United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JAMES R. DYKES, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
J. McKINNEY, JUDGE
James R. Dykes (“Dykes”) requests judicial review
of the final decision of Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), which denied Dykes'
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits under Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416, 423 &
1382(c). Dykes asserts that (1) the ALJ failed to give proper
weight to the opinions of Dykes' treating physicians and
(2) the ALJ's residual functional capacity assessment was
improper. The Commissioner contends that substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's findings and that the ALJ adequately
explained his reasoning for finding that Dykes was not
filed his applications for DIB and SSI on April 19, 2010,
alleging that his disability began on February 1, 2010. R. at
149, 156. The claim was denied initially on July 2, 2010, R.
at 65, and upon reconsideration on August 18, 2010. R. at 80.
Dykes timely requested a hearing before the ALJ on August 26,
2010. R. at 94-95.
20, 2011, the ALJ held a hearing, at which Dykes, who was
represented by counsel, and a vocational expert testified. R.
at 26-60. On September 23, 2011, the ALJ found that Dykes was
not disabled. R. at 9-25. The Appeals Council denied
Dykes' request for review on February 27, 2012. R. at
1-4. On March 23, 2012, Dykes filed a complaint in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana,
Cause No. 1:12-cv-00370-MJD-RLY, and the District Court
remanded the matter to the Commissioner on January 8, 2013.
R. at 491-513.
held hearings on May 2, 2014, and October 7, 2014, R. at
443-490, and issued a decision on January 8, 2015, finding
that Dykes was not disabled. R. at 410-433. Dykes made a
timely request for review for the Appeals Council, and the
Appeals Council denied Dykes' request for review on
August 4, 2015, rendering the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. R. at 404-406.
October 7, 2015, Dykes filed the instant appeal pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
AGE, EDUCATION, WORK HISTORY & DYKES' PERCEPTION OF
was forty-four years old at the time of the alleged onset
date. He has a high school education. Dykes has past relevant
work experience as a produce department manager, a hospital
foods services dietary cook, and a grill cook. R. at 188-191,
460-461. At the hearings on May 2, 2014, and October 7, 2014,
Dykes testified that he stopped working because of knee,
shoulder, and back pain. R. at 457-458. Dykes stated that he
has since had surgeries in both of his knees and in his right
shoulder that resolved most of the problems he had in those
areas. R. at 458, 476. He further testified that his back
pain continues to keep him from working. R. at 458-459. He
indicated that problems with his spine cause him difficulty
bending and lifting. R. at 477. Dykes had surgery to implant
a spinal cord stimulator to manage his back pain and stated
that his doctors also recommended he get a pain pump
implanted to further relieve his back pain. R. at 458. Dykes
stated that he is also taking Hydrocodone to manage his back
testified that can stand for “maybe 20 minutes”
before needing to sit down and can walk only two blocks at a
time. R. at 459. He indicated that he can sit for only thirty
minutes at a time and has problems bending and lifting. R. at
459, 477. Dykes stated that he often has to elevate his legs
as a result of restless leg syndrome. R. at 477-478. Dykes
further indicated that he can push a grocery cart but cannot
pull much of anything for fear of tearing a tendon in his
shoulder. R. at 480. He also stated that his surgeon advised
that he should not lift more than twenty pounds. R. at
480-481. Dykes testified that has to lie down and rest for up
to six hours during the day. R. at 485. He further stated
that he spends most of his time in bed because of his
physical condition and cannot get out of bed to get dressed
three days per week. R. at 459-460.
testified that he had two strokes within three days of each
other that causes problems with his short term memory and
concentration. R. at 278-279, 482. He stated that he was
hospitalized for over a week after his second stroke, which
caused hemorrhaging. R. at 482-483. He also stated that he
has problems with his speech as a result of his strokes. R.
at 481. Dykes further indicated that he cannot concentrate on
any task for more than two hours at a time. R. at 460. He
testified that he sometimes gets lost when traveling around
his community and that his fiancée tends to manage his
affairs. R. at 480, 485.
addition to his physical ailments, Dykes testified that he
has problems with depression, for which he sought treatment
at Meridian Health Services. R. at 479. He also stated that
he took Cymbalta to treat his depression for a year and then
switched to Wellburtrin XL. R. at 479, 484. He further
indicated that he has problems sleeping and sometimes has
suicidal thoughts. R. at 479-480.
RELEVANT MEDICAL EVIDENCE
Physical Treatment Records
complained of knee and shoulder pain to Daniel Palmer, M.D.
(“Dr. Palmer”), on July 29, 2010. R. at 1102. An
x-ray of Dykes' lumbar spine ordered by Dr. Palmer and
taken on January 19, 2011, also showed that Dykes had mild
diffuse degenerative change, which caused him back pain. R.
February 15, 2011, orthopedist Damion M. Harris, M.D.
