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Hines v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

July 15, 2015

TIMOTHY HINES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GREG N. STIVERS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Magistrate Judge King's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation ("R&R") (Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation, DN 21 [hereinafter "R&R"]), and the objections thereto by Defendant Carolyn W. Colvin, acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner") (Commissioner's Objections to Magistrate Judge's R. & R., DN 22 [hereinafter "Objs."]). For the reasons stated below, the Court hereby OVERRULES the Commissioner's objections and ADOPTS the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge King in full.

I. STATEMENT OF FACTS AND CLAIMS

Plaintiff Timothy Hines ("Hines") served in the United States Marine Corps from 1986 to 1992, during which time he served in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. (Administrative R. 223, 879 [hereinafter "R."]). Hines then worked as welder for a time, and from 1999 until 2007 drove a truck in various capacities for various employers. (R. 498-505).

On October 22, 2007, Hines underwent a biopsy of the muscle on his left thigh in order to confirm a suspected diagnosis of polymyositis. (R. 652-62). The Department of Veterans Affairs granted Hines disability pension benefits effective November 1, 2007, based on, inter alia, a review of Hines's treatment reports from the Veterans Administration ("VA") from May 5, 1999 through November 19, 2007. (R. 1180-81). The last progress note for that time period contains the following diagnoses: polymyositis, sleep disturbances, essential hypertension, hyperlipidemia, allergic rhinitis, and obesity. (R. 620-21).

Hines applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on November 23, 2007, stating that his disabling condition began on September 1, 2007. (R. 158, 455). His last insured date was December 31, 2012. (R. 161). In a letter dated April 14, 2008, Hines's treating physician, Dr. J. Stephenson, listed 17 diagnoses that applied to Hines and stated: "The total of his medical conditions leave him totally disabled.... [H]is conditions are not expected to improved [sic] significantly over time. He is not a candidate for vocational rehabilitation due to these conditions." (R. 794). Hines's application was denied initially on May 6, 2008, and upon reconsideration on June 25, 2008. (R. 158). Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Kayser held hearings regarding Hines's application on March 3, 2010 (R. 217) and May 25, 2010 (R. 174). On July 1, 2010, ALJ Kayser issued a decision stating that Hines was not disabled. (R. 295).

Hines appealed that decision to the Appeals Council, which issued an order on November 8, 2011, vacating ALJ Kayser's decision and remanding the case back to him. (R. 311-13). The Appeals Council noted that: (1) the decision relied upon the statements of Dr. Melissa Couch, Ph.D., who evaluated Hines's mental abilities (R. 796-802) and made statements inconsistent with her own report; (2) the decision did not address or weigh her detailed opinion; (3) the decision did not include the opinions of two psychological consultants and does not explain why they were not accepted; (4) the decision incorrectly indicated that the VA notes indicated no mental problems, when in fact they did; (5) the decision did not address or weigh the opinion of Dr. Stephenson that Hines is totally disabled, that his conditions are not expected to improve significantly, and that he is not a candidate for vocational rehabilitation; (6) the decision did not address or weigh the opinion of Hines's work abilities given by Dr. Fritzhand, who performed a consultative examination of Hines; (7) the decision did not address "the consideration given to the testimony of medical expert Dr. Cooke"; and (8) the decision did not address or indicate the consideration of "multiple work employability statements in VAMC progress notes that the claimant can perform sedentary work or a range of sedentary work." (R. 311-13).

On remand ALJ Kayser held additional hearings on August 30, 2012 (R. 242) and December 12, 2012 (R. 270). On January 25, 2013, ALJ Kayser issued a second unfavorable decision finding that Hines is not disabled. (R. 158-67). The Appeals Council declined to review ALJ Kayser's second decision. (R. 1-4).

On September 5, 2014, Hines filed his Complaint with this Court. (Compl., DN 1). Following the filing of the administrative record and fact and law summaries from each party (Pl.'s Fact & Law Summ., DN 15; Def.'s Fact & Law Summ., DN 20), Magistrate Judge King submitted a Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation. Magistrate Judge King "recommends that this matter be remanded to the Commissioner for calculation and payment of past-due Title II benefits based on [Hines's] application for Title II benefits filed on November 23, 2007." (R&R 12). The Commissioner objects to that recommendation. (Objs.). This matter is ripe for adjudication.

II. JURISDICTION

The Court has jurisdiction to examine the record that was before the Commissioner on the date of the Commissioner's final decision and to enter a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing that decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), sentence four.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In general, this Court conducts a de novo review of the portions of a United States magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In conducting its review, this Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in ...


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