United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
KIMBERLY K. BALDWIN, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, sued as Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of SSA,  Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
Kimberly K. Baldwin appeals to the district court from a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her application
under the Social Security Act (the “Act”) for
disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). (DE 1). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision will be AFFIRMED.
applied for DIB in March 2013, alleging disability as of
August 15, 2006. (DE 8 Administrative Record
(“AR”) 167-77). She was last insured for DIB on
December 31, 2011 (AR 195); therefore, she must establish
that she was disabled as of that date. See Stevenson v.
Chater, 105 F.3d 1151, 1154 (7th Cir. 1997) (explaining
that a claimant must establish that she was disabled as of
her date last insured in order to recover DIB benefits).
Commissioner denied Baldwin's application initially and
upon reconsideration. (AR 111-19). A hearing was held on
August 14, 2014, before Administrative Law Judge Maryann S.
Bright (“the ALJ”), at which Baldwin, who was
represented by counsel, and a vocational expert, Sharon
Ringenberg (the “VE”), testified. (AR 55-98). On
October 31, 2014, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision to
Baldwin, concluding that she was not disabled because she
could perform her past relevant work as a warehouse worker,
as well as a significant number of other unskilled,
medium-exertional jobs in the economy. (AR 34-49). The
Appeals Council denied Baldwin's request for review (AR
1-7), at which point the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §
filed a complaint with this Court on April 11, 2016, seeking
relief from the Commissioner's decision. (DE 1). Baldwin
advances just one argument in this appeal-that the ALJ failed
to adequately account for her deficits in concentration,
persistence, or pace in the RFC and the hypothetical
questions posed to the VE. (DE 17 at 9-11).
time of the ALJ's decision, Baldwin was 56 years old (AR
167); had a high school education (AR 200); and possessed
past work experience as a warehouse worker (from 2000 to
2006) and a florist worker (from 1995 to 1999) (DE 200).
Baldwin alleges disability due to a major depressive
disorder, a bipolar I disorder, and post traumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”). (DE 17 at 2).
Baldwin's Testimony at the Hearing
hearing, Baldwin testified as follows: She is divorced and
has three adult children. (AR 64-65). For the past two years,
she had been living alone in a house, but prior to that her
boyfriend lived with her for six years. (AR 64, 75). She has
income through two rental properties that she owns, and she
drives a car several times a week. (AR 65-66). She was laid
off from her job in 2006 along with other workers; she was
let go from another job because her employer thought she was
stealing. (AR 67-68). When she was employed, she missed about
six weeks of work a year, using all of her vacation,
personal, and sick days. (AR 69, 76, 82-83). She did not have
health insurance from 2006 to 2011, but her family doctor
provided her with free care. (AR 73-74).
asked why she thought she could not work since before her
date last insured, Baldwin stated that she could
“hardly function just doing what I have to do.”
(AR 72, 88). Yet, Baldwin also stated that the medications
provided by her doctor were effective. (AR 74). She had
recently started attending counseling. (AR 75). In 2011, she
was drinking alcohol (one or two bottles of wine or eight
beers) three times a week, but she quit drinking after having
gallbladder surgery in 2012. (AR 76). She drank alcohol
during the period that she was employed, but it never caused
her to miss work. (AR 77). She used to smoke marijuana and
use her friend's prescription drugs, but she no longer
did so. (AR 78-79).
typical day from 2006 to 2011 included staying home,
performing household tasks such as doing dishes and cleaning,
maintaining a garden, and crying in her room. (AR 79-80, 84,
89). Baldwin also visited her father in a nursing home two
times a week and occasionally went to a neighbor's house
to listen to a band or went out with a girlfriend. (AR 79-80,
84, 89- 90). Baldwin claimed that she often went four or five
days without bathing, and that her boyfriend took care of
much of the property. (AR 88). She experienced a lot of
anxiety when around other people. (AR 89). She had
experienced a traumatic event as a teenager and suffered from
bad memories and nightmares. (AR 84-85). She had suicidal
thoughts from time to time prior to her alleged onset date.
(AR 88). She had difficulty with focus and concentration-for
example, she would start something on the stove and then
forget and leave the room. (AR 85, 89).
Summary of the Relevant Medical Evidence Prior to
Baldwin's Date Last Insured
mid-2001 through 2005, Baldwin was seen at the Caylor Nickel
Clinic for a variety of complaints. (AR 386-437). She was
diagnosed with depression and anxiety and was prescribed
medications. (AR 386, 388-89, 397, 419, 432-33, 435-37). In
September 2005, the treating physician indicated that Baldwin
was “was under a tremendous amount of stress dealing
with family issues, also finalizing a divorce, ” noting
that Baldwin wanted to take some family medical leave from
her job. (AR 386). Baldwin was not treated by a mental health
professional during this period.
November 2008, Baldwin saw Dr. Milus Skidmore, her family
physician, for complaints of depression. (AR 332). He
administered a self-rating depression scale, the results of
which revealed “severe extreme depression.” (AR
332-33). He diagnosed her with depression and started her on
Fluoxetine. (AR 332).
returned to Dr. Skidmore in May 2009 for a follow-up on her
depression. (AR 332). She was five feet, five inches tall and
weighed 163 pounds; she expressed an interest in starting a
weight loss program. (AR 332). Dr. Skidmore diagnosed her
with depression and being overweight. (AR 332). He increased
her Fluoxetine and also prescribed Phentermine, a weight loss
drug. (AR 332). A month later, Baldwin reported that she was
feeling better with respect to her depression and was doing
well on her medications. (AR 331). In July, Baldwin stated
that she still had depression but that she was doing
“ok” on medications; she reported that she was
dieting and gardening. (AR 330). In August, Baldwin reported
that she still had depression, but that her medications were
helping. (AR 329). She was working in the garden and around
the house; her mother had passed away recently. (AR 328). In
December, Baldwin stated that she was doing “ok”
as to her depression; she had gone off Phentermine, but
wanted to resume it. (AR 326-27).
