United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
MATTHEW D. CLARK, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
E. MARTIN MAGISTRATE JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter is before the Court on a Complaint [DE 1], filed by
Plaintiff Matthew Clark on October 5, 2015, and
Plaintiff's Opening Brief [DE 15], filed by Plaintiff on
March 2, 2016. Plaintiff asks the Court to reverse and remand
for further proceedings the Social Security Administration
Commissioner's decision finding him not disabled as
defined in the Social Security Act. The Commissioner has
responded, and Plaintiff has replied.
initially applied for Disability Benefits Insurance and
Supplemental Security Income in 2007, alleging that he had
become disabled in 2003. His application was denied both
initially and on reconsideration. In 2009, Administrative Law
Judge Paul Armstrong held a hearing and concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Social Security
Act. The Act defines disability as the inability to engage in
substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically
determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of
impairments that can be expected to result in death or that
has lasted or can be expected to last continuously for at
least 12 months.
Appeals Council denied review in 2011, and Plaintiff appealed
to the United States District Court for the Northern District
of Indiana. In 2013, Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry remanded
the case for further proceedings after finding that the ALJ
had failed to draw the required logical bridge from the
evidence to his conclusions.
remand, ALJ Ramona Scales held a new hearing, and in December
2014 she denied Plaintiff's disability claim. The Appeals
Council denied review in August 2015, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff
now appeals again.
parties have consented to have this case assigned to a United
States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings
and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case,
giving this Court jurisdiction to decide this case under 28
U.S.C. § 636(c) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
facts leading into 2009 are detailed at length in Judge
Cherry's 2013 opinion, so a brief summary will suffice.
Plaintiff was born on May 3, 1979, making him 37 years old at
the time of this decision. He has a high school education. He
worked for a time as a paper machine operator for a newspaper
company, but he left that job after injuring his back in
1999. He later worked as a car wash attendant, but he left
that job because he could not stand for long periods. He
worked for a couple of weeks as a telemarketer, but he left
that job because he could not sit for 8 hours per day. He
also worked briefly at a pizza restaurant and as a
door-to-door salesman for a home improvement company.
2003, Plaintiff began seeking treatment for chronic lower
back pain and severe migraine headaches. In 2004, he was
hospitalized for intractable lower back pain and later that
year underwent back surgery. The pain continued, and
Plaintiff began repeatedly visiting the emergency room with
complaints of severe migraine headaches and lower back pain.
He began taking pain medicine, and treatment continued into
2007, when testing confirmed a diagnosis of multiple
sclerosis. Plaintiff began using a cane at all times.
2007, Plaintiff began abstaining from marijuana and cocaine,
which he had used in the past. But in 2013, Plaintiff used
heroin to try to commit suicide. This was his second suicide
attempt, the first having come in 2004.
has not worked since 2009. He has two children from his first
marriage, both of whom live with their mother. Plaintiff and
his second wife have three-year-old daughter, who lives with
2014 hearing, Plaintiff testified that he continues to suffer
from lower back pain that “radiates down both legs,
it's sharp, stabbing and it's numb in my legs.”
AR 763. Plaintiff rated his pain as usually an 8 on a
10-point scale, with 10 being the worst pain he could endure,
and said that once every three months the pain reaches 10,
preventing him from getting out of bed. AR 766. With pain
medicine, Plaintiff said, the pain can drop to 6. AR 767.
“I'm just constantly numb, ...