Kirk W. Stephens, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant-Appellee.
April 21, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. No. 15-CV-00043 -
Joseph S. Van Bokkelen, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, Sykes, Circuit Judge, and Coleman,
District Judges. [*]
Coleman, District Judge.
Stephens contends that he is disabled by diabetes, kidney
disease, knee and back pain, heart disease, high blood
pressure, asthma, arthritis, and obesity. He applied for and
was denied Supplement Security Income ("SSI")
benefits; on review the district court reversed and remanded
for a new hearing. Following the second hearing, a different
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") determined that
Stephens' impairments, although severe, were not
disabling and that he could perform relevant past work. The
district court upheld the agency's decision. We affirm.
was born in 1957 and has a ninth grade education. He worked
as a taxi dispatcher and a security guard in the 15 years
preceding his alleged disability. Stephens has a family
history of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Several
of his family members suffered heart attacks in their
has an extensive history of medical ailments. He was a pack a
day smoker for 20 years, quitting in June 1998. In 1999,
Stephens was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, type 2.
Shortly after moving in with his mother and uncle, Stephens
contracted pneumonia. In 2000, he had surgery to resolve a
problem with "redundant foreskin, " which was not
entirely successful. In 2003, Stephens was diagnosed with
hypertension and was referred for evaluation for chronic
kidney disease. Stephens was also suffering from insomnia,
reflux, and renal artery disease.
2006, Stephens had persistent pain in his neck and mid-back.
His body mass index ("BMI") fluctuated from 38.14
to 43.7 between 2008 and 2013, the available time frame.
2009, Stephens was having problems sleeping, causing daytime
sleepiness. Dr. Hector Perez noted "diabetic
nephrology" in August 2009. While examining Stephens for
pain in his left thumb, right shoulder, hips, and knees in
July 2010, Dr. Christopher LaSalle noted the following
ailments: fecal incontinence, insomnia, night sweats, urinary
retention, and sleep apnea. Dr. William Smits diagnosed sleep
apnea and sleep disturbance in August 2010 and sent Stephens
to a sleep specialist, Dr. Sanjay Jain, who performed a CPAP
sleep study. Stephens began with a nasal mask for the CPAP
but switched to a face mask because it was uncomfortable.
October 2010, activity aggravated Stephens' knee pain,
which improved with rest. He continued to suffer from
insomnia, shortness of breath, and urinary retention and
weakness. He also had chronic inflammation of the foreskin
tissue that was unresolved by circumcision in 2000. A second
circumcision to remove the irritated foreskin helped, though
he still had trouble urinating. In November 2010, he under-
went surgery for prostate issues that caused him to take up
to two minutes to void. Following the prostate surgery, his
condition improved but was not completely resolved.
had trouble adjusting to the CPAP, and his insomnia persisted
without regular use of the CPAP. He suffered from ongoing
fecal incontinence, urinary retention and weakness, and
lumbar back pain. Dr. Sanjay Patel noted intermittent
symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease. By November 2012,
Stephens used his nebulizer two to three times a day. Dr. Guy
Asher opined that Stephens' hypertension and diabetes
were causing Chronic Kidney Disease. Dr. Asher also noted
anemia and hyperparathyroid issues.
applied for SSI benefits, asserting a disability onset date
of January 5, 2007. The ALJ considered the application and
issued an unfavorable decision on October 24, 2011. The
district court reversed and remanded for a new hearing.
filed a subsequent application for SSI, and the State Agency
issued a favorable decision, finding Stephens disabled from
the date of his application on March 18, 2013. The agency did
not address the period between January 5, 2007, and March 18,
2013. On September 26, 2014, following the remand from the
district court, a different ALJ held a second ...