JARVIS v. COLVIN
ENTRY on Judicial Review. For the reasons set forth in this Entry, the final decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED. Mr. Jarvis's appeal is DISMISSED (See Entry). Copy to Plaintiff via U.S. Mail. Signed by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt on 8/5/2015.(MAC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration,
Case No. 1:14-cv-00651-TWP-MJD
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
Plaintiff Brent Jarvis (“Mr. Jarvis”) requests judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying his
application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Act.1 For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner.
On September 20, 2011, Mr. Jarvis filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging a disability
onset date of September 2, 2011, due to back pain, depression, diabetes, and a learning disorder.
His claims initially were denied on February 7, 2012, and again on reconsideration on February
28, 2012. Mr. Jarvis filed a written request for a hearing on March 14, 2012. On June 24, 2013,
a hearing was held via video conference before Administrative Law Judge Frederick C. Michaud
In general, the legal standards applied are the same regardless of whether a claimant seeks Disability Insurance
Benefits or Supplemental Security Income. However, separate, parallel statutes and regulations exist for DIB and SSI
claims. Therefore, citations in this opinion should be considered to refer to the appropriate parallel provision as context
dictates. The same applies to citations of statutes or regulations found in quoted decisions.
(the “ALJ”). The ALJ advised Mr. Jarvis concerning counsel and asked if he would like more
time to secure an attorney. Mr. Jarvis declined the offer and elected to participate in the hearing
without an attorney. Mr. Jarvis and his mother testified at the hearing, as did a medical expert and
vocational expert (the “VE”). On July 10, 2013, the ALJ denied Mr. Jarvis’s applications for DIB
and SSI. On February 18, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Mr. Jarvis’s request for review of the
ALJ’s decision, thereby making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner for
purposes of judicial review. On April 25, 2014, Mr. Jarvis filed this action for judicial review of
the ALJ’s decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
At the time of his alleged disability onset date, Mr. Jarvis was 31 years old, and he was 33
years old at the time of the ALJ’s decision. Mr. Jarvis attained an education through the ninth
grade at which point he dropped out of high school. Prior to the alleged onset of his disability,
Mr. Jarvis had a diverse history of both skilled and unskilled employment. He has worked as a
horse trainer, carpenter, tree cutter and laborer, and a house mover. Mr. Jarvis asserts that he left
his last employment in 2011 due to its physical nature and his back pain and depression (Filing
No. 13-2 at 41).
Mr. Jarvis has been trying to obtain disability benefits for at least nine years (Filing No.
13-7 at 46). Prior to the applications in this action, he filed another application for benefits in
2010, alleging a disability onset date in 2009. A hearing was held before an administrative law
judge on July 26, 2011. At that hearing, it was determined that, despite Mr. Jarvis’s claim of being
disabled, he was engaged in substantial gainful activity. Mr. Jarvis made over $15,000.00 in 2009
and over $20,000.00 in 2010. Mr. Jarvis did not make it past the first step in the disability
determination (Filing No. 13-2 at 30).
Following his unsuccessful 2010 application, Mr. Jarvis filed his 2011 DIB and SSI
applications that are now before this Court on judicial review. Mr. Jarvis contends that he suffers
from back pain, depression, diabetes, and a mild learning disorder. He is prescribed medication to
manage his diabetes and depression. He also has seen a therapist to help him with his depression
and aversion to other people (Filing No. 13-2 at 42).
Mr. Jarvis states he began experiencing back pain in 1999, stemming from a car accident
(Filing No. 13-7 at 41). Initially, he was able to work and cope with the pain. However, Mr. Jarvis
contends that in 2011 the pain became severe and debilitating. This pain led to an inability to hold
a steady job or work at all.
On March 8, 2011, Mr. Jarvis met with his primary care physician to complete disability
paperwork. Mr. Jarvis complained of hot flashes from his prescriptions, as well as pain in his right
shoulder, wrist, and knee. He also complained of back pain and anxiety. Aside from a limited
range of motion in his back and shoulder and some rattling respiratory sounds in his lungs, Mr.
Jarvis’s physical examination showed no remarkable issues (Filing No. 13-7 at 7).
