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Warren v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 16, 2017

JOSEPH A. WARREN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1]Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Andrew P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Joseph A. Warren, on August 4, 2015.[2] For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is REMANDED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Joseph A. Warren, filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits on July 20, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of January 6, 2010. (Tr. 12). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Warren's application on October 29, 2012, and again upon reconsideration on December 19, 2012. (Tr. 12). Warren subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on January 23, 2013. (Tr. 12). A hearing was held on January 9, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Maryann S. Bright (ALJ), and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 26, 2014. (Tr. 12-27). Vocational Expert (VE) Marie N. Kieffer, Warren's wife, Deanna Warren, and Warren testified at the hearing. (Tr. 12). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-8).

         The ALJ found that Warren met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2013. (Tr. 14). At step one of the five step sequential analysis used to determine whether a claimant is disabled, the ALJ found that Warren had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the period from his alleged onset date of January 6, 2010 through his date last insured of December 31, 2013. (Tr. 14). At step two, the ALJ determined that Warren had the following severe impairments: abdominal aortic aneurysm, history of pulmonary embolism, and generalized anxiety disorder. (Tr. 14). The ALJ only briefly discussed Warren's degenerative disc disease, obesity, COPD, history of rectal fistula surgery, and history of pelvic tumor removal given the lack of evidence that these conditions caused more than a minimal limitation in Warren's ability to perform basic work activities. (Tr. 14). The ALJ indicated that all medically determinable impairments were considered in combination throughout her decision. (Tr. 14).

         At step three, the ALJ concluded that Warren did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 15). In determining whether Warren had an impairment or combination of impairments that met the severity of one of the listed impairments, the ALJ considered that Warren's representative did not argue that Warren's impairments met or equaled a listing and that no treating or examining physician indicated a finding that would equal a listed impairment. (Tr. 16).

         Specifically, the ALJ found that Warren did not meet Listing 4.10, Aneurysm of Aorta or Major Branches. (Tr. 16). The ALJ indicated that pulmonary emboli did not have a specific listing, so she considered the listings for equivalence and found that no equivalence existed. (Tr. 16). The ALJ found that the objective evidence showed no evidence of cardiovascular disease and that Warren's pulmonary function tests showed only a mild obstructive defect. (Tr. 16). Furthermore, the condition was resolved within a few months after identification. (Tr. 16).

         The ALJ also found that Warren did not meet Listing 12.06, Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. (Tr. 16). She considered the paragraph B criteria for mental impairments, which required at least two of the following:

marked restriction of activities of daily living; marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.

(Tr. 16). The ALJ defined a marked limitation as more than moderate but less than extreme and repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration, as three episodes within one year or once every four months with each episode lasting at least two weeks. (Tr. 16).

         The ALJ found that Warren had mild restrictions in daily living activities. (Tr. 16). Warren reported in his function report that he performed personal care tasks, prepared simple meals, mowed the lawn with a riding mower, went out alone, and drove. (Tr.16). Also, he indicated to his consultative examiner that he washed dishes twice a week and drove his son to school. (Tr. 16).

         The ALJ found that Warren had moderate difficulties in social functioning. (Tr. 16). Warren testified that he had difficulty being around crowds and did not like to be in public places like grocery stores. (Tr. 16). However, he indicated that he did not have difficulty being around his family. (Tr. 16). Additionally, the ALJ noted that despite Warren being anxious during the consultative examination he made good eye contact, interacted appropriately, and was able to put forth a good effort during the testing. (Tr. 16). The ALJ noted that Warren had not received significant treatment for panic attacks or social anxiety other than medication from a primary care provider. (Tr. 16).

         The ALJ found that Warren had moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 16). Warren testified that he had panic attacks, experienced pain on a daily basis, and frequently took naps during the day. (Tr. 16). However, the ALJ indicated that Warren completed EMT training in 2011. (Tr. 16). Also, the ALJ indicated that Warren drove, took his son to school, and prepared simple meals. (Tr. 17). Dr. Wade reported that Warren had poor concentration, demonstrated by his difficulty performing serial seven subtractions. (Tr. 16-17). The ALJ indicated that there was no other significant clinical findings to support Dr. Wade's finding that Warren had poor concentration. (Tr. 17). Moreover, the ALJ noted that Dr. Wade reported that Warren likely had adequate understanding and fair memory of task instructions. (Tr. 17).

         The ALJ also relied on State agency psychological consultants, J. Gange, Ph.D., and F. Kladder, Ph.D., who considered the paragraph B criteria and found that Warren had mild restrictions in daily living, moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning, moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, and no episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration. (Tr. 17). The ALJ concluded that the opinions of Drs. Gange and Kladder were entitled to great weight after their review of the record because based on their knowledge they provided credible medical opinions. (Tr. 17). The ALJ found that the opinions were not contradicted by evidence at the hearing and were consistent with the ALJ's paragraph B analysis. (Tr. 17).

         The ALJ found that Warren did not satisfy the paragraph B criteria because his mental impairments did not cause at least two marked limitations or one marked limitation and repeated episodes of decompensation. (Tr. 17). Additionally, she concluded that Warren did not satisfy the paragraph C criteria because he did not experience any repeated episodes of decompensation of extended duration, he had mild limitation regarding activities of daily living, and there was no evidence that he required a highly supportive living arrangement. (Tr. 17). The State agency psychological consultants also concluded that no evidence existed that Warren satisfied the paragraph C criteria. (Tr. 17).

         The ALJ then assessed Warren's residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:

the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) in that the claimant could lift and/or carry up to twenty (20) pounds occasionally and up to ten (10) pounds frequently, could stand and/or walk for about 6 hours and could sit for about 6 hours during an eight-hour workday, except: the claimant could occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps or stairs, but he could never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; the claimant had to avoid concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, wetness and humidity, unprotected heights, and pulmonary irritants such as dust, odor, fumes, gases, and poor ventilation; the claimant was able to perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks consistent with unskilled work and was able to sustain and attend to tasks throughout the workday; the claimant was limited to superficial interaction with coworkers, supervisors and the public, with superficial interaction defined as occasional and casual contact not involving prolonged conversation or discussion of involved issues, however, contact with supervisors still involved necessary instruction; and the claimant was limited to low stress work, defined as requiring only occasional decision making and only occasional changes in the work setting.

(Tr. 18). The ALJ explained in considering Warren's symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 18). First, she determined whether there was an underlying medically determinable physical or mental impairment that was shown by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques that reasonably could be expected to produce Warren's pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 18). Then she evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they limited Warren's functioning. (Tr. 18).

         Warren testified that he experienced fatigue and shortness of breath when he stood and walked. (Tr. 19). Also, he testified that he developed anxiety in public places and that he had panic attacks on a daily basis. (Tr. 19). Warren indicated that he had hip and low back pain, but that he had not received treatment nor reported the conditions to his physicians. (Tr. 19). He stated that he could walk about 300 feet and sit about 30 minutes. (Tr. 19). Warren testified that two physicians assigned a ten pound lifting limitation. ...


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