 16. The police officers reported that Bowers' speech was rambling and she refused to follow their directions. Id. She was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe without psychosis; history of marijuana abuse; and relationship problems. Id. at 18.

         In October 2001, Bowers was again admitted to a hospital on an emergency detention after she made suicidal threats and aggressive threats toward her husband. Id. Bowers was described as being confused, disoriented, talking to the television, talking to her deceased mother, and clapping her hands in a strange manner. Id. Upon discharge, Bowers was diagnosed with unspecific psychosis. Id. at 28.

         Bowers was last hospitalized in June 2007 when she was admitted on an emergency detention order filed by police officers after they were notified of Bowers' strange behavior. (Filing No. 13-9 at 95.) When police officers arrived, Bowers accused them of raping her. Id. Bowers thought that the officers were going to kill her with their guns and thought that there were guns hidden in various places of her apartment. Id. Bowers reported that “a presence was all around.” Id. During admission, Bowers denied, and did not exhibit, depression, anxiety, suicidal or homicidal ideation. Id. Upon discharge, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and nicotine abuse. Id. at 96. Bowers was treated with Haldol, an antipsychotic medication, and Ativan, which resolved her psychosis. Id. at 95.

         In August 2007, Bowers began treatment with Meridian Services. (Filing No. 13-10 at 134.) She was prescribed Invega 6 mg. Id. at 108. Since November 2007, Bowers has remained stable, with a normal mental status, while taking Invega. In June 2008, Bowers stated that her mood swings were in complete control and she denied having problems with hallucinations or paranoia. Id. at 106. Throughout the years, Bowers reported that she felt well and Invega was very helpful. Id. at 75, 114, 124, 128, 131, 133.

         In October 2009, Bowers went to Meridian Services for a medication review. Id. at 131. During that visit, she denied having any hallucinations or suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Id. at 132. The clinician noted that Bowers was stable and responding well to Invega. Id. at 133. One year later, in October 2010, Bowers again denied having hallucinations or any suicidal or homicidal thoughts and that her only side effect was slight weight gain. Id. at 83. Bowers was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder, PTSD, and cannabis dependence. Id. In March 2012, Bowers reported that she had been stable for the past five to six years while taking Invega. (Filing No. 13-2 at 32.)

         On July 6, 2012, Bowers met with Ceola Berry, Ph.D., HSSP (“Dr. Berry”), upon referral by the disability determination office for a consultative mental status examination. (Filing No. 13-7 at 27.) Bowers reported that she was diagnosed in 1986 with “clinical major depression, ” and in 2007 with bipolar disorder. Id. She stated that her son and her boyfriend resided with her. Id. She reported that she is able to dress, bathe and groom herself independently, but she usually does not. Id. at 28. Bowers' boyfriend explained that he completes most of the household activities of daily living. Id. Bowers reported that her typical day consists of waking up at 11:00 a.m., watching television, visiting her grandson who does not reside with her, and going to bed at 10:00 p.m. Id. She admitted that she smokes one pack of cigarettes a day and consumes an excessive amount of sugar and caffeine and reported that she has adequate relationships with family and friends. Id.

         Bowers reported to Dr. Berry that she has not sought employment, because she has been trying to receive disability income. Id. Bowers also reported that her depression was unsuccessfully mediated by her psychotropic protocol. Id. at 28. However, when asked whether she informed her physician about the inefficiency, Bowers evaded the question and was unable to recall her most recent appointment for refill of her Invega. Id. at 27. Dr. Berry noted that Bowers' mental status examination did not reveal any significant problems with concentration, short-term memory, mental calculation, abstracting ability or general knowledge. Id. at 28-29. Dr. ...

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