Overbaugh v. Commissioner of Social Security
OPINION AND ORDER: The decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Andrew P Rodovich on 7/13/2015. (tc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
BARBARA JEAN OVERBAUGH,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
) Cause No. 1:14-cv-219
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the court on petition for judicial review of the decision of the
Commissioner filed by the plaintiff, Barbara Jean Overbaugh, on July 22, 2014. For the following
reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
The plaintiff, Barbara Jean Overbaugh, filed an application for Disability Insurance
Benefits on October 4, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of March 31, 2010. (Tr. 16). The
Disability Determination Bureau denied Overbaugh’s application on December 28, 2011, and
again upon reconsideration on February 24, 2012. (Tr. 16). Overbaugh subsequently filed a
timely request for a hearing on March 1, 2012. (Tr. 16). A hearing was held on December 18,
2012, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Maryann S. Bright, and the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on February 27, 2013. (Tr. 16–25). Vocational Expert (VE) Sharon D.
Ringenberg, Mickey Overbaugh, Overbaugh’s husband, and Overbaugh testified at the hearing.
(Tr. 16). The Appeals Council denied review on March 26, 2014, making the ALJ’s decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 3–5).
The ALJ found that Overbaugh met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through December 31, 2015. (Tr. 18). At step one of the five step sequential analysis for
determining whether an individual is disabled, the ALJ found that Overbaugh had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since March 31, 2010, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 18). At step two,
the ALJ determined that Overbaugh had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc
disease and osteoporosis. (Tr. 18). However, the ALJ determined that Overbaugh’s depression
was non-severe because it did not cause more than a minimal limitation in her ability to perform
basic mental work activities. (Tr. 18).
To determine whether Overbaugh’s depression was severe or non-severe, the ALJ
considered the Paragraph B criteria. (Tr. 19). First, the ALJ concluded that Overbaugh had a
mild limitation in daily living activities. (Tr. 19). Overbaugh indicated that she washed dishes,
did laundry, and cooked quick meals. (Tr. 19). She also stated that she could cook holiday
dinners with her daughter’s help. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found those daily living activities consistent
with the record and concluded that Overbaugh had a mild limitation in handling her daily
activities independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis. (Tr. 19).
Furthermore, Dr. Joelle Larsen, a State agency psychiatric consultant, also concluded that
Overbaugh had a mild limitation in this area. (Tr. 19).
The ALJ, along with Dr. Larsen, also concluded that Overbaugh had a mild limitation in
social functioning. (Tr. 19). Overbaugh reported that going to church and spending time with
her daughters and granddaughter was uplifting. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found that consistent with the
record and concluded that Overbaugh had mild limitations interacting independently,
appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis with other people. (Tr. 19).
The ALJ, along with Dr. Larsen, found that Overbaugh had mild limitations in
concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 19). A consultative examination showed that
Overbaugh had normal fine motor skills, normal concentration, and normal social interaction
with remote and recent memory intact. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found that consistent with the record
and with Overbaugh’s daily living activities including watching television, reading, sewing, and
attending to her dogs. (Tr. 19). The ALJ determined that Overbaugh had mild limitations in
sustaining focus, attention, and concentration long enough to complete tasks commonly found in
work settings sufficiently, timely, and appropriately. (Tr. 19).
The ALJ determined that Overbaugh had experienced no episodes of decompensation of
extended duration. (Tr. 19). Additionally, Dr. Larsen indicated that Overbaugh’s physical
impairments rather than a mental impairment caused her functional limitations. (Tr. 19).
Furthermore, she concluded that Overbaugh could complete a variety of tasks without
interference. (Tr. 19). J. Sands, M.D., a State agency medical consultant, affirmed Dr. Larsen’s
opinion. (Tr. 19). The ALJ gave great weight to this opinion because it was consistent with the
medical evidence. (Tr. 19). It was also consistent with Overbaugh’s statement that her
prescription for Celexa helped control her symptoms and that she had no problems getting along
with people. (Tr. 19). Overbaugh also indicated that Celexa improved her relationship with her
husband. (Tr. 19). The ALJ concluded that Overbaugh’s medically determinable mental
impairment was non-severe because it caused no more than a mild limitation in any of the first
three functional areas and there were no episodes of decompensation. (Tr. 20).
At step three, the ALJ concluded that Overbaugh did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments. (Tr. 20). In determining whether Overbaugh had an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments, the ALJ
considered the criteria under Listing 1.04. (Tr. 20).
