United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
WILLIAM E. SHARP, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
J. McKINNEY, JUDGE.
William E. Sharp (“Sharp”) requests judicial
review of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), which denied Sharp's
applications for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c). Sharp asserts that
the decision of the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) was not supported by substantial evidence
because the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the opinion
evidence of various medial sources. The Commissioner contends
that the ALJ properly distributed weight to each of the
medical opinions in the record.
October 14, 2009, Sharp filed an application for SSI,
alleging disability as of December 31, 2001. R. at 376-379.
Sharp's application was denied initially on February 10,
2010, R. at 171, and upon reconsideration on May 10, 2010. R.
at 172. Sharp timely requested a hearing before the ALJ on
June 2, 2010. R. at 236.
4, 2011, the ALJ held a hearing, at which Sharp, who was
represented by counsel, and a vocational expert testified. R.
at 132-166. On September 13, 2011, the ALJ found that Sharp
was not disabled. R. at 173-191.
timely filed a Request for Review of Hearing Decision on
October 7, 2011, R. at 270-271. On January 17, 2013, the
Appeals Counsel granted Sharp's Request for Review,
vacated the ALJ's prior decision, and remanded the case
for further administrative proceedings. R. at 192-195. The
ALJ held hearings on June 19, 2013, and April 9, 2014, at
which Sharp (represented by counsel), vocational expert
Constance Brown (“VE”), and medical expert Dr.
James Brooks each testified. R. at 69-131. The ALJ issued a
decision on May 29, 2014, finding that Sharp was not
disabled. R. at 42-68. Sharp submitted a timely Request for
Review of Hearing Decision to the Appeals Council on June 6,
2014, R. at 16, and the Appeals Council denied Sharp's
Request for Review on September 10, 2015, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. R.
November 13, 2015, Sharp filed the instant appeal pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1382(c).
RELEVANT MEDICAL EVIDENCE
2006, Sharp began seeking treatment for back pain that he
attributed to a workplace accident that occurred in 1990. R.
at 573, 592, 601. On April 24, 2006, Sharp obtained a
magnetic resonance imaging report (“MRI”) that
“demonstrate[d] lumbar degenerative disc disease at
¶ 4-5 and L5-S1.” R. at 601. The MRI showed
moderate left paracentral disc herniation with inferior
extension at the L5-S1 level, which caused impingement of the
left S1 root. R. at 544-545, 582-583. Additionally, the MRI
displayed posterior annular fissure with disc protrusion that
abutted but did not cause significant displacement of the
thecal sac, and mild foraminal narrowing at the L4 and L5
8, 2006, Sharp presented to Thomas M. Reilly, M.D.
(“Dr. Reilly”) of the Indiana Spine Group.
Id. Dr. Reilly prescribed Lortab, a short course
oral steroid, and Naprosyn; outlined a home exercise program;
and offered formalized physical therapy to treat Sharp's
back pain. Id. Dr. Reilly further indicated that if
Sharp continued to experience pain, he would require nerve
root injections. Id.
obtained an updated MRI of his lumbar spine on February 12,
2008. R. at 579, 647, 723-24, 793-94. The updated lumbar MRI
revealed a slight decrease in the size of the left central
herniation at ¶ 5-S1 from the previous MRI on April 24,
February 20, 2008, Sharp again appeared for a spine
consultation at the Indiana Spine Group where he was
diagnosed with lumbar degenerative disc disease, facet
arthropathy, and lumbar spondylosis. R. at 589, 600, 607. He
was referred for a lumbar epidural injection and facet
March 4, 2008, Sharp received lumbar epidural injections and
bilateral L4-5 facet joint blocks at St. Joseph Hospital. R.
at 548-549, 588, 598-599, 604-605, 654, 703-704, 713-714,
727-728, 776-777, 797-798. On March 11, 2008, Sharp returned
to the Indiana Spine Group and described limited relief from
the lumbar injections. R. at 585, 597. Repeat injections were
postponed, and Sharp was instead prescribed Soma.
Id. Sharp again returned to the Indiana Spine Group
on March 25, 2008, and similarly described limited relief
from his injections and persistent lumbar pain. R. at 596.
Although additional injections were recommended,
Id., Sharp declined further injections and was not
authorized to obtain additional pain medications. R. at 611.
began treatment with Dr. Alnasir Virjee (“Dr.
Virjee”) on July 15, 2008. R. at 821. Dr. Virjee noted
continued spinal tenderness in August 2008, R. at 820, and
prescribed refills for Sharp's medications. R. at
January 19, 2010, Sharp reported to Dr. Virjee that his back
pain was getting worse. R. at 867. Dr. Virjee noted that
Sharp's injections had been unsuccessful and that Sharp
was not a surgical candidate. Id. Dr. Virjee further
noted that Sharp was ...