United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
ADRIANE W. MOZELLE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commission 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,
Adriane W. Mozelle, on January 30, 2018. For the following
reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is
plaintiff, Adriane W. Mozelle, filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits on May 20, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of May 15, 2013. (Tr. 14). The
Disability Determination Bureau denied Mozelle's
application initially on August 19, 2014, and again upon
reconsideration on November 23, 2014. (Tr. 14). Mozelle
subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing on January
5, 2015. (Tr. 14). A hearing was held on November 9, 2016,
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Michelle Whetsel, and
the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 25, 2016.
(Tr. 14-23). Vocational Expert (VE) Toni M. McFarland
testified at the hearing. (Tr. 14). 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. 16). At step one of the
five-step sequential analysis for determining whether an
individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Mozelle had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 15, 2013,
the alleged onset date. (Tr. 16).
two, the ALJ determined that Mozelle had the following severe
impairments: Cauda Equina syndrome, spinal stenosis, and
hypertension. (Tr. 16). The ALJ determined that Mozelle's
severe impairments significantly limited her ability to
perform basic work activities. (Tr. 16).
three, the ALJ concluded that Mozelle 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. 16). The ALJ considered Mozelle's impairments
against the criteria set forth in listings 1.04 and 4.00
et seq. (Tr. 16). The ALJ indicated that no specific
listing pertained to hypertension, so the ALJ considered the
entirety of the listings 4.00 et seq.,
cardiovascular system. (Tr. 17). The ALJ determined that
based on a review of the totality of the evidence, Mozelle
did not meet or medically equal the listed impairments. (Tr.
17). However, she required accommodation in her residual
functional capacity. (Tr. 17).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
Mozelle's residual functional capacity (RFC) as follows:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to
lift and carry up to 10 pounds occasionally, 5 pounds
frequently, stand and/or walk about 2 hours in an 8-hour
workday, and sit about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with
normal breaks. The claimant must never climb ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds, but can occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. She must avoid
concentrated exposure to wet, uneven terrain, and hazards
such as machinery, and unprotected heights. She must also be
allowed to alternate between sitting and standing, without
being off task, sitting for 15 to 20 minutes then standing
for similar durational periods.
(Tr. 17). The ALJ explained that in considering Mozelle's
symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 17). First,
she determined whether there was an underlying determinable
physical or mental impairment that was shown by a medically
acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic technique that
reasonably could be expected to produce Mozelle's pain or
other symptoms. (Tr. 17). Then, she evaluated the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms to
determine the extent to which they limited Mozelle's
functioning. (Tr. 17).
alleged disability due to Cauda Equina syndrome, spinal
stenosis, and hypertension. (Tr. 18). At the hearing, she
testified that she stopped working in 2013 because of pain in
her lower back and buttocks, down into her right leg. (Tr.
18). She stated that as a certified nursing assistant (CNA)
she was on her feet most of the workday and that standing and
lifting equipment and patients was very difficult on her.
(Tr. 18). She tried medication management, but she
experienced fatigue and falling in public. (Tr. 18). She also
testified that epidurals were effective for a week or two,
but then the pain would intensify. (Tr. 18). Additionally,
she underwent surgery in May of 2013 which relieved the
radiation of pain into the buttock but not the back pain.
(Tr. 18). She continued physical therapy, medications, and
attempted returning to work but reported that the pain was so
intense she could not fulfill the duties of the medium
exertional work and needed to sit or alternate positions.
(Tr. 18). The ALJ determined that Mozelle was incapable of
performing her last job as a nurse, which required medium
exertion. (Tr. 18).
testified to her activities of daily living. (Tr. 18). She
indicated that she performed daily physical therapy exercises
and drove to and from therapy. (Tr. 18). She also alleged
that she could sit for 15-20 minutes and lift 10 pounds. (Tr.
18). Mozelle reported that she washed dishes 2 to 3 times a
week and that she went up and down stairs at her home at
least 1 to 2 times daily. (Tr. 18).
limited Mozelle to no more than sedentary exertional work, no
more than lifting 10 pounds on an occasional basis, and
provided an allowance to alternate positions. (Tr. 18). The
ALJ found that Mozelle's medically determinable
impairments reasonably could be expected to cause the alleged
symptoms. (Tr. 18). However, her statements concerning the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of these
symptoms were not entirely consistent with the medical
evidence and other evidence in the record. (Tr. 18).
9, 2014, Dr. Mekhail performed a right L5-S1 decompression
laminectomy, foraminotomy, and partial facetectomy with micro
discectomy on Mozelle. (Tr. 19). A few weeks post-surgery,
Mozelle reported only some weakness in her right leg and some
nausea. (Tr. 19). She denied worsening back pain, yet she
indicated that she had some pain when she twisted her back.
with consultative examiner, Sorai Arora, M.D., after the
surgery and reported low back pain with radiation to the
right leg and severe tingling and numbness in her right lower
extremity. (Tr. 19). Mozelle also stated that she frequently
fell. (Tr. 19). The ALJ noted that Mozelle's reports to
Dr. Arora contradicted her reports to Dr. Mekhail, yet were
not supportive of disabling limitations. (Tr. 19).
Additionally, her physical ...