The ALJ then assessed Overbaugh’s residual functional capacity as follows:
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light
work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b). The claimant is capable of
lifting or carrying up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently. The claimant can stand and/or walk for approximately
six hours per eight-hour workday and sit for approximately six hours
per eight-hour workday, with normal breaks and allowing her to sit
or stand alternatively at will provided she is not off task more than
ten percent of the work period. The claimant is capable of
occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling. Due to pain, work should be limited to simple, routine,
and repetitive tasks involving only simple work-related decisions.
(Tr. 20). In making this finding, the ALJ considered all symptoms and the extent to which those
symptoms reasonably could be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and
other evidence. (Tr. 20). The ALJ followed a two-step process when considering Overbaugh’s
symptoms. (Tr. 21). 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 Overbaugh’s
pain or other symptoms. (Tr. 21). Next, the ALJ evaluated the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of Overbaugh’s symptoms to determine the extent to which they limited her
functioning. (Tr. 21).
Overbaugh has alleged disability due to back pain, back spurs, osteoporosis, degenerative
disc disease, scoliosis, spinal arthritis and spondylosis, diffuse osteopenia, and small Schmorl’s
nodes on the spine. (Tr. 21). Overbaugh indicated that she did not need surgery but that she has
undergone injections and acupuncture, neither of which relieved her symptoms. (Tr. 21).
Overbaugh also stated that she did not use a brace or cane. (Tr. 21). However, she noted that
she has used a hot rub or heating pad to relieve pain. (Tr. 21). Overbaugh claimed that she
experienced pain in her hips and burning in her bones, but an x-ray did not reveal any
impairment in her hips. (Tr. 21). Overbaugh also claimed that she could sit only for fifteen
minutes at a time before a popping feeling in her back occurred and could stand only for five to
ten minutes at a time in one spot. (Tr. 21). She also indicated that her hands became numb, but
she could crochet still. (Tr. 21). Overbaugh reported that her prescription for Vicodin helped
her symptoms, but it made her forget things. (Tr. 21).
The ALJ found that the objective medical evidence failed to provide strong support for
Overbaugh’s allegations of disabling symptoms and limitations. (Tr. 21). Overbaugh underwent
a dual energy x-ray absorptionmetry scan that revealed her bone mineral density of the lumbar
spine was consistent with osteoporosis. (Tr. 21). The scan also revealed that her lumbar spine
was seven times more at risk for fracture than that of a young adult. (Tr. 21). However, given
these medical findings, doctors prescribed only conservative treatments of pharmacotherapy,
exercise, and calcium. (Tr. 21). Overbaugh also was not asked to come back for a follow-up
examination for two years. (Tr. 21). Therefore, the ALJ determined that Overbaugh’s symptoms
were not severe because she did not need weekly or monthly examinations to treat her condition.
After the conservative treatment was unsuccessful, Overbaugh underwent many thoracic
epidural steroid injections. (Tr. 21). Her physical examination revealed that she did not have
cyanosis, clubbing, or edema in her extremities. (Tr. 21). Her musculoskeletal system
examination revealed that she had back pain but did not have pain in the cervical spine, lumbar
flexors, or upon axial rotation. (Tr. 21–22). The examination also revealed that Overbaugh had
good range of motion in the neck region. (Tr. 22). An x-ray of Overbaugh’s thoracic spine
revealed that she had diffuse osteopenia and a smooth minor convex left curvature of the thoracic
spine, consistent with scoliosis or paraspinal muscle spasms. (Tr. 22). However, the test showed
that Overbaugh had a normal vertebral structure. (Tr. 22). She was prescribed Flexeril for her
back pain. (Tr. 22).
Overbaugh underwent a spine MRI, which showed that she had mild degenerative disc
disease through her thoracic spine and a small left spur at C6-7. (Tr. 22). When her MRI results
came back, Overbaugh told Robert Shugart, M.D., her examining physician, that she wanted to
apply for disability. (Tr. 22). She asked Dr. Shugart about any restrictions, but he was unable to
answer because she was not under physical therapy at the time. (Tr. 22). Dr. Shugart ordered
home therapy for Overbaugh and restricted her from work for seven weeks to determine the
injections’ effectiveness. (Tr. 22). Dr. Shugart also told Overbaugh that she could return to
work earlier if she felt better. (Tr. 22). After seven weeks, Dr. Shugart released Overbaugh
without any restrictions because she was doing well and her injections were effective. (Tr. 22).