Mr. Jarvis continued to be seen by medical providers throughout 2011 for bronchitis and
other minor ailments. On September 20, 2011, he was seen in an emergency room for complaints
of knee pain, resulting from jumping off a riding lawn mower two days earlier (Filing No. 13-7 at
15). The emergency room nurse noted that Mr. Jarvis was able to ambulate normally despite the
knee pain. Id.
Mr. Jarvis’s November 11, 2011 complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel
were normal and showed no evidence of diabetes, liver or kidney dysfunction (Filing No. 13-7 at
On December 14, 2011, Mr. Jarvis began receiving mental health treatment at Crestview
Clinic for depression and anxiety. He complained of back pain that prevented him from working,
which led to anxiety and depression. Mr. Jarvis stated that he was worried most of the time, was
restless, and became tired easily. The counselor observed that Mr. Jarvis was alert and cooperative,
and his appearance was appropriate. His speech and thought processes were normal. Mr. Jarvis
complained that he was nervous, but the counselor noted that he appeared calm. He was assigned
a Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score of 60, with problems with his primary support
group, economics, and occupation (Filing No. 13-7 at 24–27).
Two weeks later, on December 27, 2011, Mr. Jarvis met with his counselor and discussed
challenges with being assertive, which led to him being taken advantage of. He reported feelings
of worthlessness and anger. He reported that he would take a three-mile walk when he was angry
to calm down. The counselor observed that Mr. Jarvis appeared to be in no pain or discomfort
associated with his back during the appointment. It was noted that Mr. Jarvis’s mental status had
not changed since the prior counseling session; his mental status was normal, logical, and
appropriate. Mr. Jarvis reported to the counselor that he was at Crestview Clinic to complete
paperwork for disability benefits. Based on observations and Mr. Jarvis’s comments, the counselor
opined that Mr. Jarvis could have been presenting symptoms of malingering in an attempt to obtain
disability benefits (Filing No. 13-7 at 21–22).
During his counseling session on January 10, 2012, it was observed that Mr. Jarvis had
improved with being assertive while remaining respectful. Mr. Jarvis reported that his mood and
feelings were stable. His GAF score improved to 62, and continued problems with his primary
support group, economics, and occupation were noted (Filing No. 13-7 at 19–20).
On January 16, 2012, Mr. Jarvis met with David Orme, M.D., (“Dr. Orme”) for a
consultative internal medicine examination. Mr. Jarvis complained of back pain and depression.
The physical examination resulted in normal findings. Dr. Orme noted that Mr. Jarvis had normal
posture and gait, no inflammation in his joints, and full range of motion in all extremities and the
spine (Filing No. 13-7 at 41–44).
On February 2, 2012, Mr. Jarvis met with Glenn S. Davidson, PhD, (“Dr. Davidson”) for
a consultative psychological examination. Mr. Jarvis reported that he was experiencing anxiety
and depression with occasional anger outbursts. He also stated that he had been trying to receive
disability benefits for approximately nine years (Filing No. 13-7 at 46–48). Mr. Jarvis reported to
Dr. Davidson that he had a mild learning disorder and that he could not spell. The psychological
examination resulted in normal findings. Dr. Davidson assigned Mr. Jarvis a GAF score of 70,
noting questionable reliability because of Mr. Jarvis’s motivation to obtain disability benefits
(Filing No. 13-7 at 48).
At the hearing before the ALJ on June 24, 2013, Mr. Jarvis testified that he could read,
write and do math. He testified that he had not worked for pay since June 2011 because of his
back pain and depression. Mr. Jarvis testified he is reluctant to leave his house without his wife
or mother because of his depression and aversion to large crowds of people (Filing No. 13-2 at
41). He testified that on a good day he can walk about a half a block before it becomes painful, he
can stoop and bend at the waist but it is painful, he can lift twenty-five to thirty pounds, and he can
sit for twenty to twenty-five minutes before changing positions (Filing No. 13-2 at 42).
As part of his daily activities, Mr. Jarvis helps provide daily care for his young son and
daughter. He also does household chores such as cooking meals, cleaning, and doing laundry. Mr.
Jarvis drives, shops for groceries and clothing, and does home repairs and yard work.
