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Trogdon v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 11, 2017

DAVID M. TROGDON, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,[1] Defendant.



         Plaintiff David Trogdon (“Trogdon”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3) (“the Act”). For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Trogdon filed an application for Supplemental Security Income on November 1, 2012, alleging a disability onset of January 1, 2007[2] (Filing No. 13-2 at 16). His claims were initially denied on December 11, 2012, and again on reconsideration on February 11, 2013. Id. Trogdon filed a timely request for a hearing, which was held on February 18, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge Tammy Whitaker (“the ALJ”). Id. The ALJ issued a decision on May 30, 2014, denying Trogdon's application. (Filing No. 13-2 at 31.)

         On July 17, 2014, Trogdon requested review by the Appeals Council, and submitted additional evidence for the Appeals Council's review. (Filing No. 13-2 at 7; Filing No. 13-2 at 10.) Among the new evidence submitted was the January 1, 2015 determination by Indiana's Medicaid Program ALJ Charlotte Callis which reversed the discontinuance of Trogdon's “Medical Assistance to the Disabled” allowing him to remain on Medicaid. (Filing No. 13-6 at 89.) On September 17, 2015, the Appeals Council again denied Trogdon's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. (Filing No. 13-2 at 2.)

         B. Factual Background

         A few specific elements of Trogdon's medical history are relevant here, and the Court limits its discussion to those. At the time of his alleged disability onset, Trogdon was 45 years old and had at least a high school education. (Filing No. 13-2 at 30.) The Vocational Expert, (the “VE”) identified Trogdon's past work experience, before the onset of his disability, as deliverer, construction worker, carpenter, drywall installer, and painter. (Filing No. 13-2 29-30.) The ALJ found the VE's testimony that Trogdon would not be able to perform any of his past relevant work to be credible. Id.

         Trogdon alleges the following impairments: myocardial infarction, coronary artery disease, sinus bradycardia, multiple arthralgias, bunions with foot pain, obstructive sleep apnea, lumbar spine pain, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), tendonitis, hyperlipidemia, hypothyroidism, leg cellulitis, polyuria, cystitis, and hypotension. (Filing No. 18 at 3.) He has sought treatment for depression, anxiety, and PTSD on a number of occasions, and has been diagnosed with recurrent depression and psychosis. (Filing No. 13-8 at 7.)

         On November 20, 2012, Dr. Ibrar Paracha (“Dr. Paracha”) saw Trogdon for a consultative examination by a social security examiner. (Filing No. 13-7 at 37.) Trogdon reported that he had not worked since April 2012 due to his chronic bilateral foot pain, bilateral knee paid, lumbar spinal pain, and bilateral shoulder pain. Id. Dr. Paracha noted that Trogdon was unable to do heel and toe walking due to the bunions on his feet; however, he could walk, squat, and get up from a squat without difficulty. Id. at 38. Dr. Paracha concluded that Trogdon's examination was positive for bilateral bunions, knee crepitus, and lumbar spinal pain, and that Trogdon would benefit from an evaluation by a podiatrist. Id. at 39.

         On November 30, 2012, Wayne E. Hoye, Ph.D., HSPP (“Dr. Hoye”), saw Trogdon for a consultative psychiatric examination. (Filing No. 13-7 at 40.) Trogdon reported that he had disabilities due to bipolar disorder, constant back pain, problems bending over, shoulder pain, bunions, and that he could not carry over five pounds. Id. He also reported seeing psychiatrists at Horizon House and Midtown Community Mental Health Center (“Midtown”). Id. at 41. At that time, Trogdon was homeless and reported a long history of significant psychosocial stressors, but that his mood had improved recently as he had experienced an increase in social support. Id. at 43. Dr. Hoye noted that Trogdon's performance on the cognitive portion of the mental status examination suggested intact performance on measures of concentration and relatively strong performance on verbal memory. Id.

         Trogdon has a history of treatment at Midtown where he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder recurrent moderate, PTSD, nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse, and cannabis abuse. Id. at 68. Midtown reported that Trogdon's mental health greatly affected his ability to function and relate to others in a positive manner and that his current treatment plan included talk therapy, medication, and case management services. Id. at 50.

         On March 18, 2013, Trogdon was evaluated by Golda James, M.D. (“Dr. James”), at Wishard Hospital's Rheumatology Clinic. (Filing No. 13-8 at 10.) Trogdon reported bilateral knee and shoulder pain. Id. Dr. James noted that the MRI of Trogdon's knees and the x-rays of his knees and shoulders were all negative. Id. Dr. James noted that Trogdon's physical examination revealed the following: full range of motion in the hips and bilateral knees, no swelling noted in the knees or ankles bilaterally, moderate bunion formation on first metatarsals bilaterally, and six tender points noted on examination day. Id. at 11.

         At his February 2014 hearing, Trogdon testified that he has good days and bad days. On good days he can sit for an hour at one time and on bad days only thirty minutes; on good days he can stand for forty-five minutes at one time, and on bad days twenty minutes; on good days he can walk three or four blocks ...

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