April and May 2010, Baldwin again reported that she was
“doing ok” on her medications. (AR 323-24). In
September, Baldwin told Dr. Skidmore that her diet pills were
helping with her depression and lack of energy. (AR 322). In
October, she stated that she was “doing ok, ” but
felt depressed, tired, and lethargic. (AR 321).
March 2011, Baldwin reported that she was more snappy with
people. (AR 318). Dr. Skidmore indicated that Baldwin was
positive for crying, sadness, tiredness, and lethargy. (AR
318). A mood questionnaire indicated that she was very
depressed. (AR 318-20). The next month, Baldwin stated that
she was “doing ok” but that she had decreased
energy. (AR 317). In June, she reported very low energy and
tearfulness, but she had been out of her medications for a
while; she acknowledged that her medications were helpful.
(AR 316). She denied any suicidal ideation. (AR 316). In
August, Baldwin reported that Prozac was helping, but that
she still felt sad and was not doing well; she had been off
of Fluoxetine and Phentermine. (AR 315). In October, Baldwin
was again “doing ok, ” but she still felt
depressed and anxious. (AR 314). Dr. Skidmore documented that
Baldwin's mood and affect were “ok.” (AR
314). In November, Baldwin reported the same, and Dr.
Skidmore indicated that she was positive for sadness. (AR
313). In December, Baldwin indicated that she was doing
better, though she still had depression. (AR 312).
Summary of the Relevant Medical Evidence After Baldwin's
Date Last Insured
January 2012, Baldwin continued to report depression, but
stated that her medications helped motivate her; Dr. Skidmore
found that she was positive for sadness. (AR 311). In March,
Baldwin stated that she felt better on her medications, was
not suicidal, and that she was doing well with Phentermine.
(AR 310). In April, Baldwin indicated that she was crying all
of the time; her mood was flat, and she appeared sad. (AR
309). In June, Baldwin told Dr. Skidmore that she has a hard
time if she does not take Phentermine; her boyfriend wanted
to move out. (AR 309). In August, she said that everything
was about the same, and that on some days she just wants to
stay home. (AR 306). In December, she reported that
everything was “ok.” (AR 304).
March 2013, Baldwin called Dr. Skidmore and said that she was
depressed, but not suicidal, and that she wanted to restart
Prozac and Phentermine. (AR 304). She called again a month
later, reporting that she felt stressed; she was instructed
to go to Cornerstone if she felt suicidal. (AR 304). In May,
Baldwin said that she was doing better as to her mental
status. (AR 365).
1, 2013, Baldwin underwent an evaluation at Grant Blackford
Mental Health. (AR 334-42). Baldwin was a poor historian and
had poor concentration. (AR 334). She stated that she had
been prescribed Prozac for the past few years, but was not
always compliant with taking it because she would forget to
do so. (AR 334). She had been drinking a bottle of wine or
six to eight beers each day prior to her September 2012, when
she had gallbladder surgery. (AR 335). She had since
significantly reduced her alcohol intake, but was still
drinking a bottle of wine each week. (AR 335). She also was
taking a Xanax or an opiate about once a week if someone gave
her one, and was smoking marijuana when she could get it from
friends. (AR 335). She was diagnosed with a major depressive
disorder, recurrent, severe without psychotic features;
bipolar disorder, most recent episode mixed, severe without
psychotic features; PTSD; and alcohol dependence. (AR 341).
She had significant problems with sleep deprivation, thinking
through issues, and anticipating consequences; mild problems
with self care, impulse control, and interpersonal issues;
some problems with controlling anger; and severe “work
problems.” (AR 341-42). She was assigned a Global
Assessment Functioning (“GAF”) score of
She was admitted for stabilization and to assess her need for
medication. (AR 342). On May 9, 2013, Kenneth Neville, Ph.D.,
a state agency psychologist, reviewed Baldwin's record
and concluded that there was insufficient evidence prior to
her date last insured of December 31, 2011, to assess
disability. (AR 101-02). Consequently, Dr. Neville found that
Baldwin did not have a medically determinable mental
impairment prior to her date last insured. (AR 101-02).
Joelle Larsen, Ph.D., another state agency psychologist,
reached the same conclusion on June 11, 2013. (AR 107-08).
21, 2013, Baldwin was seen by Dr. Gregory Richardson at Grant
Blackford Mental Health. (AR 352). She expressed frustration
at dealing with a dysthymic disorder. (AR 352). She denied
feeling suicidal and stated that she had been working at
appreciating things and had started psychotherapy. (AR 352).
Dr. Richardson assessed a GAF score 40 and prescribed a high
dose of Trazodone. (AR 353).
2013, Baldwin reported to Dr. Skidmore that she was involved
in therapy at Cornerstone; that she had been diagnosed with
PTSD, dysthymic disorder, bipolar disorder, and severe
depression; and that Cornerstone had added Trazodone. ...