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Christine A. Horan v. Michael J. Astrue

March 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Karen E. Schreier Chief Judge


Plaintiff, Christine A. Horan, moves for reversal of the Commissioner of Social Security's (Commissioner) decision denying her application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act and her application for supplemental security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. The Commissioner opposes this motion.


On June 9, 2008, Horan applied for DIB and SSI. Joint Statement of Material Facts (JSMF) 1. For purposes of her DIB claim, Horan alleged an onset date of disability as November 15, 2006. JSMF 1; Administrative Record (AR) 13. For SSI purposes, Horan alleged she had been disabled since May 18, 2008. JSMF 1. Both claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 13. Horan then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). AR 13. A hearing was held on July 1, 2009. AR 13. During that hearing, the ALJ received testimony from a consulting medical expert, a vocational expert (VE), and Horan. AR 13. Based upon that testimony and the record before him, the ALJ determined that Horan was not disabled and issued his opinion on July 17, 2009. On August 18, 2009, Horan requested review of the ALJ's determination by the Appeals Council. JSMF 2. The Appeals Council denied Horan's request on June 18, 2010. JSMF 2. Horan then commenced this action on July 13, 2010.


Horan was born February 28, 1961. AR 107. At the time of the hearing, Horan was approximately 48 years old. AR 34. Horan completed the tenth grade and later obtained a GED. AR 35. She went on to complete medical assistant training. AR 195. At the time of her alleged onset of disability, Horan held a housekeeping position. AR 191. Prior to that, Horan worked as a waitress.

AR 191.

I. Medical History

As stated previously, Horan alleged a disability onset date of November 15, 2006. AR 13. The records indicate that her first medical visit after this date occurred on February 27, 2007. AR 296. At that time, Horan was being treated for urge incontinence. AR 296. Horan expressed that she was "having some problems with depression" and requested a prescription for Wellbutrin. AR 296. Her medication for urge incontinence was also continued. AR 296.

On May 22, 2007, Horan was seen for an "All Women Count" physical. AR 292. She presented with complaints of knee, back, and cervical spine pain. AR 292. The physician ordered tests to determine the presence of inflammatory arthritic conditions. AR 292. Horan also reported that she had stopped the Wellbutrin as she did not feel it was necessary. AR 292. Nonetheless, a handwritten notation stating "Depression Cymbalta" appears at the bottom of the record. AR 292.

Horan was seen for a follow-up on June 26, 2007. AR 291. According to the record, Horan had been placed on Cymbalta a week prior. AR 291. She stated that she was not sleeping well and requested medication and a prescription for an air conditioner. AR 291.

On August 27, 2007, Horan was examined by Dr. Jennifer May based upon a referral made by Horan's primary physician. AR 269. Horan presented with complaints of pain and a "history of elevated rheumatoid factor and antinuclear antibody test," which Dr. May later referred to as a "slightly abnormal immunologic panel." AR 267, 269. Dr. May noted no evidence of joint inflammation, swelling, redness, or warmth. AR 269. Dr. May stated, "I think this is mainly a manifestation of myofascial pain syndrome." AR 270. Dr. May recommended physical therapy and medication. AR 270.

The next day, on August 28, 2007, Horan was seen by her primary physician for a follow-up for her depression. AR 288. Horan told the doctor that the medication was helping. AR 288. The notes state:

She does feel that it is helping but it is not a cure-all for all the problems going on in her life but at least she does not feel so depressed. She has a little more motivation. Does not feel so hopeless. Does not cry as often. She really does not want to go up higher on the dose at this time.

AR 288.

On September 10, 2007, Horan returned to Dr. May for a follow-up visit. AR 267. At that time, Horan expressed that the pain medication, Tramadol, was not effective. AR 267. Dr. May then prescribed Tylenol No. 3. AR 267.

On November 13, 2007, Horan was seen by her primary physician. AR 286. According to the notes, Horan stated "that the depression seems to be going fairly well, but she has been under a lot more stress lately." AR 286. Her depression medication was subsequently adjusted to a higher dose. AR 286.

On January 8, 2008, Horan reported that she did not see "a huge benefit" to the higher dose of the antidepressant, but that "her depression is improved." AR 284. As a result, her antidepressant dose was lowered. AR 284.

On April 10, 2008, Horan reported that the medication which previously controlled her urge incontinence was no longer as effective. AR 283. The medication was adjusted accordingly. AR 283. No mention was ...

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