United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JOANNE S. PALMORE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Joanne S. Palmore (“Palmore”) 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
(the “Act”). For the following reasons, the Court
AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.
September 13, 2013, Palmore filed an application for DIB,
alleging a disability onset date of January 1,
2009. (Filing No. 13-2 at 23-25.) Her
claim was initially denied on October 18, 2013, and again
upon reconsideration on January 16, 2014. Id. at 23.
Palmore's date of last insured was December 31, 2013.
Id. She filed a timely written request for a
hearing, which was held on April 17, 2015, before
Administrative Law Judge Blanca B. de la Torre (the
“ALJ”). Id. On May 26, 2015, the ALJ
denied Palmore's application for DIB. Id. at 35.
Following this decision, Palmore requested review by the
Appeals Council on July 24, 2015. Id. at 2. On
September 30, 2016, the Appeals Council denied her 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. Id. at 7. On December
2, 2016, Palmore filed this action for judicial review of the
ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
(Filing No. 1 at 1.)
alleges the following impairments: obesity, asthma,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbosacral spine, high
blood pressure, anemia, and acid reflux. (Filing No. 13-2
at 25-26.) The ALJ found that Palmore's high blood
pressure, anemia, and acid reflux were not severe
impairments, but listed her asthma as a severe impairment.
(Filing No. 13-2 at 28.) The ALJ also found that her
degenerative disc disease did not meet or medically equal the
requirements of Listing 1.04 at step three of the sequential
evaluation. Palmore raises one issue as to whether the
ALJ's determination regarding her back pain was supported
by substantial evidence; therefore, the Court focuses on the
issues involving Palmore's degenerative disc disease of
the lumbosacral spine.
was born in 1963 and at the time of her amended alleged
disability onset date in 2009, she was 49 years old.
(Filing No. 17 at 4.) She was 51 years old at the
time of the ALJ's decision and she is currently 54 years
old. Palmore graduated from high school. She had an
employment history of working in fast food service and
package delivery service. Palmore is 5'2” tall and
in October 2013, Palmore weighed 169.5 pounds with a
calculated body mass index (BMI) of 33.10. (Filing No.
13-2 at 28.) A BMI of 30.0 or above reflects obesity.
16, 2012, Palmore presented to Mushkbar Khan, M.D.
(“Dr. Khan”) for a physical disability
evaluation. (Filing No. 13-7 at 85.) Palmore
reported to Dr. Khan that she was unable to work because she
falls often, has back pain and headaches that occur 4-5 times
per week. Id. She described her lower back pain as
sharp muscle spasms that have been present for six years and
that rest and Advil relieved the pain. Id. In
September 2012, Palmore underwent physical therapy and her
back pain improved a little. (Filing No. 13-7 at
23, 2013, a lumbosacral x-ray was unremarkable. Id.
On April 14, 2013, Dr. Khan noted that a thoracic x-ray
showed minimal multilevel degenerative disc disease and
minimal anterior spurring at the T6-T10 levels. (Filing
No. 13-7 at 70.) In August 2013, neurological findings
were normal. Id. Dr. Khan performed a lumbar
magnetic resonance image (MRI) on July 17, 2014, which showed
mild disc bulging, facet hypertrophy with ligamentum flavum
hypertrophy, and mild bilateral neural foraminal stenosis at
various levels. (Filing No. 13-7 at 7.) The thoracic
spine was unremarkable and the spinal cord had a normal
signal. Id. There was no evidence of severe central
canal stenosis or neural foraminal stenosis. Id.
attended a consultative examination with Wallace J.
Gasiewicz, M.D. (“Dr. Gasiewicz”) on October 11,
2013. (Filing No. 13-8 at 4.) Dr. Gasiewicz reported
that Palmore had good range of motion in the cervical,
thoracic, and lumbar spine. Id. at 5. She could
climb on and off the examination table, had full strength in
all major muscle groups, and had normal reflexes.
Id. She had normal coordination and could perform
normal movements, such as walking, sitting, squatting,
bending, hand movements, manipulative movements, and grasping
objects. (Filing No. 13-8 at 6.)
state agency medical consultants, Dr. David Everetts, M.D.
(“Dr. Everetts”) and Dr. J.V. Corcoran, M.D.
(“Dr. Corcoran”), reviewed Palmore's medical
records and specifically considered her degenerative disc
disease, but both opined that it was not a severe impairment
sufficient to support a decision on her claim. (Filing
No. 13-3 at 5, 12.)
DISABILITY AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Act, a claimant may be entitled to DIB only after he
establishes that he is disabled. Disability is defined as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must
demonstrate that his physical or mental limitations prevent
him from doing not only his previous work but any other kind
of gainful employment which exists in the national economy,
considering his age, education, and work experience. 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis to
determine whether a claimant is disabled. At step one, if the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is
not disabled despite his medical condition and other factors.
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, if the
claimant does not have a “severe” impairment that
meets the durational requirement, he is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). A severe impairment is one
that “significantly limits [a claimant's] physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). At step three, the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments meets or medically equals any
impairment that appears in the Listing ...