United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
S. Krieger Senior United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's
Complaint (# 1), the Plaintiff's Opening
Brief (# 20), the Defendant's Response
(# 22), and the Plaintiff's Reply
(#23). For the following reasons, the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision
of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Ivan Cheasebro (“Mr. Cheasebro”) seeks judicial
review of a final decision by the Defendant Commissioner
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the
Social Security Act. In July 2014, Mr. Cheasebro filed for
SSI, claiming he became disabled in December
2012. (# 16-5 at 147-52).
Following a January 31, 2017 hearing before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”), Mr. Cheasebro received an
unfavorable decision dated June 1, 2017
(“Decision”). (# 16-2 at 19).
Mr. Cheasebro appealed that Decision to the Appeals Council.
However, on June 8, 2018, the Appeals Counsel denied his
Request for Review. (# 16-2 at 1). Mr.
Cheasebro now appeals the final agency action to this Court.
Cheasebro was born on September 15, 1996, thus, he was 17
years old on July 29, 2014, the date the application was
filed. However, on the date of the hearing, he was 20 years
old. (# 16-2 at 49-50). Mr. Cheasebro had
been homeschooled and ultimately graduated from high school
in December 2015. He has never worked. (# 16-2 at
January 31, 2017 hearing, Mr. Cheasebro was advised that he
had the right to be represented by an attorney or a
non-qualified attorney at his own cost. He elected to proceed
without representation. (# 16-2 at 45-46).
In response to the ALJ's questions, Mr. Cheasebro
testified that he became disabled on December 1, 2012 when he
slipped and fell at the Dollar Store and injured his back and
leg. (# 16-2 at 49). Mr. Cheasebro stated
that he lives with his mother in Lamar, Colorado, who is also
unemployed and on disability due to both leg and back pain.
(# 16-2 at 49-53).
2015, Mr. Cheasebro moved from Aurora, Colorado to Lamar,
Colorado. Mr. Cheasebro stated that he started treating with
his current provider, Margaret Loewen, M.D., in September
2016. Prior to that, he was treated by Augustine Obinnah,
M.D., Joshua Norman, PAC, Nicholas Durst, DPT, and Sharon
Headrick, LCSW, CAC-III. Ms. Cheasebro testified that the
only medications he currently takes are over-the-counter
Tylenol and Gabapentin. While he stated that the Tylenol
works 50% of the time and the Gabapentin “works,
” he still has “very bad days.” (#
16-2 at 53-58). Mr. Cheasebro testified that he does
not take any medications for mental health issues. (#
16-2 at 58). As part of a treatment plan for his
pain, Mr. Cheasebro has undergone multiple back injections
and physical therapy. He has had no surgeries but has sought
emergent treatment at hospitals on several occasions.
(# 16-2 at 58-60). Mr. Cheasebro stated that
he uses a cane and just acquired a wheelchair a “couple
of days ago.” (# 16-2 at 60).
Cheasebro rated his back pain as 4.5/5 at best to a 10 at
worst on a scale of 1 to 10. He stated that his back pain
radiates down his legs and is “episodic” and
occurs 5-6 times a day. (# 16-2 at 60-62).
He also testified that due to his pain, he can only walk
20-35 feet, lift two gallons of water, and cannot hold his
arms over his head without numbness. He further testified
that he cannot kneel, crawl, or squat. (# 16-2 at
65-67). Mr. Cheasebro testified that he usually
stays in bed at least 2 days a week due to his pain. When he
does get out of bed, he stated he will prepare frozen meals,
watch internet videos or movies, play video games, and build
with legos. (# 16-2 at 65-82). He further
stated that he has trouble sleeping and wakes up
“constantly” during the night due to the pain.
(# 16-2 at 71). Mr. Cheasebro tries to
assist his mother with household chores but is limited by his
pain. (# 16-2 at 71-77). Further, he does no
volunteer work nor gets any exercise other than walking to
get the mail. (# 16-2 at 77-81).
Court summarizes only the medical evidence relevant to its
decision. The medical records suggest that Mr. Cheasebro had
a fall in December 2011. Treatment notes from 2012 to 2016
document Mr. Cheasebro's ongoing complaints of back and
knee pain. From 2012 to 2015, Mr. Cheasebro's primary
care doctor, Dr. Obinnah, noted “normal”
examination findings, prescribed pain medications, and
administered multiple steroid injections. (# 16-9 at
325-420). In April 2012, Dr. Obinnah noted that an
MRI on Mr. Cheasebro's right ankle was
“negative.” (# 16-9 at 416). In
June 2013, Dr. Obinnah noted that an MRI on Mr.
Cheasebro's right knee was “reviewed and was within
normal limits.” (# 16-9 at 412). In
January 2013, Dr. Obinnah reported that he “discussed
the possibility of psychosomatic issues as a possible cause
of the patient's pain syndrome.” (# 16-9 at
403). In April 2013, Dr. Obinnah reported that he
had an “extensive discussion with [Mr. Cheasebro and
his mother] regarding possible etiologies for his pain since
a lot of his tests so far including the MRIs have been
negative.” (# 16-9 at 395). Dr.
Obinnah opined that Mr. Cheasebro “most likely has
myofascial pain, possibly related to RSD, although the
patient has a more generalized pain situation.”
(# 16-9 at 395).
January 2015, Mr. Cheasebro had another MRI on his back that
revealed “normal” results. (# 16-9 at
339). In July 2015, Dr. Obinnah reported that Mr.
Cheasebro had “no new complaints other than having to
live in his car for the moment due to being homeless.”
(# 16-9 at 325). In 2016, Mr. Cheasebro
attended physical therapy, but the Daily Progress Notes
indicated “very poor participation.” (#
16-7 at 312). In October 2016, Mr. Cheasebro's
physical therapist reported “no appreciable
gains” and recommended he return to his primary care
provider for “consideration of other
interventions.” (# 16-10 at 531-32).
2016, Mr. Cheasebro fell in the shower and sought emergent
treatment for a shoulder injury at the Prowers Medical
Center. (# 16-8 at 322). X-rays were
“normal, ” and Mr. Cheasebro was discharged with
a diagnosis of “left shoulder pain, ” and ...