United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, LaFayette Division
VALERIE E. MCCLELLAN, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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,
Valerie E. McClellan, on January 19, 2018. For the following
reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is
plaintiff, Valerie E. McClellan, filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits on February 10, 2014, alleging
a disability onset date of January 14, 2014. (Tr. 10). The
Disability Determination Bureau denied McClellan's
application initially on April 7, 2014, and again upon
reconsideration on August 18, 2014. (Tr. 10). McClellan
subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on October
16, 2014. (Tr. 10). A video hearing was held on May 31, 2016,
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Theodore W. Grippo, and
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on December 29, 2016.
(Tr. 10-16). Vocational Expert (VE) Jacquelyn D. Schabacker
appeared by telephone at the hearing. (Tr. 10). The Appeals
Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3).
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 12). At step one of the
five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an
individual is disabled, the ALJ found that McClellan had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 14,
2014, her alleged onset date. (Tr. 12).
two, the ALJ determined that McClellan had the following
severe impairment: status post stage II left breast cancer,
in remission and sequellae. (Tr. 12). The ALJ indicated that
the medical evidence substantiated that McClellan's
severe impairment imposed significant limitations on her
ability to perform basic work-related activities for at least
twelve consecutive months permitting her to proceed past step
two of the evaluation process. (Tr. 12).
three, the ALJ concluded that McClellan did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. (Tr. 13). The ALJ determined that McClellan did
not meet listing 13.10. (Tr. 13). The ALJ noted that since
her surgery and chemotherapy, there was no reoccurrence of
cancer. (Tr. 13).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
McClellan's residual functional capacity (RFC) as
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c)
except for the following limitations. She can occasionally
kneel and squat.
(Tr. 13). The ALJ explained that in considering
McClellan's symptoms he followed a two-step process. (Tr.
13). First, he 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 McClellan's pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 13).
Then, he evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they
limited McClellan's functioning. (Tr. 13).
alleged disability based on the symptoms from her stage two
breast cancer, which was discovered in January of 2014. (Tr.
14). The cancer led to a partial mastectomy, radiation
therapy, chemotherapy, and treatment with Arimidex. (Tr. 14).
McClellan claimed that her physical status had not improved
since her chemotherapy ended. (Tr. 14). She reported that she
felt worn out, her eyes watered, and her bones ached. (Tr.
14). She also experienced headaches and lost memory. (Tr.
14). She indicated that her medication side effects included
bone pain, feet pain, hip pain, dizziness, and memory loss.
(Tr. 14). She estimated that she could sit for two to three
hours at a time but that she could only stand for ten minutes
at a time. (Tr. 14).
determined that McClellan's medically determinable
impairments reasonably could have been expected to cause the
alleged symptoms. (Tr. 14). However, her statements
concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects
of her symptoms were not entirely consistent with the medical
evidence and other evidence. (Tr. 14). The ALJ indicated that
the medical evidence did not support McClellan's alleged
limitations. (Tr. 14). In June of 2014, a medical note showed
no muscle weakness, no bone pain, no joint pain, and no gross
sensory or motor deficit. (Tr. 14). Also, her primary care
provider reported in March of 2015 that she had intact
memory, normal bilateral feet exams, and normal range of
motion and strength in all extremities. (Tr. 14). The ALJ
also noted that McClellan testified that she could wash
dishes, do laundry, and complete other household chores. (Tr.
the hearing, McClellan underwent a consultative examination
in June of 2016. (Tr. 14). The consultative examiner found
5/5 strength in bilateral upper and lower extremities, full
range of motion in all joints, normal deep tendon reflexes,
and sensation equal and intact bilaterally. (Tr. 14).
Additionally, the ALJ indicated that McClellan was able to
toe and tandem walk without difficulty but was unable to
perform a heel walk. (Tr. 14-15). The consultative examiner
indicated that McClellan had no memory difficulty or
dizziness during the examination. (Tr. 15).
of the thoroughness of the examination, the ALJ assigned
great weight to the opinion of the consultative examiner.
(Tr. 15). The ALJ assigned limited weight to the opinion of
McClellan's treating physician, Dr. Vijaya Kakani, M.D.
(Tr. 15). The ALJ noted that Dr. Kakani's treating notes
primarily identified symptoms rather than limitations. (Tr.
15). Finally, the ALJ assigned limited weight to the State
agency medical ...