United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, United States District Judge.
Elizabeth Davis (“Davis”) requests judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), denying her application for
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(d) (the “Act”). For the
following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the
October 16, 2012, Davis filed an application for DIB,
alleging a disability onset date of September 13, 2012.
(Filing No. 17-2 at 14.) Her application was
initially denied on February 4, 2013, and again on
reconsideration on February 28, 2013. Davis filed a written
request for a hearing on March 12, 2013. On June 26, 2014, a
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge George A.
Jacobs (the “ALJ”) in Louisville, Kentucky. Davis
was present and represented by counsel. An impartial
vocational expert, Sharon B. Lane (the “VE”),
also appeared and testified at the hearing. On July 25, 2014,
the ALJ denied Davis' application for DIB. Following this
decision, Davis requested review by the Appeals Council on
August 6, 2014. On December 16, 2015, the Appeals Council
denied Davis' request for review of the ALJ's
decision, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review.
On February 9, 2016, Davis filed this action for judicial
review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (Filing No. 1.)
was thirty-eight years old at the time of her alleged
disability onset date, and she was forty years old at the
time of the ALJ's decision. She has a ninth grade
education and, prior to the onset of her alleged disability,
she worked as a laborer for a printing company and as a
patcher and detailer for a furniture manufacturer.
(Filing No. 17-2 at 44; Filing No. 17-6 at
suffers from a long history of back pain. From 2005 to 2012,
she underwent four back surgeries, including a diskectomy, a
fusion, and a scar removal procedure. (Filing No. 17-7 at
84.) On September 23, 2011, following her involvement in
a car accident, William L. Voskuhl, M.D. (“Dr.
Voskuhl”), Davis' treating physician, performed a
magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) scan of
Davis' lumbar spine. The MRI showed Davis suffered from a
moderate right-sided neural foraminal narrowing at ¶
5-S1 due to facet hypertrophic changes, a left eccentric disk
protrusion near the left S1 nerve, and a broad-based disk
bulge without foraminal or spinal canal compromise at ¶
4-L5. Id. at 107.
December 7, 2011, David P. Rouben, M.D. (“Dr.
Rouben”), an orthopedic surgeon, evaluated Davis and
observed that her prior fusion procedure was not successful
and she suffered from a posteriorly displaced implant.
Id. at 40. On February 6, 2012, Davis underwent
surgery to remove the improperly placed implant and an L5-S1
surgical fusion. Id. at 67. Two months after the
procedure, on April 11, 2012, Dr. Rouben noted that he was
“totally impressed” by Davis' progress and
accomplishments, and stated she was doing “profoundly
well” and her x-rays looked “terrific.”
Id. at 22. Dr. Rouben also opined that she had an
expected degree of soreness on her left side and recommended
Davis begin pool and water therapy to improve her progress.
8, 2012, Dr. Rouben observed that Davis was doing well, her
leg pain improved substantially, and she continued to
progress in therapy. Id. at 21. Dr. Rouben noted
that Davis walked erect without a limp, she had excellent
strength in her lower extremities, her wound was healing
well, and her x-rays did not indicate evidence of failure.
Id. During the visit, Davis informed Dr. Rouben that
she “feels much, much better, ” but still
suffered some pain and feels that she is unable to return to
month later, on June 13, 2012, Dr. Voskuhl conducted a follow
up visit with Davis concerning her back pain and observed
tenderness in Davis' back and a reduced range of motion
at the waist. Id. at 93. From August 2012 to October
2012, Davis complained of lower back, hip, and leg pain.
Id. at 89-92.
October 16, 2012, Davis applied for disability insurance
benefits and Dr. Rouben wrote a letter to Davis'
short-term disability insurance carrier explaining that Davis
suffered from chronic permanent nerve damage to the left L5
and S1 neural elements. (Filing No. 17-7 at 14.) Dr.
Rouben opined that Davis is unable to “perform
meaningful and gainful employment, ” because she would
not be capable of “standing for any period of time,
bending for any period of time, walking for any period of
time, or sitting for any period of time without having more
time resting than functioning.” Id. at 15. Dr.
Rouben also stated that he does not think Davis is
“capable of doing much of anything” outside of
the tasks necessary for daily living. Id. at 16.
on January 4, 2013, consulting physician, Richard P. Gardner,
M.D. (“Dr. Gardner”) examined Davis and observed
that she suffered from chronic lower back pain with decreased
range of motion in her lumbar spine, but Davis maintained
full range of motion in her cervical spine, shoulders, and
knees. Id. at 132-134. Dr. Gardner noted that Davis
maintained the ability to transfer on and off of the
examination table independently, had 5/5 grip strength
bilaterally, and could complete such tasks as buttoning,
zipping and picking up a coin. Id. Dr. Gardner also
opined that Davis could ambulate without assistive devices,
perform tandem walking in a fair manner, stand on her toes,
and maintained normal balance. Id.
January 17, 2013, Michael Brill, M.D., (“Dr.
Brill”), a state agency reviewing physician, examined
Davis' records and determined that Davis was not
disabled. (Filing No. 17-3 at 10.) Dr. Brill
acknowledged that Davis suffered from chronic lower back
pain, but noted Davis has full 5/5 strength and could
ambulate in a stable manner without assistive devices.
Id. at 9. Dr. Brill opined that Davis maintains the
ability to perform some work, however, Davis is limited to
occasionally lifting or carrying no more than twenty pounds;
frequently carrying or lifting no more than ten pounds;
standing, walking, and sitting with normal breaks for six
hours in an eight-hour workday; and with no limitations on
her ability to push or pull. Id. at 8. Fernando R.
Montoya, M.D. affirmed Dr. Brill's conclusions.
Id. at 20.
February 4, 2013, a Human Resources employee from Davis'
previous employer completed a report regarding Davis'
work performance. (Filing No. 17-6 at 43-62.) The
report stated that Davis' health did not necessitate
frequent breaks or rest periods, but Davis “sometimes
needed to sit down and rest which she was allowed to
do.” Id. at 45. The report also indicated that
Davis had no difficulties understanding or carrying out short
and simple instructions, working in coordination with or in
the proximity of others without ...