(“Dr. Harris”), examined Dykes and noted pain
with limited range of motion in Dykes' left knee and
right shoulder, and full range of motion without difficulty
in Dykes' left hip, foot, and ankle. R. at 952-53. Dr.
Harris further noted that an MRI revealed a nearly torn
anterior cruciate ligament in Dykes' left knee and torn
supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and bicep tendons in Dykes'
right shoulder. R. at 953. The torn tendons in Dykes'
right shoulder were surgically repaired by Dr. Harris on
March 7, 2011. R. at 322.
care physician Darla Palmer, M.D.,  also completed a check-mark
form on March 24, 2011, which indicated that Dykes could
rarely lift ten pounds; could never lift more than ten
pounds; could stand and/or walk for less than one hour per
eight-hour workday; could sit for less than two hours per
eight-hour workday; had limited use of his upper extremities
and of both hands; and could never be exposed to dust, fumes,
gas, temperature changes, or humidity. R. at 362-364.
23, 2011, Dykes was admitted to St. Vincent Hospital for a
possible stroke. R. at 366. However, by the time he arrived
at the hospital, his symptoms had “improved
drastically, ” and a neurological exam performed by
Michael Sermersheim, M.D. (“Dr. Sermersheim”) on
Dykes appeared normal. Id. Dr. Sermersheim started
Dykes on an aspirin regimen and indicated that Dykes'
prognosis was good. R. at 367. Several days later, on May 27,
2011, Dykes returned to St. Vincent Hospital after suffering
a subarachnoid hemorrhage. R. at 373-374.
of Dykes' back conducted on June 3, 2011, showed that
Dykes also had a disc bulge at ¶ 5-S1, a disc protrusion
at ¶ 1-2, and some mild degenerative changes. R. at
359-60. On June 9, 2011, Dr. Harris noted that Dykes'
recovery from shoulder surgery was slowed by his strokes, but
that Dykes nonetheless reported improvement in his shoulder
pain. R. at 379. Dr. Harris further noted that Dykes'
shoulder felt much better than it had prior to surgery and
measured full strength in Dykes' right shoulder on August
4, 2011. Id.
October 11, 2011, Dykes reported to Dr. Harris that he was
happy with his right shoulder surgery and would like to have
surgery on his left knee. R. at 961. Dykes underwent left
knee replacement surgery on November 2, 2011. R. at 966, 989.
Six weeks after his knee replacement surgery, Dr. Harris
reported that Dykes was doing even better than expected. R.
August 13, 2012, Dr. Palmer took an MRI of Dykes' right
knee, which showed a tear in the medial meniscus and mild
degenerative changes. R. at 1072. Another MRI taken on August
21, 2012, revealed some degenerative changes in Dykes'
lumbar spine. R. at 1077.
September 6, 2012, orthopedic surgeon Ravishankar Vedantam,
M.D. (“Dr. Vedantam”), noted that Dykes had
degenerative spondylosis, but had no significant signs of
lumbar radiculopathy. R. at 769. Dr. Vedantam recommended
non-surgical treatment and indicated that Dykes had never
attended physical therapy for his back pain. Id. Dr.
Vedantam referred Dykes to physical therapy and encouraged
him to do low impact, aerobic exercises, such as walking,
swimming, and bicycling. Id. Dr. Vendantam indicated
that Dykes could wear a lumbosacral belt when doing physical
work and could use a heating pad as needed. Id.
Sermersheim noted that Dykes reported having severe back pain
and recorded weakness in both of Dykes' legs and a
positive straight leg raise test during an examination on
September 11, 2012. R. at 1115-1116. On November 13, 2012,
Dr. Sermersheim noted that Dykes had normal short-term recall
and alertness, as well as some leg weakness, normal cranial
nerve and cerebellar examinations, normal sensation, and a
limp. R. at 779.
underwent a right knee arthroscopy on December 12, 2012, to
resolve pain stemming from a fall that occurred in May or
June 2012. R. at 973, 992. Two weeks after the procedure,
Dykes reported occasional, moderate pain in his right knee
but indicated that he was improving. R. at 974. On January
22, 2013, Dr. Harris stated that Dykes' right knee was
“doing much better than prior to surgery.” R. at
of Dykes' lumbar spine taken on January 24, 2013,
revealed mild diffuse thoracolumbar spondylosis. R. at 1081.
Neurosurgeon Julius A. Silvidi, M.D. (“Dr.
Silvidi”), evaluated Dykes on January 31, 2013, and
noted that Dykes exhibited no signs of lumbar radiculopathy.
R. at 775. Dr. Silvidi did not recommend surgery, but did
suggest that Dykes might obtain an evaluation for a spinal
cord stimulator. Id.
presented to Dr. Sermersheim on February 5, 2013. R. at 783.
Dr. Sermersheim noted Dykes' motor and sensory exams
appeared normal, but that Dykes had an antalgic gait and
walked with a cane. Id. Dr. Sermersheim also
indicated that ...