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Turner v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 14, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying Lavoris Turner's application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and her application for supplemental security income under Title XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq. Turner claims she is disabled because she suffers from diabetes, asthma, back pain, and "falling out." After a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that Turner was not disabled. Because I find that the ALJ's decision was based on substantial evidence on the record as a whole, I affirm.

I. Procedural History

On December 23, 2010, Turner protectively filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits and an application for supplemental security income.[1] In both applications, Turner alleged an onset date of November 1, 2010. After her claims were denied on April 15, 2011, Turner filed an untimely written request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. The Commissioner allowed the late filing upon her showing of good cause, and on March 22, 2012, Turner appeared with counsel at an administrative hearing. Turner and a vocational expert testified at the hearing.

After the hearing, the ALJ denied Turner's applications, and she appealed to the Appeals Council. On March 4, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Turner's request for review. The ALJ's decision thereby became the final decision of the Commissioner. Van Vickle v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 825, 828 (8th Cir. 2008).

Turner now appeals to this court. She argues that the ALJ's finding of nondisability is not supported by substantial evidence because it resulted from an improper analysis of the record. She also alleges that the ALJ erred by failing to consider evidence of her depression and by improperly assessing her credibility.

II. Evidence Before the Administrative Law Judge

Medical Records Before Period of Alleged Disability

Turner had filed for benefits on four previous occasions and was denied each time. (Tr., pp. 126, 148-49.) Because of these previous filings, the record before the ALJ contained medical records from well before Turner's alleged onset date of November 1, 2010. I have summarized that evidence because it may be relevant "in helping to elucidate" Turner's conditions. See Pyland v. Apfel, 149 F.3d 873, 877 (8th Cir. 1998).

According to the medical records before the ALJ, Turner visited Saint Louis ConnectCare multiple times in 2004 and 2005, often complaining of epigastric pain. Turner occasionally reported trouble with asthma, fatigue, back and chest pain, and urinary incontinence. Throughout this period, Turner underwent multiple tests, including an abdominal sonogram, chest exam, and pelvic ultrasound, though each test reported unremarkable findings. (Tr., pp. 301-05, 308-11, 372, 376-77, 379, 386-88.)

Turner was also hospitalized at Barnes-Jewish Hospital five times between 2005 and 2007 for epigastric pain, resulting in a diagnosis of pancreatitis. (Tr., pp. 214-19, 220-221, 227-31, 222-26, 235, 244.)

On November 29, 2005, Turner visited the emergency room at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, complaining of pain in her right shoulder. She was given medication for her pain and was discharged. (Tr., pp. 263-65.)

Turner saw Dr. Qalbani at Saint Louis ConnectCare on October 31, 2006, complaining of a cough, congestion, and an irritated right eye. The treatment records noted that Turner had previously been diagnosed with asthma but that Turner had been out of her asthma medication for two weeks. The physician's assessment was acute bronchitis, conjunctivitis, and a corneal abrasion. (Tr., pp. 295-99.)

Turner also visited Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers, Inc. on multiple occasions in 2006 and 2007. Records reveal a past diagnosis of asthma, though she often reported that her asthma was stable. On one occasion in 2007, Turner complained of chest pains and acid reflux. (Tr., p. 350-51, 353, 367.)

Turner saw Dr. Devitre on December 15, 2008. She complained that she was easily fatigued, had a decreased appetite, and that she coughed when she got too hot or upset. She reported crying spells and insomnia. Dr. Devitre's assessment included abdominal pain, depression, tobacco abuse and asthma. (Tr., pp. 329-31). Turner also underwent a chest x-ray on December 15, 2008. The xray showed minimal hyperinflation of the lungs but was "otherwise unremarkable." (Tr., p. 348.)

On December 30, 2008, Turner saw Dr. Devitre because lab results indicated blood and protein in her urine. She complained of abdominal pain and requested medicine. Dr. Devitre assessed hematuria and chronic abdominal pain and prescribed Tramadol as needed for her pain. (Tr., p. 328.)

Turner saw Dr. Devitre again on February 10, 2009. She reported that her abdominal pain had improved. Her depression was better controlled-she had less anhedonia and no suicidal ideations. She also denied insomnia. She reported that she was not using Albuterol, though she did have a dry cough. (Tr., pp. 325-227.)

