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Dennis v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

June 22, 2015

SHAWN E. DENNIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER

NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Shawn E. Dennis appeals the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. The decision is affirmed.

I. Background

Dennis was born in 1973. She filed applications for benefits in June 2012, alleging she became disabled beginning August 17, 2009, due to physical and mental health issues. The Administrative Law Judge denied Dennis' applications on August 12, 2013, and the Appeals Council denied her request for review on September 3, 2014.

Dennis filed applications for disability and supplemental security income benefits prior to the ones at issue here, in which she also claimed she became disabled beginning August 17, 2009. Those prior applications were finally denied on April 25, 2012.[1] In the present case, the ALJ noted Dennis' prior applications but expressly refused to reopen them [Tr. 11-12], and Dennis does not challenge that aspect of the ALJ's decision. Thus, the relevant alleged disability period for purpose of the present case is April 26, 2012 (the day after the final denial of the prior applications) through August 12, 2013 (the date of the final decision here).

Dennis focuses on physical issues in this appeal.

A. Medical history and opinion evidence

Dennis saw her rheumatologist Melinda Reed, M.D., in March 2012, reporting a constant dull fibromyalgia pain, with difficulty sleeping. Dennis had 14 of 18 tender points. Dr. Reed had previously prescribed Elavil and Lyrica, but the Elavil was contraindicated by Dennis' psychiatric treatment. The Lyrica made Dennis dizzy but she continued to take a low dose, because it was helpful. Dr. Reed emphasized the importance of getting good sleep, and being active and exercising. There are no records reflecting Dennis saw Dr. Reed any time between April 26, 2012 and August 12, 2013.

In September 2012, Dennis saw a nurse practitioner at the Thayer Medical Clinic, reporting increased back pain. Hip x-rays were normal, but spinal imaging showed some potential problems and Dennis was referred to pain management specialist Ricardo Kennedy, M.D.

Dr. Kennedy examined Dennis in October 2012. He noted Dennis had paraspinous tenderness, and pain with range of motion in her lumbar spine, but no neurological deficit and negative straight leg raising, a coordinated and smooth gait, and 5/5 motor strength in her bilateral lower extremities. Dr. Kennedy ordered a lumbar spine MRI, which showed L5-S1 disc bulging and spondylosis, with posterior central disc protrusion and mild encroachment of the L5 neural foramina. He prescribed Tramadol and Skelaxin and noted Dennis should consider a sacroiliac joint injection and lumbar epidural steroidal injection. Dennis had follow-up appointments at the pain clinic in November 2012 and January 2013, and reported that her pain medication was providing "good benefit." [Tr. 261.] Medications were continued, but no injections were performed.

Dennis saw Ronnie Hiemstra, M.D. in 2013 for a "recheck" of her fibromyalgia, reporting she was "doing well without any problems" and asking to resume taking Lyrica because it helped "tremendously." [Tr. 309.] Dr. Hiemstra prescribed Lyrica.

The medical record reflects Dennis is morbidly obese.

B. Dennis' work history, self reports[2], and testimony

Dennis has a twelfth-grade education. She has past relevant, light work as a front desk clerk, wire harness assembler, optical assembler, grocery clerk, order puller, small products assembler, and fast food worker, but has ...


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