Overbaugh’s treating physician, T.L. Shipe, M.D., indicated that she declined medical
testing and treatment due to the cost and her lack of health insurance coverage. (Tr. 22). During
Dr. Shipe’s physical examinations, Overbaugh appeared to move slowly from sitting to standing,
but her straight leg raises showed negative results. (Tr. 22). Dr. Shipe continued to prescribe
Vicodin and made few changes to her usual prescriptions. (Tr. 22). The ALJ concluded that
Overbaugh’s prescribed mode of care effectively treated her symptoms. (Tr. 22).
A consultative examiner, Vijay Kamineni, M.D., noted that Overbaugh had decreased
range of motion in her back, joint pain, and trouble walking. (Tr. 22). Her joint movement and
lower extremities were normal, and she did not have any muscle weakness or pain. (Tr. 22).
Overbaugh’s straight leg test was positive but with pain at eighty degrees. (Tr. 22). She did not
perform the lumbar range of motion test because she said it would cause her pain. (Tr. 22). Dr.
Kamineni also indicated that Overbaugh was able to perform her daily living activities but could
not stand for any length of time. (Tr. 22). He also stated that Overbaugh could drive a car, but
she did not drive while on pain medication. (Tr. 22). Dr. Kamineni indicated that Overbaugh’s
back prevented her from performing her duties at her last job, which required lifting forty pounds
frequently, and that she could carry and lift ten pounds only for a short time and distance. (Tr.
22). He also stated that she could not sit for thirty minutes but needed to move and stand for ten
minutes at a time. (Tr. 22). The ALJ gave Dr. Kamineni’s opinion little weight because it relied
on Overbaugh’s subjective complaints rather than objective medical evidence. (Tr. 22).
State agency medical consultant Dr. Neal opined that Overbaugh could perform light
exertional activities and all postural functions frequently. (Tr. 23). Dr. Neal gave Overbaugh’s
back pain a rating of three on a ten-point scale and referenced reports that she could perform her
daily living activities. (Tr. 23). The ALJ gave Dr. Neal’s opinion great weight because
Overbaugh’s degenerative disc disease and osteoporosis constituted an exertional level of less
than light work. (Tr. 23).
The ALJ also considered testimony from Overbaugh’s husband, Mickey Overbaugh. (Tr.
23). The ALJ gave Mr. Overbaugh’s statements some weight because he was able to confirm
Overbaugh’s activities of daily living. (Tr. 23). Based on the evidence, the ALJ found that
Overbaugh’s impairments could cause the alleged symptoms but found her incredible regarding
the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms. (Tr. 23).
Ultimately, the ALJ concluded that the objective medical evidence in the record
supported her RFC assessment. (Tr. 23). The ALJ found that the objective medical evidence
failed to corroborate Overbaugh’s allegations regarding the severity of her impairment. (Tr. 23).
The ALJ also found that the medical evidence of record did not show any worsening of
Overbaugh’s impairments. (Tr. 23). She noted that Overbaugh worked at a medium exertional
level previously and chose not to transfer to another plant after her job ended despite having that
opportunity. (Tr. 23). The ALJ reiterated that she was prescribed conservative treatment and
was directed to receive a follow-up evaluation after two years. (Tr. 23). Based on the two year
follow up, the ALJ concluded that Overbaugh was receiving effective treatment. (Tr. 23).
The ALJ commented that Overbaugh received thoracic injections while she was working
but not after she left her job. (Tr. 23). Therefore, she concluded that Overbaugh could perform
her work duties with proper medication. (Tr. 23). The ALJ also indicated that Overbaugh
watched television all day, played with her dogs, read the bible, texted her children, shopped,
attended church, and taught Sunday school. (Tr. 23). Although Overbaugh alleged degenerative
disc disease, osteoporosis, and diffuse osteopenia, the ALJ found that her daily living activities
did not demonstrate a severe disability that would prevent her from performing basic work
functions. (Tr. 23).
At step four, the ALJ found that Overbaugh could not perform her past relevant work.