DISABILITY AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under the Act, a claimant may be entitled to DIB or SSI only after he establishes that he is
disabled. Disability is defined as the “inability 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). In order to be found disabled, a claimant must
demonstrate that his physical or mental limitations prevent him from doing not only his previous
work but any other kind of gainful employment which exists in the national economy, considering
his age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
The Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis to determine whether a claimant
is disabled. At step one, if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled
despite his medical condition and other factors. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, if the
claimant does not have a “severe” impairment that meets the durational requirement, he is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). A severe impairment is one that “significantly limits [a
claimant’s] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). At
step three, the Commissioner determines whether the claimant’s impairment or combination of
impairments meets or medically equals any impairment that appears in the Listing of Impairments,
20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and whether the impairment meets the twelve month
duration requirement; if so, the claimant is deemed disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the claimant’s impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the impairments on
the Listing of Impairments, then his residual functional capacity will be assessed and used for the
fourth and fifth steps. Residual functional capacity (“RFC”) is the “maximum that a claimant can
still do despite his mental and physical limitations.” Craft v. Astrue, 539 F.3d 668, 675–76 (7th
Cir. 2008) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1); SSR 96-8p). At step four, if the claimant is able to
perform his past relevant work, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). At the fifth and
final step, it must be determined whether the claimant can perform any other work in the relevant
economy, given his RFC and considering his age, education, and past work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v). The claimant is not disabled if he can perform any other work in the relevant
The combined effect of all the impairments of the claimant shall be considered throughout
the disability determination process. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B). The burden of proof is on the
claimant for the first four steps; it then shifts to the Commissioner for the fifth step. Young v. Sec’y
of Health & Human Servs., 957 F.2d 386, 389 (7th Cir. 1992).
Section 405(g) of the Act gives the court “power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript
of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In
reviewing the ALJ’s decision, this Court must uphold the ALJ’s findings of fact if the findings are
supported by substantial evidence and no error of law occurred. Dixon v. Massanari, 270 F.3d
1171, 1176 (7th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. Further, this Court may not reweigh
the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Overman v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 456, 462
(7th Cir. 2008). While the Court reviews the ALJ’s decision deferentially, the Court cannot uphold
an ALJ’s decision if the decision “fails to mention highly pertinent evidence, . . . or that because
of contradictions or missing premises fails to build a logical bridge between the facts of the case
and the outcome.” Parker v. Astrue, 597 F.3d 920, 921 (7th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).
The ALJ “need not evaluate in writing every piece of testimony and evidence submitted.”
Carlson v. Shalala, 999 F.2d 180, 181 (7th Cir. 1993). However, the “ALJ’s decision must be
based upon consideration of all the relevant evidence.” Herron v. Shalala, 19 F.3d 329, 333 (7th
Cir. 1994). The ALJ is required to articulate only a minimal, but legitimate, justification for his
acceptance or rejection of specific evidence of disability. Scheck v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 697, 700
(7th Cir. 2004).
III. THE ALJ’S DECISION
The ALJ first determined that Mr. Jarvis met the insured status requirement of the Act
through June 30, 2015. The ALJ then began the five-step disability analysis. At step one, the ALJ
found that Mr. Jarvis has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 2, 2011, the
alleged onset date of disability. At step two, the ALJ found that Mr. Jarvis has the following severe
impairments: diabetes, arthralgia, and depression. At step three, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Jarvis
does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
The ALJ then determined that Mr. Jarvis has an RFC “to lift and carry 10 pounds frequently
and 20 pounds occasionally; he can stand and walk up to 6 hours out of an 8-hour day and he can
sit up to 6 hours out of an 8-hour day; he is limited to only occasional public contact.” (Filing No.
13-2 at 15.) The ALJ found that the veracity of Mr. Jarvis’s complaints of disabling pain and
limitations was reduced because of the evidence that he had been pursing disability for many years
and still continued to work at a substantial gainful level during that time (Filing No. 13-2 at 19).
Further, medical opinion suggested malingering to attain disability benefits, as Mr. Jarvis made
several conflicting claims to health care providers and the ALJ. Id.
At step four, the ALJ determined that Mr. Jarvis is unable to perform his past relevant work
as a horse trainer, carpenter, tree cutter/laborer, and a house mover because the demands of his
past relevant work exceed his RFC. At step five, the ALJ determined that Mr. Jarvis is not disabled
because there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Mr. Jarvis
could perform, considering his age, education, past work experience, and RFC. The ALJ denied
Mr. Jarvis’s applications for DIB and SSI because he is not disabled.
