United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
MATTHEW W. FILBRUN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Matthew W. Filbrun (“Filbrun”) requests judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), denying his applications for
Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(the “Act”), and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.For the following
reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of
November 6, 2013, Filbrun filed applications for DIB and SSI,
alleging a disability onset date of October 23, 2009, due to
short term memory problems, reoccurring cancer, thyroid
cancer, and general affective disorders. Filbrun's claim
was initially denied on January 16, 2014, and again on
reconsideration on April 2, 2014. On April 3, 2014, Filbrun
filed a written request for a hearing.
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Daniel J.
Mages (the “ALJ”) on August 26, 2015. Filbrun was
present and represented by counsel, J. Frank Hanley, II.
Dewey Franklin, an impartial vocational expert (the
“VE”), appeared and testified at the hearing. On
September 24, 2015, the ALJ denied Filbrun's applications
for DBI and SSI. Following the ALJ's decision, on
October, 7, 2015, Filbrun requested review by the Appeals
Council. On July 25, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Filbrun's 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
September 28, 2016, Filbrun filed this action for judicial
review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
was born in 1977 and at the time of his alleged disability
onset date, he was thirty-two years old. He was thirty-eight
years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. He completed
his high school education and has taken some college classes.
Prior to the onset of his disability, Filbrun performed
various jobs including, retail sales clerk, customer service
manager, cashier, and packing and shipping clerk.
medical records indicate that he had a brain tumor during his
youth, so he received radiation treatment, which resulted in
remission of the tumor (Filing No. 12-7 at 4-5, 13, 39-46).
In the fall of 2009, Filbrun was diagnosed with papillary
thyroid carcinoma, which had not metastasized. He underwent
total thyroidectomy and subsequent whole body imaging, which
revealed no abnormal extra thyroid uptake following the
surgery to remove his thyroid. Filbrun was prescribed
medications following his thyroidectomy. Id.;
id. at 23.
November 2011, Filbrun presented to Saint John's
Digestive Disease Center with complaints of swallowing
difficultly and discomfort as well as gastroesophageal reflux
disease. He underwent a GI endoscopy to determine the cause
of his dysphagia. Filbrun's GI endoscopy revealed hiatus
hernia, Barrett's esophagus, Barrett's ulcer, and
gastric polyps. Filbrun was prescribed Omeprazole to treat
his symptoms, and he was counseled regarding an anti-reflux
diet (Filing No. 12-8 at 55-56).
October 23, 2012, Filbrun underwent a consultative mental
status examination with Brandon Robbins, Psy.D. HSPP.
(“Dr. Robbins”), as part of his
previously-rejected disability application. Filbrun reported
to Dr. Robbins that he was seeking disability benefits
because of his reoccurring cancer, thyroid cancer, chest pain
and burning sensations, short term memory problems, and
depression. Filbrun complained that he had had problems with
short term memory for many years because of his brain tumor
and treatment. He also reported that he had struggled with
depression for many years but that he had not sought
counseling or been hospitalized for psychiatric reasons. Dr.
Robbins diagnosed Filbrun with major depressive disorder of
moderate severity with a global assessment of functioning
(“GAF”) score of 58 (Filing No. 12-8 at 67-69).
Robbins opined that Filbrun “did not present with
psychological impairments related to understanding or memory
. . . that would impact his ability to obtain or maintain
employment in a variety of settings” based on Dr.
Robbins' observation that Filbrun's “[l]ong
term memory appear[ed] intact” and his
“[p]rocessing speed was within limits.”
Id. at 69. Dr. Robbins also noted that Filbrun's
“[a]ttention and concentration were both sufficient for
employment. He presented with adequate social skills and
appears capable of interacting with coworkers and
supervisors.” Id. Dr. Robbins opined,
“[p]ersistence appears to be impacted by
December 4, 2013, Filbrun underwent a second mental status
examination with Dr. Robbins as part of his current
disability applications. Filbrun reported to Dr. Robbins that
he was seeking disability benefits because of his reoccurring
cancer, thyroid cancer, and short term memory problems. He
again reported a history of depression but denied seeking
counseling or hospitalization. Dr. Robbins again diagnosed
Filbrun with major depressive disorder of moderate severity
with a GAF score of 55 (Filing No. 12-8 at 73-75). Dr.
Robbins concluded that Filbrun “did not present with
psychological impairments related to understanding that would
impact his ability to obtain or maintain employment.”
Id. at 75. Dr. Robbins opined that Filbrun's
ability to concentrate and his memory skills were fair, so he
would likely benefit from repetitive occupational tasks. He
also opined that Filbrun's level of persistence would be
impacted by fatigue, so he would benefit from low-energy job
December 2013, William A. Shipley, Ph.D., a non-examining
state-agency psychologist, opined that Filbrun did not have a
“severe” mental impairment (Filing No. 12-3 at
18-19). In April 2014, Joelle J. Larsen, Ph.D., another
non-examining state-agency psychologist, also opined that
Filbrun did not have a “severe” mental
impairment. Id. at 31-33.
December 22, 2013, Filbrun sought emergency treatment for an
acute confusional migraine. He reported a history of
migraines, headaches, confusion, and associated visual
difficulty. He underwent an MRI and CT scan, which did not
reveal any acute findings. Filbrun's TSH level was
abnormal at 50, and his wife reported that he had
hypothyroidism and had not been taking his medication.
Filbrun told the health care providers that he was unable to
afford his medication. He was restarted on his thyroid
medication and also given medication to help with his
migraines and then discharged the next day (Filing No. 12-9
February 2014, Filbrun presented to family physician Chad
Lamb, M.D. (“Dr. Lamb”), as a follow-up to his
hospital visit. Filbrun reported that he continued to have
daily headaches since his hospital discharge, and he was
taking Tylenol to help with the headaches. Dr. Lamb directed
Filbrun to discontinue his daily use of Tylenol, continue
using Verapamil, and increase his thyroid medication (Filing
No. 12-9 at 44-45).
February 2015, Filbrun suffered a cerebrovascular accident
(stroke) and presented to the emergency room where he was
admitted to the hospital (Filing No. 12-10 at 40). His
symptoms resolved over a three-day period, but following the
incident, he did not feel as sharp and his hearing was worse.
Filbrun returned to Dr. Lamb in June 2015 as a follow-up to
his hospitalization. On examination, Filbrun showed good
insight and judgment, normal mood, and no abnormalities. His
mental status examination was normal. Dr. Lamb adjusted
medications and referred Filbrun to a neurologist.
Id. at 39-42. During another doctor's
appointment at the end of June 2015, Filbrun reported
symptoms of depression and anxiety; however, the mental
status examination revealed normal results. Id. at
saw a neurologist in July 2015. He reported his stroke,
ongoing headaches, and difficulty with memory and
concentration, but he also reported that he was doing well
overall following the stroke. On examination, Filbrun
appeared fully oriented, showed no recurring cranial nerve
impairments, had proper sensation, and had normal muscle
functioning. He was referred for occupational, speech, and
physical therapy (Filing No. 12-10 at 45-53).
August 26, 2015, the same day as the hearing before the ALJ,
Dr. Lamb provided a medical source statement, opining that
Filbrun was seriously limited or unable to meet competitive
standards in a number of areas concerning mental abilities
and aptitudes. Dr. Lamb opined that Filbrun would be off task