(Tr. 24). Considering Overbaugh’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ
concluded that there were jobs in the national economy that Overbaugh could perform, including
cashier (500 jobs regionally, 10,000 jobs in Indiana, and 400,000 jobs nationally), furniture
rental consultant (300 jobs regionally, 3,000 jobs in Indiana, and 150,000 jobs nationally), and
hand packager (50 jobs regionally, 1,000 jobs in Indiana, and 20,000 jobs nationally). (Tr. 24–
The standard for judicial review of an ALJ’s finding that a claimant is not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act is limited to a determination of whether those findings are
supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of the Commissioner of
Social Security, as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.”);
Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1120–21 (7th Cir. 2014); Bates v. Colvin, 736 F.3d 1093, 1097
(7th Cir. 2013) (“We will uphold the Commissioner’s final decision if the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards and supported her decision with substantial evidence.”); Pepper v. Colvin,
712 F.3d 351, 361–62 (7th Cir. 2013); Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 744 (7th Cir. 2005);
Lopez ex rel Lopez v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 535, 539 (7th Cir. 2003). Substantial evidence has
been defined as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support such a
conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L. Ed. 2d 852
(1972) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S. Ct. 206, 217, 83 L. Ed.
2d 140 (1938)); see Bates, 736 F.3d at 1098; Pepper, 712 F.3d at 361–62; Jens v. Barnhart, 347
F.3d 209, 212 (7th Cir. 2003); Sims v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 424, 428 (7th Cir. 2002). An ALJ’s
decision must be affirmed if the findings are supported by substantial evidence and if there have
been no errors of law. Roddy v. Astrue, 705 F.3d 631, 636 (7th Cir. 2013); Rice v. Barnhart,
384 F.3d 363, 368–69 (7th Cir. 2004); Scott v. Barnhart, 297 F.3d 589, 593 (7th Cir. 2002).
However, “the decision cannot stand if it lacks evidentiary support or an adequate discussion of
the issues.” Lopez, 336 F.3d at 539.
Disability insurance benefits are available only to those individuals who can establish
“disability” under the terms of the Social Security Act. The claimant must show that she is
unable “to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or
can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1)(A). The Social Security regulations enumerate the five-step sequential evaluation to
be followed when determining whether a claimant has met the burden of establishing disability.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520. The ALJ first considers whether the claimant is presently employed or
“engaged in substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b). If she is, the claimant is
not disabled and the evaluation process is over. If she is not, the ALJ next addresses whether the
claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments that “significantly
limits . . . physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c); see
Williams v. Colvin, 757 F.3d 610, 613 (7th Cir. 2014) (discussing that the ALJ must consider the
combined effects of the claimant’s impairments). Third, the ALJ determines whether that severe
impairment meets any of the impairments listed in the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 401, pt. 404,
subpt. P, app. 1. If it does, then the impairment is acknowledged by the Commissioner to be
conclusively disabling. However, if the impairment does not so limit the claimant’s remaining
capabilities, the ALJ reviews the claimant’s “residual functional capacity” and the physical and
mental demands of her past work. If, at this fourth step, the claimant can perform her past
relevant work, she will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e). However, if the
claimant shows that her impairment is so severe that she is unable to engage in her past relevant
work, then the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant, in light
of her age, education, job experience, and functional capacity to work, is capable of performing
other work and that such work exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2); 20 C.F.R.
First, Overbaugh has argued that the ALJ’s adverse credibility assessment cannot
withstand scrutiny because it was based on legally insufficient analysis. This court will sustain
the ALJ’s credibility determination unless it is “patently wrong” and not supported by the record.
Bates v. Colvin, 736 F.3d 1093, 1098 (7th Cir. 2013); Schmidt v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 843 (7th
Cir. 2007); Prochaska v. Barnhart, 454 F.3d 731, 738 (7th Cir. 2006) (“Only if the trier of fact
grounds his credibility finding in an observation or argument that is unreasonable or
unsupported . . . can the finding be reversed.”). The ALJ’s “unique position to observe a
witness” entitles her opinion to great deference. Nelson v. Apfel, 131 F.3d 1228, 1237 (7th Cir.
1997); Allord v. Barnhart, 455 F.3d 818, 821 (7th Cir. 2006). However, if the ALJ does not
make explicit findings and does not explain them “in a way that affords meaningful review,” the
ALJ’s credibility determination is not entitled to deference. Steele v. Barnhart, 290 F.3d 936,
942 (7th Cir. 2002). Further, “when such determinations rest on objective factors or fundamental
implausibilities rather than subjective considerations [such as a claimant’s demeanor], appellate
courts have greater freedom to review the ALJ’s decision.” Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872
(7th Cir. 2000); see Bates, 736 F.3d at 1098.
The ALJ must determine a claimant’s credibility only after considering all of the
claimant’s “symptoms, including pain, and the extent to which [the claimant’s] symptoms can
reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence.”
