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Tucker v. Berryhill

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

March 29, 2017

CHRISTINA M. TUCKER, 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 the petition for judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Christina M. Tucker, on January 4, 2016.[2] For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         Background

         The plaintiff, Christina M. Tucker, filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on December 18, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of October 1, 2012. (Tr. 10). The Disability Determination Bureau denied Tucker's application on April 9, 2012, and again upon reconsideration on June 12, 2013. (Tr. 10). Tucker subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on July 10, 2013. (Tr. 10). A hearing was held on October 2, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Terry Miller, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 17, 2014. (Tr. 10-26). Vocational expert (VE) Sharon D. Ringenberg, Tucker, and Tucker's mother, Anne Johnson, testified at the hearing. (Tr. 10). The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6).

         At step one of the five step sequential analysis for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Tucker had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 18, 2012, the application date. (Tr. 12). At step two, the ALJ determined that Tucker had the following severe impairments: history of low back pain, likely myofascial, obesity, history of headaches including migraines, major depressive disorder/depressive disorder, and anxiety. (Tr. 12). The ALJ reported that Tucker's impairments, or combination of impairments, were severe and more than minimally affected her ability to perform work related activities that required heavy lifting, extreme climbing, and more than occasional performance of other postural maneuvers. (Tr. 12). Also, the ALJ indicated that she must avoid exposure to loud noises and bright flashing lights, and that she could not tolerate sudden or unpredictable work place changes. (Tr. 12). Finally, he found that Tucker could not maintain tasks requiring intense or focused attention for prolonged periods and that her ability to interact with others was diminished. (Tr. 12).

         The ALJ found that Tucker's right shoulder complaints were resolved in less than seven months and that her allegations of ongoing pain were not supported by the evidence. (Tr. 12). Tucker claimed that her fingers locked up, but she was unsure of how long it had been happening. (Tr. 12). The ALJ determined that the evidence was insufficient to establish a severe hand, finger, or wrist impairment. (Tr. 12-13). Tucker reported that she had left arm numbness that tingled and extended down to her fingertips at her October 9, 2013 and November 28, 2013 primary care visits. (Tr. 13). However, the ALJ indicated that both examinations were normal. (Tr. 13). Tucker saw R. Yu Mendador, M.D., who reported no abnormal upper extremity findings and no diagnosis of hand or wrist problems. (Tr. 13.)

         The ALJ also found that Tucker's left arm complaints were resolved in less than 12 months and that her examination results were normal. (Tr.13). On November 8, 2012, Tucker complained about her right wrist and reported that she was unable to lift more than two pounds. (Tr. 13). She was prescribed Naprosyn, which the ALJ indicated appeared to be effective because no further reports of wrist pain were made during treatment. (Tr. 13). Moreover, Tucker had full range of motion and her fine manipulation, gross manipulation, gripping, and grasping were intact at the 2013 consultative physical examination. (Tr. 13).

         Tucker testified that she experienced pain in the back of her legs if her legs got cold and that at times she felt like her foot was curving in. (Tr. 13). She reported that Dr. Yu-Mendador believed that neuropathy was present in her legs due to a previous head injury. (Tr. 13). However, the ALJ indicated that Tucker was prescribed Neurontin for treatment of restless leg syndrome (RLS). (Tr. 13). The ALJ noted that the records did not indicate that Tucker failed to respond to treatment for RLS or that it occurred for the 12-month durational requirement. (Tr. 13-14). Tucker also complained of chest pain, but the ALJ found that Dr. Yu-Mendador's records showed intermittent complaints of chest pain and that no cardiac testing had been recommended or performed. (Tr. 14). The ALJ noted that at Tucker's most recent visit in May 2014 she did not complain of chest pain. (Tr. 14).

         At step three, the ALJ concluded that Tucker did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 14). Specifically, the ALJ found that Tucker did not meet Listing 1.04, Disorders of the Spine, because there was no evidence of root compression, limitation in motion, motor loss, and she performed a positive straight leg test. (Tr. 14). Also, the ALJ found that Tucker's mental impairments did not meet the criteria of Listings 12.04 or 12.06. In finding that Tucker did not meet the above listings, the ALJ 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. 14). 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. 14-15).

         The ALJ found that Tucker had mild restrictions in daily living activities. (Tr. 15). The ALJ indicated that the treatment record was inconsistent with the testimony of Tucker and her mother that Tucker had more bad days than good and stayed in bed on bad days. (Tr. 15). Throughout her treatment at the Bowen Center, which began in late 2012, psychiatrist S. Maharjan, M.D., reported that Tucker was able to do her daily routine and daily chores with no reports of her spending days in bed. (Tr. 15). The function reports completed by Tucker and her mother in January of 2013 indicated that Tucker prepared simple meals, washed dishes, and helped care for the family's pets. (Tr. 15). Also, Tucker reported that she enjoyed television, movies, and listening to music, but that she had a diminished interest in writing and drawing. (Tr. 15). She testified that she spent her time playing games and on the computer. (Tr. 15). Also, she occasionally needed to be reminded about her self-care. (Tr. 15). She stated that she was able to cook microwavable meals and on the stovetop occasionally. (Tr. 15). The ALJ concluded that the record as a whole failed to establish more than mild limitations in activities of daily living. (Tr. 15).

         The ALJ found that Tucker had moderate difficulties in social functioning. (Tr. 15). Tucker reported that she did not have an interest in having friends. (Tr. 15). However, the ALJ noted that during her treatment at Bowen she indicated that she was interested in establishing friendships. (Tr. 15). In the January 2013 function report, Tucker and her mother confirmed that she did not have difficulty getting along with authority figures. (Tr. 15). The ALJ indicated that Tucker had appropriate interaction with treating and examining sources. (Tr. 15). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that the evidence in the record failed to establish that Tucker was unable to maintain appropriate interactions and that she had marked limitations in social functioning. (Tr. 15).

         The ALJ determined that Tucker had moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 15). The ALJ noted that the treatment records indicated that Tucker wrote scripts and had a copyrighted piece of fiction, which the ALJ concluded required a high level of concentration and persistence. (Tr. 15). Also, Tucker testified that she was able to play computer games for approximately an hour. (Tr. 15). Dr. Maharjan indicated that Tucker's attention and concentration were either “fair” or “good” and noted an average knowledge/intellect. (Tr. 15). Therefore, the ALJ concluded that the objective evidence failed to establish marked limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 15).

         The ALJ concluded that Tucker did not satisfy the paragraph B criteria because her mental impairments did not cause at least two marked limitations or one marked limitation and repeated episodes of decompensation of extended duration. (Tr. 16). He also found that Tucker did not satisfy the paragraph C criteria because Tucker's mental impairments would not be expected to cause decompensation if she were placed in a typical work ...


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