On June 10, 2009, Turner followed up with Dr. Devitre. Turner complained of bladder spasms and frequent urination. She denied depression and reported that she had stopped taking medication for her depression because she did not think she needed it anymore. She had insomnia and acid reflux while sleeping. She had no dyspnea and rarely used Albuterol. She had no other complaints. The doctor's assessment included COPD, GERD, insomnia, and urge incontinence, and Turner was prescribed Ditropan for her bladder and Trazodone for insomnia. (Tr., pp. 322-24.)

Turner saw Dr. Devitre on September 2, 2009, for a follow-up visit. Turner stated that she still had some insomnia but that she had not been taking her Trazodone medication. She reported using Albuterol for her asthma and saw improvement, as she had no dyspnea and no cough. She also reported that medicine was helping with her bladder and that her depression was stable. (Tr., pp. 319-21.)

On November 25, 2009, Turner saw Dr. Nicole Delsoin. Turner reported that she had depression but that she had no sleep disturbances. She further reported that she had a cough but had no wheezing or dyspnea, and she had abdominal pain but no joint paint or muscle aches. She also denied an increase in urine frequency. The physician's assessment was a working diagnosis of abdominal pain, COPD, esophageal reflux, nicotine dependence, and mild depression. (Tr., pp. 315-18.)

At an April 2010 visit, Turner denied having abdominal pain, muscle aches, joint pain, dyspnea, wheezing, urinary incontinence, depression, and sleep disturbances. Dr. Delsoin's physical findings highlighted no specific medical issues with Turner, but her assessment included COPD, esophageal reflux, osteoarthritis, and nicotine dependence. Dr. Delsoin reported that Turner showed no signs and complained of no symptoms of depression, and she "urged [Turner] to stop smoking and make her meds her priority." (Tr., pp. 393-96.)

Medical Records During Period of Alleged Disability

Turner alleged a disability onset date of November 1, 2010. On November 16, 2010, Turner visited Dr. Delsoin, complaining that she was "breaking out" with a rash. Turner's current medications included Advair, Albuterol, Ibuprofen, ProAir HFA, Ranitidine, and Tramadol. Dr. Delsoin's assessment was COPD, esophageal reflux, nicotine dependence, and scabies. Dr. Delsoin refilled Turner's medications and prescribed other medication for scabies. (Tr., pp. 391-92.)

On February 9, 2011, Turner followed up with Drs. Owan Nwanodi and Dielson due to a missed mammogram and elevated glucose level. She reported that she was working in a factory. She denied having dyspnea, wheezing, abdominal pain, joint pain, dizziness, fainting, and depression. She reported waking up in the middle of the night and complained of acid reflux. The assessment was essential hypertension, COPD, esophageal reflux, nicotine dependence, and secondary insomnia. Dr. Dielson prescribed Trazodone and Amlodipine Besylate. (Tr., pp. 426-31.) Laboratory tests conducted on the same day showed Turner had an A1C level of 6.1. (Tr., p. 463.)

On February 17, 2011, Turner followed up with Dr. Delsoin. Dr. Delsoin discussed Turner's diabetes diagnosis and prescribed Metformin. (Tr., pp. 423-25.)

At a March 2011 visit, Turned denied that she was in any pain or discomfort, and she indicated that she was still working in the factory. Dr. Delsoin noted that Turner's hypertension appeared controlled. Dr. Delsoin talked with Turner about her continued tobacco use and counseled Turner to take her medications. (Tr., pp. 420-22.)

Turned saw Dr. Leslie McCrary-Etuk on February 22, 2012, complaining of "generalized diffuse body aches for the past 1 year relieved with Tylenol or NSAIDS." She denied dyspnea, wheezing, dizziness, and fainting. Turner was ordered to continue on her medications. (Tr., pp. 415-17.)

On March 7, 2012, Turner followed up with Dr. McCrary-Etuk for a routine visit and denied that she was in any pain. She denied having dyspnea, wheezing, dizziness, or fainting. Dr. McCrary-Etuk discussed concerns about Turner's continued tobacco use and prescribed nicotine patches. Her A1C level was 5.7, and she was ordered to continue her current diabetes regimen. (Tr., pp. 412-14.)

Function Report

According to Turner's function report, completed February 8, 2011, she lived with her family. She described her day as getting ready, cleaning, eating, watching television, reading, playing games, sewing clothes, and talking on the phone. She cooked every day, though sometimes she would get drowsy and feel sick. She ate sandwiches, greens, corn bread, and on occasion fast food. She could dress, bathe, and otherwise care for herself but would have to take her time. She cleaned her house and worked in the yard every day without the help or encouragement of others. She used a pager as a reminder to take care of ...

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