20 C.F.R. ' 404.1529(a); Arnold v. Barnhart, 473 F.3d 816, 823 (7th Cir. 2007) (“[S]ubjective
complaints need not be accepted insofar as they clash with other, objective medical evidence in
the record.”); Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 703 (7th Cir. 2004). If the claimant’s
impairments reasonably could produce the symptoms of which the claimant is complaining, the
ALJ must evaluate the intensity and persistence of the claimant’s symptoms through
consideration of the claimant’s “medical history, the medical signs and laboratory findings, and
statements from [the claimant, the claimant’s] treating or examining physician or psychologist,
or other persons about how [the claimant’s] symptoms affect [the claimant].” 20 C.F.R.
' 404.1529(c); see Schmidt v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 737, 746–47 (7th Cir. 2005) (“These
regulations and cases, taken together, require an ALJ to articulate specific reasons for
discounting a claimant’s testimony as being less than credible, and preclude an ALJ from merely
ignoring the testimony or relying solely on a conflict between the objective medical evidence and
the claimant’s testimony as a basis for a negative credibility finding.”).
Although a claimant’s complaints of pain cannot be totally unsupported by the medical
evidence, the ALJ may not make a credibility determination “solely on the basis of objective
medical evidence.” SSR 96-7p, at *1; see Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1125 (7th Cir. 2014)
(“‘[T]he ALJ cannot reject a claimant’s testimony about limitations on her daily activities solely
by stating that such testimony is unsupported by the medical evidence.’”) (quoting Indoranto,
374 F.3d at 474); Carradine v. Barnhart, 360 F.3d 751, 754 (7th Cir. 2004) (“If pain is
disabling, the fact that its source is purely psychological does not disentitle the applicant to
benefits.”). Rather, if the
[c]laimant indicates that pain is a significant factor of his or her
alleged inability to work, the ALJ must obtain detailed descriptions
of the claimant’s daily activities by directing specific inquiries about
the pain and its effects to the claimant. She must investigate all
avenues presented that relate to pain, including claimant’s prior
work record, information and observations by treating physicians,
examining physicians, and third parties. Factors that must be
considered include the nature and intensity of the claimant’s pain,
precipitation and aggravating factors, dosage and effectiveness of
any pain medications, other treatment for relief of pain, functional
restrictions, and the claimant’s daily activities. (internal citations
Luna v. Shalala, 22 F.3d 687, 691 (7th Cir. 1994); see Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881,
887-88 (7th Cir. 2001).
In addition, when the ALJ discounts the claimant’s description of pain because it is
inconsistent with the objective medical evidence, she must make more than “a single, conclusory
statement . . . . The determination or decision must contain specific reasons for the finding on
credibility, supported by the evidence in the case record, and must be sufficiently specific to
make clear to the individual and to any subsequent reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to
the individual’s statements and the reasons for that weight.” SSR 96-7p, at *2; see Minnick v.
Colvin, 775 F.3d 929, 937 (7th Cir. 2015) (“[A] failure to adequately explain his or her
credibility finding by discussing specific reasons supported by the record is grounds for
reversal.”) (citations omitted); Zurawski, 245 F.3d at 887; Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 307-08
(7th Cir. 1995) (finding that the ALJ must articulate, at some minimum level, his analysis of the
evidence). She must “build an accurate and logical bridge from the evidence to [her]
conclusion.” Zurawski, 245 F.3d at 887 (quoting Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir.
2000)). A minor discrepancy, coupled with the ALJ’s observations is sufficient to support a
finding that the claimant was incredible. Bates, 736 F.3d at 1099. However, this must be
weighed against the ALJ’s duty to build the record and not to ignore a line of evidence that
suggests a disability. Bates, 736 F.3d at 1099.
Overbaugh has argued that the ALJ mischaracterized her daily activities and implied that
she led an active lifestyle. She acknowledged that she shopped, socialized, played with her dogs,
and taught Sunday school, but she has argued that the ALJ failed to consider that each of her
daily living activities was limited by pain. Additionally, she has claimed that the ALJ failed to
explain how her limited activities supported an adverse credibility finding. Overbaugh has
indicated that the ALJ failed to consider factors that supported her credibility including her work
history, her husband’s testimony, third party reports, and the consistency of her allegations.
Moreover, because she has argued that the ALJ improperly relied on her daily living activities,
she has claimed that the ALJ’s credibility finding cannot stand because it would rely on the
objective medical evidence only.
