United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
STASHA G. COYLE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MARK E. FORD, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, Stasha G. Coyle, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), seeking judicial review of a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying her claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (hereinafter "the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(3)(A). In this judicial review, the court must determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
I. Procedural Background:
Plaintiff filed her application for DIB and SSI on November 4, 2011, alleging an onset date of September 28, 2011, due to a bowel obstruction, pleural effusion and an incision on her bowel that occurred during a tubal ligation. (T. 112-118, 119-125) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. (T. 56-58, 59-62, 66-67, 68-69). Plaintiff then requested an administration hearing, which was held in front of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Clifford Shilling, on October 25, 2012.
At the time of the hearing Plaintiff was 26 years of age and had completed the 9th grade in high school. Her past relevant work ("PRW") experience included working as a waitress and a cashier at fast food restaurants. Plaintiff stopped working on August 1, 2011, because she was pregnant with her third child, which she gave birth to on September 28, 2011. (T. 162) Plaintiff has not returned to work.
In a Decision issued on February 22, 2013, the ALJ found Plaintiff's small bowel perforation status post repair and hernia were severe. Considering the residual functional capacity ("RFC"), based upon all of her impairments, the ALJ concluded the Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ determined the Plaintiff could perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §404.1567(b). (T. 15)
Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, but said request for review was denied on January 27, 2014. (T. 1-6) Plaintiff then filed this action on March 28, 2014. (Doc. 1) This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the consent of the parties. (Doc. 6) Both parties have filed appeal briefs, and the case is ready for decision. (Doc. 10 and 11)
II. Applicable Law:
This Court's role is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d. 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). "Substantial evidence is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support the Commissioner's decision." Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000). "Our review extends beyond examining the record to find substantial evidence in support of the ALJ's decision; we also consider evidence in the record that fairly detracts from that decision." Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 617, 617 (8th Cir. 2007). The AJL's decision must be affirmed if the record contains substantial evidence to support it. Edwards v. Barnhart, 314 F.3d, 964, 966 (8th Cir. 2003). The Court considers the evidence that "supports as well as detracts from the Commissioner's decision, and we will not reverse simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion." Hamilton v. Astrue, 518 F.3d 607, 610 (8th Cir. 2008). If after reviewing the record it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ must be affirmed. Young at 1068.
It is well-established that a claimant for Social Security disability benefits has the burden of proving his disability by establishing a physical or mental disability that has lasted at least one year and that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001); see also 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act defines "physical or mental impairment" as "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A Plaintiff must show that his or her disability, not simply their impairments, has lasted for at least twelve consecutive months. Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 594 (8th Cir. 1993).
If such an impairment exists, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has demonstrated that he is unable to perform either his past relevant work, or any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (20 C.F.R. §416.945). The Commissioner's regulations require application of a five-step sequential evaluation process to each claim for disability benefits: (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity since filing his or her claim; (2) whether the claimant has a severe physical and/or mental impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment(s) meet or equal an impairment in the listings; (4) whether the impairment(s) prevent the claimant from doing past relevant work; and, (5) whether the claimant is able to perform other work in the national economy given his or her age, education, and experience. See 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)-(f)(2003). Only if the final stage is reached does the f, act finder consider the plaintiff's age, education, and work experience in light of his or her residual functional capacity. See McCoy v. Schweiker, 683 F.2d 1138, 1141-42 (8th Cir. 1982); 20 C.F.R. §404.150, 416.920 (2003).
III. Evidence Presented:
The medical evidence is as follows.
On September 27, 2011, Dr. Julia Nicholson, with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Family Medical Center (hereinafter "UAMS Family Medical Center") in Fort Smith, Arkansas, performed a tubal ligation on Plaintiff, following a routine delivery, at Sparks Regional Medical Center (hereinafter "Sparks"). According to Dr. Nicholson's records, the surgery was performed and Plaintiff was in stable condition upon her departure. (T. 424-425)
Plaintiff was admitted to Sparks on October 1, 2011, due to a bowel perforation, a urinary tract infection, dehydration and hyponatremia. (T. 230) A paracentesis showed positive brown malodorous fluid and possible fecal contents. (T. 249) Plaintiff was taken immediately into surgery with Dr. Alan Dean Flanagan, where he repaired a small bowel perforation and debridement of her abdominal cavity. The doctors started her on IV antibiotics and placed her in the intensive care unit. According to the records, her acute renal failure improved with IV fluids. (T. 246) A CT performed on October 6, 2011, showed a notable decrease in volume of free fluid in the peritoneal cavity, although there was a persistent moderate volume of free fluid present. There was a small volume of free air within the peritoneal cavity, which correlated with recent open abdominal surgery. The bowel pattern remained nonspecific and was suggestive of small bowel ileus. There had been interval development of increased attenuation of subcutaneous fat most consistent with third spacing fluid, and she had an interval progression of left pleural effusion with consolidative changes of the left lung base. (T. 231, 292, 293) Radiology attempted to drain the fluid under ultrasound, but there were two small pockets of fluid in the pelvis. (T. 310)
On October 7, 2011, Plaintiff had a CT guided paracentesis, and an 8-French pigtail was placed to drain the fluid. (T. 276, 292, 298, 299) She had an acute abdominal series on October 9, 2011, which showed a large left pleural effusion. A CT of her chest, abdomen and pelvis showed, a large left pleural effusion with midline shift towards the right and consolidation of the left lung, extending to the left hilar region. (T. 231, 297) A CT of the abdomen and pelvis showed residual fluid in the right subhepatic region, also in the pelvis superior and anterior to the uterus. She had stranding of the fat in the anterior abdominopelvic wall, fluid surrounding the spleen and the upper left quadrant. On October 10, 2011, Plaintiff had an ultrasound-guided left thoracentesis where the doctor drained one liter. Plaintiff continued to improve. (T. 311) Plaintiff had a chest tube placed to release the gas. (T. 231, 295, 296) A liver abscess was drained on October 15, 2011 and two residual abscesses were drained on October 21, 2011. (T. 231, 299, 300, 301, 302)
Dr. Raed Khairy, specialist in infectious diseases with Sparks, was brought in to consult. Plaintiff had a positive culture for Enterococcus faecalis from a perihepatic abscess. Dr. Khairy, noted that Plaintiff also had a moderate growth of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ("MRSA"), which was growing from the peritoneal fluid area. Her Enterococcus faecalis was resistant to Rifampin intermediate to Erythromycin, otherwise it was sensitive to Penicillin, Ampicillin and Vancomycin. (T. 434) During his consultation, he observed Plaintiff to be very tearful and depressed throughout his interview. Dr. Khairy suggested a general surgeon monitor the fluid in her abdomen and the anterior pelvic residual loculated fluid collection to see if the Plaintiff would benefit from further drainage of the fluid collections versus monitoring. (T. 438) He stated it would be difficult to be a medically curable disease without drainage of all abscesses in the abdomen, but would defer this to the general surgery team. (T. 438)
Plaintiff was discharged on October 27, 2011, with the following diagnosis: small bowel perforation, status post repair, acute renal failure, lower extremity edema, malnutrition, anemia and constipation. (T. 230) Plaintiff was discharged on the following medications: Miralax, Slow-Mag, multivitamin daily, Ferrous ...