United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond 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,
Hattie P., on January 24, 2019. For the following reasons,
the decision of the Commissioner is
plaintiff, Hattie P., filed an application for Supplemental
Security Income on November 21, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of November 21, 2013. (Tr. 15). The Disability
Determination Bureau denied Hattie P.'s application
initially on July 23, 2014, and again upon reconsideration on
February 17, 2015. (Tr. 15). Hattie P. subsequently filed a
timely request for a hearing, but she failed to appear for
her scheduled hearing and her case was dismissed on March 14,
2017. (Tr. 15). The Appeals Council ordered the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Michelle Whetsel, to give
Hattie P. another opportunity for a hearing on June 16, 2017.
(Tr. 15). A video hearing was held on January 3, 2018 before
ALJ Whetsel, and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
January 24, 2018. (Tr. 15-29). Vocational Expert (VE)
Clifford M. Brady appeared at the hearing via teleconference.
(Tr. 15). The Appeals Council denied review making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
one of the five-step sequential analysis for determining
whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Hattie
P. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
November 21, 2013, the application date. (Tr. 17).
two, the ALJ determined that Hattie P. had the following
severe impairments: borderline intellectual functioning,
anxiety, depression, and obesity. (Tr. 17). The ALJ found
that the medically determinable impairments significantly
limited Hattie P.'s ability to perform basic work
activities. (Tr. 17). The ALJ also determined that Hattie P.
had the following non-severe impairments: strep throat, knee
pain, diabetes mellitus with diabetic neuropathy,
hypertension, hyperlipidemia, chronic bronchitis, and
migraines. (Tr. 18). However, the ALJ found that these
impairments did not cause more than a minimal limitation on
her ability to perform basic work activities, and therefore
were non-severe. (Tr. 18).
three, the ALJ concluded that Hattie P. did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr.
no longer a listed impairment, the ALJ considered Hattie
P.'s obesity in relation to the musculoskeletal,
respiratory, and cardiovascular body systems listings, as
required by SSR 02-1p. (Tr. 18). Next, the ALJ considered the
severity of Hattie P.'s mental impairments. (Tr. 18). The
ALJ found that Hattie P.'s mental impairments, considered
singly and in combination, did not meet or medically equal
the criteria of listings 12.02, 12.04, 12.05, and 12.06. (Tr.
18). In making this finding, the ALJ considered the paragraph
B criteria for mental impairments, which required at least
one extreme or two marked limitations in a broad area of
functioning which include:
understanding, remembering, or applying information;
interacting with others; concentrating, persisting or
maintaining pace; and adapting or managing oneself.
(Tr. 18). The ALJ indicated that a marked limitation means
the ability to function independently, appropriately,
effectively, and on a sustained basis is seriously limited,
while an extreme limitation is the inability to function
independently, appropriately, or effectively, and on a
sustained basis. (Tr. 18).
determined that Hattie P. had moderate limitations in
understanding, remembering, or applying information; a
moderate limitation in interacting with others; moderate
limitations in concentrating, persisting, or maintaining
pace; and moderate limitations adapting or managing herself.
(Tr. 19-20). Because Hattie P.'s mental impairments did
not cause at least two “marked” limitations or
one “extreme” limitation, the ALJ determined that
the paragraph B criteria was not satisfied. (Tr. 20).
Additionally, the ALJ determined that Hattie P. did not
satisfy the paragraph C criteria. (Tr. 20). Furthermore, the
ALJ concluded that Hattie P. did not have the adaptive
defects necessary to meet listing 12.05. (Tr. 21).
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ then assessed
Hattie P.'s residual functional capacity (RFC) as
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(c) except
the claimant can lift and carry fifty pounds occasionally and
twenty-five pounds frequently. The claimant can sit for six
hours and stand and/or walk for six hours in a standard
workday. The claimant can occasionally climb stairs and
ramps, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. The
claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl. The claimant can remember and follow simple, but not
detailed instructions. The claimant can perform the tasks
assigned, but not always at a production rate pace; she can
however, meet her end of day work goals. The claimant can
have occasional contact with coworkers, supervisors, and the
general public. The claimant can occasionally adapt to rapid
changes in the workplace.
(Tr. 21). The ALJ explained that in considering Hattie
P.'s symptoms she followed a two-step process. (Tr. 22).
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 Hattie P.'s pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 22).
Then she evaluated the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of the symptoms to determine the extent to which they
limited Hattie P.'s functioning. (Tr. 22).
P. alleged that she was disabled from any and all work
secondary to her impairments. (Tr. 22). After considering the
evidence, the ALJ found that Hattie P.'s medically
determinable impairments reasonably could be expected to
produce her alleged symptoms. (Tr. 22). However, her
statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of her symptoms were not entirely consistent
with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record.
assigned some weight to the opinions of the State agency
medical consultants who opined that Hattie P. could perform
work at the medium exertional level. (Tr. 25). The ALJ found
that limiting Hattie P. to work at a medium level was
consistent with the medical record. (Tr. 25). The medical
record reflected that Hattie P. had engaged in little
treatment for chronic medical impairments and that she had
few limitations during her consultative examination. (Tr.
25). The ALJ assigned some weight to medical consultative
examiner, Dr. J. Bartlett, D.O. (Tr. 25). After examining
Hattie P., Dr. Bartlett found that she could sit for as long
as she wanted and stand for a long period of time. (Tr. 25).
He also found that she could lift and handle objects and that
her eyesight was unimpeded. (Tr. 25). The ALJ afforded little
weight to the opinion of treating physician, Dr. R. Roberts,
M.D., because it was inconsistent with the record as a whole.
the ALJ afforded some weight to the State agency
psychological experts who opined that Hattie P. had some
mental limitations but that she was still capable of
performing tasks. (Tr. 26). The ALJ gave some weight to the
opinion of Hattie P.'s most recent psychological
examiner, Dr. J, Polczinksi, Psy.D., and little weight to her
prior psychological examiner, Dr. A. Taylor, Ph.D. (Tr. 26).
The ALJ also afforded some weight to the opinion of Hattie
P.'s treating psychiatrist, Dr. P. Varghese, M.D. (Tr.
27). The ALJ indicated that the RFC was supported by the
objective medical evidence, the opinions of the State agency