In his request for judicial review, Mr. Jarvis argues that the ALJ’s decision is not supported
by substantial evidence, and there were errors of law requiring reversal. However, Mr. Jarvis does
not explain any errors of law that occurred. Instead, he asserts that the ALJ failed to look at all his
medical records and consider his medical history dating back to childhood. He also disagrees with
the ALJ’s determination that there are jobs in the national economy that Mr. Jarvis can perform.
Substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision at each step of the disability
determination, including that Mr. Jarvis’s impairments do not meet or medically
equal a listed impairment.
Mr. Jarvis asserts that the ALJ’s decision must be reversed because there is not substantial
evidence to support the determination that his severe impairments do not meet or medically equal
a listed impairment. He contends that he is disabled because of lung disease, bone deficiency in
his legs, a digestive disorder, and diabetes (Filing No. 15 at 1).
However, Mr. Jarvis’s argument overlooks the pages of analysis that the ALJ completed
when reviewing the medical records in this case. The ALJ reviewed and considered the submitted
medical records throughout his decision. He also considered Mr. Jarvis’s treatment notes, doctors’
opinions, statements from Mr. Jarvis and his mother, and evidence of Mr. Jarvis’s daily activities
provided by him and his family. At the hearing, the ALJ questioned Mr. Jarvis about his medical
conditions and limitations and then asked him whether they had covered everything and whether
there were any other things that Mr. Jarvis would like to discuss. Mr. Jarvis testified that they
While considering the medical records, the ALJ emphasized that nowhere in the record did
any physician give the opinion that Mr. Jarvis’s conditions met or medically equaled any listed
impairment. The medical opinions and findings supported the ALJ’s decision. The state agency
reviewing medical experts and the impartial testifying medical expert, Anthony E. Francis, M.D.
(“Dr. Francis”), opined that Mr. Jarvis’s impairments did not meet or medically equal any listed
impairment. Dr. Francis also testified that Mr. Jarvis remained capable of performing a limited
range of light work.
Additionally, the ALJ considered consistent evidence of Mr. Jarvis’s ability to perform
activities of daily living. In a mental status examination performed by Dr. Davidson, Mr. Jarvis
stated that he had no problem cooking, driving, paying bills, or shopping. He bathes regularly,
helps his daughter with her homework and drives his children to and from school. Dr. Davidson
noted that Mr. Jarvis may have a mild learning disorder and anxiety disorder. Dr. Davidson’s
findings were corroborated by the testimony of Mr. Jarvis at the administrative hearing. However,
the ALJ noted that any learning and comprehension difficulties were consistent with Mr. Jarvis’s
ninth-grade level education.
Further, the ALJ considered indications of malingering by Mr. Jarvis. While being seen
for mental health treatment at Crestview Clinic, Mr. Jarvis stated that he suffered from intense
back pain; however, counselors witnessed him leaning back in the chair and rocking back and forth
with seemingly no pain. He also told a Crestview counselor that he walks three miles when he is
angry to calm down; however, he testified at the hearing that he could barely walk a half block
without pain. Dr. Davidson also reported that he questioned Mr. Jarvis’s credibility because Mr.
Jarvis told him that he had been attempting to receive disability benefits for many years. The ALJ
also looked at Mr. Jarvis’s previous application for disability benefits. In that instance, Mr. Jarvis
claimed to be disabled, but he was engaged in substantial gainful employment and earned
approximately $20,000.00, making him not disabled.
Mr. Jarvis also argues the ALJ’s decision was in error because the agency and its doctors
have not reviewed all of his medical records dating back to childhood or heard what his treating
physicians told him face-to-face. Mr. Jarvis states that many of these medical records are
unavailable because the records date back to his childhood or because his past physicians have
retired or died. The Court rejects this argument. As an initial matter, the ALJ is required to
consider Mr. Jarvis’s potential disability only from the date of his alleged onset of disability,
September 2, 2011, to the date of the ALJ’s decision, not the entirety of his life. Further, the ALJ
is capable of considering only the evidence that has been presented. The ALJ bases his findings
on the evidence in the record, and there is no evidence that the record was incomplete. In fact,
when the ALJ asked Mr. Jarvis whether there were any other things that Mr. Jarvis would like to
discuss or cover at the hearing, Mr. Jarvis testified that they had covered everything. When Mr.