The Commissioner has indicated that the ALJ relied on several reasons to support her
credibility finding including the objective medical evidence, that Overbaugh’s impairments had
not worsened, that conservative treatment was effective, and her daily living activities. The
Commissioner has argued that the ALJ reasonably inferred that Overbaugh was not as limited as
she claimed because her daily living activities were inconsistent with her claimed limitations.
Additionally, she noted that the ALJ emphasized the medical evidence, Overbaugh’s treatment,
and that Overbaugh could perform a medium or heavy job with conservative treatment
The ALJ’s credibility finding was not patently wrong. First, the ALJ reviewed the
objective medical evidence and noted inconsistencies between Overbaugh’s allegations of
disability and the evidence. Specifically, she noted that doctors prescribed conservative
treatment for Overbaugh’s osteoporosis and that they did not ask her to conduct a follow-up
examination for two years. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Overbaugh’s symptoms did not
require weekly or monthly examinations. The ALJ then summarized Overbaugh’s medical
treatment for her back pain. She indicated that Overbaugh underwent thoracic epidural steroid
injections and that Dr. Shugart ordered home therapy and restricted her from work for seven
weeks to determine whether the injections resolved her symptoms. The ALJ noted that Dr.
Shugart released her without any restrictions after the seven weeks because the injections were
The ALJ mentioned that Overbaugh declined medical testing and treatment because of
the cost and her lack of health insurance coverage. Furthermore, she noted that Dr. Shipe,
Overbaugh’s treating physician, continued to prescribe Vicodin and made few changes to her
usual prescriptions. Based on Dr. Shugart’s and Dr. Shipe’s medical records, the ALJ concluded
that Overbaugh’s prescribed care effectively treated her symptoms, an inconsistency with her
allegations of disability. The ALJ also reviewed Overbaugh’s activities of daily living, including
the testimony from her husband. She noted that Overbaugh could wash dishes, went outside
every day, shopped, paid bills, watched television or read all day, and played with her dogs.
Although the ALJ discounted Overbaugh’s allegations of pain because they were
inconsistent with the objective medical evidence, she made more than a single conclusory
statement to explain her findings. The ALJ’s decision contained specific reasons to discount
Overbaugh’s credibility that were supported by evidence in the record and statements from
treating and examining physicians. The ALJ also obtained detailed descriptions of Overbaugh’s
daily activities from the testimony of her and her husband. The ALJ considered Dr. Shipe’s and
Dr. Shugart’s conclusions on Overbaugh’s pain limitations. Additionally, she noted the dosage
and effectiveness of pain medication, treatment for pain relief, functional restrictions, daily
activities, and the nature and intensity of the pain. Therefore, the ALJ minimally articulated her
findings on Overbaugh’s credibility and built a logical bridge from the objective evidence to her
Next, Overbaugh has argued that the ALJ’s RFC assessment was not supported by
substantial evidence because it was incomplete and defied meaningful review. SSR 96-8p
explains how an ALJ should assess a claimant’s RFC at steps four and five of the sequential
evaluation. In a section entitled, “Narrative Discussion Requirements,” SSR 96-8p specifically
spells out what is needed in the ALJ’s RFC analysis. This section of the Ruling provides:
The RFC assessment must include a narrative discussion describing
how the evidence supports each conclusion, citing specific medical
facts (e.g., laboratory findings) and nonmedical evidence (e.g., daily
activities, observations). In assessing RFC, the adjudicator must
discuss the individual’s ability to perform sustained work activities
in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis (i.e., 8
hours a day, for 5 days a week, or an equivalent work schedule), and
describe the maximum amount of each work-related activity the
individual can perform based on the evidence available in the case
record. The adjudicator must also explain how any material
inconsistencies or ambiguities in the evidence in the case record
were considered and resolved.
SSR 96-8p (footnote omitted). Thus, as explained in this section of the Ruling, there is a
difference between what the ALJ must contemplate and what she must articulate in her written
decision. “The ALJ is not required to address every piece of evidence or testimony presented,
but he must provide a ‘logical bridge’ between the evidence and his conclusions.” Getch v.
Astrue, 539 F.3d 473, 480 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 872 (7th Cir.
