United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
ROXANNE L. KNIGHT,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
DENNIS H. INMAN, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge, under the standing orders of the Court and 28 U.S.C. § 636 for a report and recommendation. The plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act was administratively denied following a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ["ALJ"]. The plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 10], while the defendant Commissioner has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 14].
The sole function of this Court in making this review is to determine whether the findings of the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence in the record. McCormick v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 861 F.2d 998, 1001 (6th Cir. 1988). "Substantial evidence" is defined as evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the challenged conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971). It must be enough to justify, if the trial were to a jury, a refusal to direct a verdict when the conclusion sought to be drawn is one of fact for the jury. Consolo v. Federal Maritime Commission, 383 U.S. 607 (1966). The Court may not try the case de novo nor resolve conflicts in the evidence, nor decide questions of credibility. Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984). Even if the reviewing court were to resolve the factual issues differently, the Commissioner's decision must stand if supported by substantial evidence. Liestenbee v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 846 F.2d 345, 349 (6th Cir. 1988). Yet, even if supported by substantial evidence, "a decision of the Commissioner will not be upheld where the SSA fails to follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial right." Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007).
Plaintiff was 47 years of age, a "younger" individual, at the time of the alleged onset of disability, March 7, 2010. No one disputes that the plaintiff cannot return to her past relevant work. She has a high school education. To obtain benefits, she must establish that she was disabled prior to the expiration of her insured status on December 31, 2014.
The medical record is accurately summarized in the defendant's brief as follows:
In August 2009, Plaintiff saw an advanced practice nurse at the Tennessee Department of Health and requested to transition off of an insulin pump and back to insulin injections (Tr. 200-01). A physical examination was normal except for some irregularities with her thyroid (Tr. 200). In a blood test, Plaintiff's hemoglobin A1c level (HbA1c) was 6.8 (Tr. 178). The report indicates that the American Diabetes Association recommends a level of less than 7.0 for adults with diabetes (Tr. 178). Plaintiff's glucose serum level was "low" at 54 (Tr. 179).
The next month, Plaintiff saw Joanne Langton, M.D., for a follow-up appointment (Tr. 167-68). Plaintiff reported never having blurred vision or loss of vision (Tr. 169). She also reported no history of numbness or tingling (Tr. 169). Dr. Langton prescribed insulin injections (Tr. 168).
In November 2009, Plaintiff reported an infection in her mouth and draining in her left eye (Tr. 197). An advanced practice nurse noted that Plaintiff's diabetes was "running better now" than when she used an insulin pump (Tr. 197). Aside from the mouth and eye infections, a physical examination was normal (Tr. 197). The advanced practice nurse described Plaintiff'sdiabetes as "stable" (Tr. 198).
Plaintiff still reported an eye infection in February 2010 (Tr. 195). A physical examination of her arms and legs was normal (Tr. 195). Plaintiff's HbA1C was 6.7 and her glucose serum level was "high" at 195 (Tr. 176-77).
In April 2010, except for Plaintiff's eye infection, a physical examination was normal (Tr. 192). An advanced practice nurse described Plaintiff's diabetes as "stable" (Tr. 193).
Three months later, in July 2010, Plaintiff reported that her blood sugar fluctuated (Tr. 189). A physical examination was normal (Tr. 189). Her HbA1c was 7.2 and her glucose serum level was "high" at 205 (Tr. 174-75).
In October 2010, Plaintiff complained of pain in her feet and legs (Tr. 186). She said she had twisted her right ankle eight months earlier, which was painful with walking and range of motion (Tr. 186). Her HbA1c was 7.1 (Tr. 173).
Plaintiff saw Marianne Filka, M.D., in January 2011 for an evaluation of her gait and right hand grip strength (Tr. 204-06). Plaintiff reported that carpal tunnel syndrome caused her to drop things with her right hand (Tr. 204). She said she did not have any pain and did not wear a splint (Tr. 204). On examination, Plaintiff walked with a normal gait without using any assistive device (Tr. 205). She had full range of motion in both wrists and in all the fingers of both hands (Tr. 205). On grip strength testing, she showed 55 pounds of grip strength on the left and 10 pounds on the right (Tr. 205).
In February 2011, Plaintiff complained at the Tennessee Department of Health of low blood sugar in the morning (Tr. 213-14). Other than dry skin and a nail fungus on her right big ...