Jarvis was given the opportunity to question the medical expert and VE at the hearing, he declined
to do so.
The ALJ considered all of the record evidence when determining whether Mr. Jarvis’s
impairments met or medically equaled a listed impairment. The ALJ properly considered all
opinions, giving those that were consistent with and supported by the record as a whole greater
weight. Mr. Jarvis is asking this Court to reweigh the evidence, but it is not the responsibility of
the Court to reweigh the evidence but rather to ensure that the ALJ followed the proper standards
in reaching his findings and that the findings were supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ
correctly executed his responsibility of making the final disability determination, and substantial
evidence supports his decision.
The ALJ’s determination that Mr. Jarvis is not disabled because there are a
significant number of jobs in the economy that he is able to perform is supported by
Mr. Jarvis’s other argument concerns the ALJ’s step-five determination that, despite not
being able to perform his past work, Mr. Jarvis is not disabled because he can perform jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Mr. Jarvis argues that he is unable to perform
any substantial gainful activity, and the ALJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence to
find that there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy that he is able to perform
(Filing No. 15 at 1).
This argument is unavailing because of the substantial evidence in the record that the ALJ
used to support his RFC finding and subsequent determination that Mr. Jarvis could perform some
work. In determining Mr. Jarvis’s RFC, the ALJ considered the record as a whole, looking at the
medical records and opinions, Mr. Jarvis’s testimony, his mother’s testimony, and his activities of
daily living. The ALJ took into account all alleged symptoms, subjective testimony, and objective
When considering opinion evidence, the ALJ considered the statements from treating and
examining physicians, as well as the opinions of consultative physicians and mental health
providers and the testifying medical expert. The ALJ gave very little weight to the opinions of
Mr. Jarvis’s 2011 primary care physician, Derrick A. Williams, M.D. (“Dr. Williams”), because
the opinions regarding functional capacity lacked any significant objective basis with no medical
support. It was prepared on a fill-in-the-blank form with Mr. Jarvis’s application for disability
benefits in mind (Filing No. 13-2 at 20). No evidence in the medical record supported the opinion
of Dr. Williams, and thus, it was proper for the ALJ to assign it little to no weight in his decision.
Additionally, the ALJ considered the statements of Mr. Jarvis and his mother, Celia Jarvis.
Mr. Jarvis’s mother’s statements were not inconsistent with the RFC findings of the ALJ. She
stated that Mr. Jarvis is capable of cooking, cleaning, home repairs, and yard work (Filing No. 136 at 6–13). She also stated that he had little problem driving, caring for himself, and caring for his
young children. Id. Moreover, Mr. Jarvis’s mother’s statement was corroborated by Mr. Jarvis
himself (Filing No. 13-6 at 14–21).
The ALJ found Mr. Jarvis’s testimony to be internally inconsistent as well as inconsistent
with the objective medical evidence. While his impairments could be expected to cause his
symptoms, the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms were not credible or
supported. As noted above, the ALJ pointed to several instances in the record that conflicted with
Mr. Jarvis’s testimony. He also looked to several opinions of medical professionals who seriously
doubted Mr. Jarvis’s credibility and thought he was malingering (Filing No. 13-2 at 19).
The ALJ gave significant weight to the testimony of the VE when he determined that there
is a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Mr. Jarvis can perform with an RFC
of a limited range of light work. Based on the opinion of the VE, there were over 229,000 jobs as
an assembler in the national economy that could be performed by an individual who has Mr.
Jarvis’s RFC (Filing No. 13-2 at 46). As required for the step-five determination, the ALJ also
considered Mr. Jarvis’s age, education, work experience, and RFC. Substantial record evidence
supported the ALJ’s determination. Having determined that Mr. Jarvis has an RFC to perform
work that exists in significant number in the national economy, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Jarvis
is not disabled.
For the reasons set forth above, the final decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.
Mr. Jarvis’s appeal is DISMISSED.
420 West Fifth Street
Anderson, Indiana 46016
Thomas E. Kieper
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
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