2000)); see Moore v. Colvin, 743 F.3d 1118, 1123 (7th Cir. 2014). Although the ALJ does not
need to discuss every piece of evidence, she cannot ignore evidence that undermines her ultimate
conclusions. Moore, 743 F.3d at 1123 (“The ALJ must confront the evidence that does not
support her conclusion and explain why that evidence was rejected.”) (citing Terry v. Astrue,
580 F.3d 471, 477 (7th Cir. 2009); Myles v. Astrue, 582 F.3d 672, 678 (7th Cir. 2009); Arnett v.
Astrue, 676 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. 2012)). “A decision that lacks adequate discussion of the
issues will be remanded.” Moore, 743 F.3d at 1121.
Overbaugh has claimed that the ALJ failed to consider the side effects from her
medication and how they affected her concentration and ability to work. She noted that Vicodin
and Flexeril affected her concentration and that Vicodin made her feel “useless” or “cloudy.”
Additionally, Overbaugh believed that she could not take Vicodin while she was working
because it “would affect her job.” Furthermore, she has argued that the ALJ did not
acknowledge, account for, or consider the limitations caused by her medication’s side effects.
The ALJ was not required to make specific findings concerning the side effects of
prescription drugs on Overbaugh’s ability to work. Herron, 19 F.3d at 335. However, the ALJ
must include sufficient information for the reviewing court to determine whether the decision
was supported by substantial evidence. Lewis v. Barnhart, 201 F. Supp. 2d 918, 937 (N.D. Ind.
2002). In this case, the ALJ noted that Vicodin made Overbaugh forget things and that it helped
her symptoms. However, she did not discuss explicitly Overbaugh’s testimony that Vicodin
made her feel “useless” or “cloudy” or that it negatively affected her attention, memory, and
ability to work. Additionally, the ALJ did not review Mr. Overbaugh’s testimony corroborating
However, the ALJ did indicate that a consultative examination revealed that Overbaugh
had normal concentration and intact memory, which the Commissioner has argued was
substantial evidence to support the RFC determination. Moreover, the ALJ reviewed Dr.
Larsen’s opinion, which concluded that Overbaugh could attend to a variety of tasks without
interference. Furthermore, the ALJ found Overbaugh’s subjective complaints incredible, which
this court determined was not patently wrong. A challenge to the ALJ’s RFC finding that was
“inherently intertwined with matters of credibility” will fail when the credibility finding was not
patently wrong. Outlaw v. Astrue, 412 F. App’x 894, 897 (7th Cir. 2011).
Although the ALJ did not confront all of Overbaugh’s claims about her Vicodin side
effects directly, she was not required to make a specific finding concerning the side effects.
Rather, the ALJ’s decision only needs to be supported by substantial evidence. In this case, the
ALJ found Overbaugh’s subjective allegations incredible, she reviewed the objective medical
evidence regarding Overbaugh’s concentration and memory, noted that Vicodin made
Overbaugh forget things, and found that Overbaugh could perform basic work functions based
on her daily activities. Therefore, the ALJ built a logical bridge when discounting Overbaugh’s
complaints of Vicodin side effects.
Overbaugh also has claimed that the ALJ’s sit-stand option defied meaningful review.
The ALJ limited Overbaugh to jobs that allowed her to sit or stand at will as long as she was not
off task more than ten percent of the work period. Overbaugh has argued that her sit-stand
behavior would put her off task for more than ten percent of the workday because she needed to
alternate between sitting, standing, and walking around. She has claimed that she needed to
move around every fifteen minutes, which would take her off task more than ten percent of the
time. Furthermore, Overbaugh has argued that the ALJ needed to explain why her testimony
Here, the ALJ properly evaluated and rejected Overbaugh’s claims about needing to walk
around. The ALJ noted Overbaugh’s allegations that she could sit only for fifteen minutes at a
time and could stand only for five to ten minutes before needing to move around. Overbaugh’s
arguments regarding her need to walk around were subjective complaints that related to matters
of credibility. As discussed above, the ALJ found Overbaugh’s allegations incredible, and this
court did not find that determination patently wrong. A challenge to the ALJ’s RFC finding that
was “inherently intertwined with matters of credibility” will fail when the credibility finding was
not patently wrong. Outlaw, 412 F. App’x at 897. Moreover, the ALJ does not need to specify
which statements from Overbaugh were incredible or identify specific evidence that refutes the
allegations. Jens v. Barnhart, 347 F.3d 209, 213 (7th Cir. 2003).
Overbaugh has argued that her sit/stand allegation was consistent with the medical
evidence because it was supported by Dr. Kamineni’s opinion. However, the ALJ rejected Dr.
