United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, LaFayette Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. RODOVICH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of
the decision of the Commissioner filed by the plaintiff,
Ieasha Dotson, on April 20, 2017. For the following reasons,
the decision of the Commissioner is
plaintiff, Ieasha Dotson, filed applications for Disability
Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on August
13, 2013, alleging a disability onset date of August 1, 2013.
(Tr. 52). The Disability Determination Bureau denied
Dotson's applications on December 11, 2013, and again
upon reconsideration on July 7, 2014. (Tr. 52). Dotson
subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on August
22, 2014. (Tr. 52). A hearing was held on January 27, 2016,
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Laurie Wardell, and the
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 12, 2016. (Tr.
52-62). Vocational Expert (VE) Richard J. Hamersma testified
at the hearing. (Tr. 52). The Appeals Council denied review,
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6).
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 54). The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on February 12, 2016, and made findings
as to each of the steps in the five-step sequential analysis.
(Tr. 52-62). At step one of the five-step sequential analysis
for determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ
found that Dotson had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since August 1, 2013, the alleged onset date. (Tr.
two, the ALJ determined that Dotson had the following severe
impairments: scoliosis, posttraumatic stress disorder, and
bipolar disorder. (Tr. 54). At step three, the ALJ concluded
that Dotson did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. (Tr. 55). The ALJ indicated that she considered
the listings in section 1.00 for musculoskeletal disorders
and section 12.00 for mental health disorders. (Tr. 55).
However, regarding Dotson's scoliosis, the ALJ considered
Listing 1.04 but indicated that she did not find evidence of
nerve root compression, spinal arachnoiditis, or lumbar
spinal stenosis with ineffective ambulation in the medical
record. (Tr. 55). The ALJ also considered Dotson's mental
impairments, singly and in combination, according to the
criteria in Listings 12.04 and 12.06. (Tr. 55). Accordingly,
the ALJ determined that the severity of Dotson's mental
impairments did not meet or medically equal the listings.
finding that Dotson did not meet the above listings, the ALJ
considered the paragraph B criteria for mental impairments,
which required at least two of the following:
marked restriction of activities of daily living; marked
difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked
difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or
pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation, each of
(Tr. 55). The ALJ defined a marked limitation as more than
moderate but less than extreme and repeated episodes of
decompensation, each of extended duration, as three episodes
within one year or once every four months with each episode
lasting at least two weeks. (Tr. 55).
determined that Dotson had mild restriction in activities of
daily living. (Tr. 55). The ALJ noted that the function
reports completed by Dotson in September of 2013 and June of
2014 indicated that she was able to complete similar
activities daily living. (Tr. 55). The ALJ noted that Dotson
was able to care for her children, help her children with
homework, prepare meals, clean, use public transportation,
manage finances, shop, and visit with family. (Tr. 55).
the ALJ concluded that Dotson had moderate difficulties in
social functioning. (Tr. 55). Dotson indicated that she had
extreme issues with social interaction. (Tr. 56). However,
the ALJ accounted for Dotson's testimony that she lived
with her two children, used public transportation, spent an
hour at a time on Facebook, and shopped in stores. (Tr. 56).
Therefore, ALJ found that those activities demonstrated that
Dotson was able to interact with others. (Tr. 56).
the ALJ found that Dotson had moderate difficulties in
concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 56). The ALJ noted
that Dotson's activities of daily living demonstrated
that she was able to maintain attention and concentration.
(Tr. 56). The ALJ found that Dotson had no episodes of
decompensation which were of extended duration. (Tr. 56).
Because Dotson did not have two marked limitations or one
marked limitation and repeated episodes of decompensation,
the ALJ determined that she did not satisfy the paragraph B
criteria. (Tr. 56). Additionally, the ALJ concluded that
Dotson did not satisfy the paragraph C criteria. (Tr. 56).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
Dotson's residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
perform light work as defined in 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b)
as lifting/carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently, standing/walking about six of eight hours, and
sitting about six or eight hours. The claimant also has the
following additional limitations: occasional stooping,
couching, and climbing ramps and stairs, but no climbing
ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no kneeling or crawling; simple,
routine, and repetitive tasks not at production rate pace;
occasional conduct [sic] with coworkers and supervisors; no
tandem tasks and no work with the public; simple work
decisions; only occasional changes in the work setting.
(Tr. 57). The ALJ explained that in considering Dotson's
symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 57). First,
she determined whether there was an underlying medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that was shown by
a medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic
technique that reasonably could be expected to produce
Dotson's pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 57). Then, she
evaluated the intensity, persistence, and ...