Kamineni’s opinion because it relied on Overbaugh’s subjective complaints. Furthermore, this
court has concluded that the ALJ properly weighed Dr. Kamineni’s opinion, which is discussed
more thoroughly below. Although the ALJ did not explain the sit/stand option explicitly, the
RFC was supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ acknowledged Overbaugh’s sit/stand
allegation and found Overbaugh incredible. Furthermore, the ALJ indicated that the objective
medical evidence did not support the severity of Overbaugh’s alleged symptoms and limitations
and rejected the opinion that supported her sit/stand allegation.
Finally, Overbaugh has claimed that the ALJ did not have good cause to reject Dr.
Kamineni’s opinion. Generally, an ALJ affords more weight to the opinion of an examining
source than the opinion of a non-examining source but the ultimate weight given depends on the
opinion’s consistency with the objective medical evidence, the quality of the explanation, and the
source’s specialty. Givens v. Colvin, 551 F. App’x 855, 860 (7th Cir. 2013); 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c). “An ALJ can reject an examining physician’s opinion only for reasons supported
by substantial evidence in the record; a contradictory opinion of a non-examining physician does
not, by itself, suffice.” Gudgel v. Barnhart, 345 F.3d 467, 470 (7th Cir. 2003). An ALJ may
give less weight to an examining source’s opinion when it appears to rely heavily on the
claimant’s subjective complaints. Givens, 551 F. App’x at 861; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(3)
(“The more a medical source presents relevant evidence to support an opinion, particularly
medical signs and laboratory findings, the more weight we will give the opinion. The better
explanation a source provides for an opinion the more weight we will give that opinion.”); Filus
v. Astrue, 694 F.3d 863, 868 (7th Cir. 2012).
Overbaugh has claimed that the ALJ did not provide “good cause” for rejecting Dr.
Kamineni’s opinion because the ALJ did not cite any evidence to support her reasoning. The
ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Kamineni’s opinion because she found that it relied on
Overbaugh’s subjective complaints rather than the objective medical evidence. However,
Overbaugh has argued that the report showed that she did not make any allegations to Dr.
Kamineni. The Commissioner has claimed that Dr. Kamineni’s opinion was not entitled to any
special significance because he was an examining source. She also has argued that Dr.
Kamineni’s opinion evidence was not well-supported because he did not rely on any clinical
evidence. Moreover, she indicated that the ALJ gave Dr. Neal’s opinion great weight and that it
was inconsistent with Dr. Kamineni’s opinion.
The ALJ properly weighed Dr. Kamineni’s opinion. The ALJ can give less weight to an
examining source’s opinion when that source relied heavily on the claimant’s subjective
complaints. Givens, 551 F. App’x at 861 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(3)). The ALJ found
that Dr. Kamineni’s opinion relied heavily on Overbaugh’s subjective complaints regarding
sitting, lifting, and walking rather than on objective medical evidence. The ALJ should rely on
opinions based on the objective evidence rather than subjective complaints from the claimant.
Rice v. Barnhart, 384 F.3d 363, 371 (7th Cir. 2004). The ALJ also rejected Dr. Kamineni’s
opinion because it was not well-supported by other evidence and it was inconsistent with other
substantial evidence within the record, including that of Dr. Neal. Furthermore, Dr. Kamineni
offered no explanation for his restrictions. The ALJ needed to minimally articulate her reason
for rejecting Dr. Kamineni’s opinion, and substantial evidence supported her conclusion that the
opinion was not entitled to greater weight.
Next, Overbaugh has claimed that the ALJ should have recontacted Dr. Kamineni if she
found his opinion questionable or doubtful. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1519p(b). The ALJ must
recontact a treating source when the record is insufficient to make a decision. Simila v. Astrue,
573 F.3d 503, 516–17 (7th Cir. 2009); Skarbek v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 500, 504 (7th Cir. 2004).
“An ALJ need recontact medical sources only when the evidence received is inadequate to
determine whether the claimant is disabled.” Skarbek, 390 F.3d at 504 (citing 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1512(e)). Here, the record was not insufficient to make a decision. Rather, the ALJ found
that Dr. Kamineni’s opinion was not supported by anything in the record except for Overbaugh’s
subjective complaints. Nothing shows that the ALJ had any questions or doubts about Dr.
Kamineni’s opinion. Therefore, the ALJ did not have a duty to recontact Dr. Kamineni for
Based on the foregoing reasons, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
ENTERED this 13th day of July, 2015.
/s/ Andrew P. Rodovich
United States Magistrate Judge
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