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Riddle v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

February 25, 2015

JOANNA MARIA SMITH RIDDLE,
v.
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. ยง 636 for a report and recommendation. Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income were administratively denied after a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ["ALJ"]. The plaintiff has filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. 13]. The defendant Commissioner has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 15].

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 53 years of age at the time of her alleged onset of disability on November 24, 2010. She is presently 57, having been born on April 30, 1957.

Plaintiff's medical history is partially set forth in the Commissioner's brief as follows:

Plaintiff received treatment in 2010 at the Church Hill Health Department (Church Hill) (Tr. 257-64). In September 2010, Plaintiff reported fibromyalgia pain in her back, hips, thighs, and shoulders (Tr. 255-56). Except for reduced range of motion in the low back, a physical examination was normal (Tr. 255).
Later in September 2010, Plaintiff requested medication refills and reported that her fibromyalgia pain was worse (Tr. 253-54). She complained of muscle aches and joint pain and said stood all day at work as a cashier (Tr. 253). On examination, she displayed tender points in her back, neck, and hips (Tr. 253). The next month, Plaintiff continued to report depression and musculoskeletal pain (Tr. 249-50). A physical examination was normal (Tr. 249).
In November 2010, Plaintiff fell while stepping out of a Jacuzzi tub (Tr. 247). She ultimately admitted that she fell on purpose in order to give her a "better work excuse" than depression (Tr. 228, 248). On examination, Plaintiff was crying and appeared "stressed out" (Tr. 247). She was sent to the emergency room, where she appeared tearful but denied thoughts of suicide (Tr. 224-25, 248). A physical examination and a right arm x-ray were normal (Tr. 225-26).
The next month, Plaintiff was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and received a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of 45 (Tr. 228). Plaintiff said she had been struggling to go to work "for some [time]" due to anxiety and difficulty dealing with people (Tr. 228).
Later in December 2010, Plaintiff went to Frontier Health for mental health treatment (Tr. 227, 234-36). She reported depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia pain (Tr. 227). On examination, Plaintiff's memory, insight, and judgment were intact, and she did not appear to be psychotic (Tr. 235). She appeared depressed and received a GAF score of 55 (Tr. 235). Plaintiff received medication for depression and insomnia (Tr. 235).
In March 2011, Plaintiff returned to Frontier Health for medication management (Tr. 232-33). She denied depression, sadness, and crying spells, and said she did not have anxiety or panic attacks (Tr. 232). On examination, her mood was euthymic and her affect was normal (Tr. 232). Plaintiff's medications were adjusted to treat a complaint of insomnia (Tr. 232).
Later that month, at Church Hill, Plaintiff sought treatment for an ear ache and sore throat (Tr. 244-45). She also reported that her fibromyalgia and arthritis pain was worse, and she indicated that she was seen at Frontier Health for this (Tr. 245).
Plaintiff returned to Frontier Health in June 2011 for medication management (Tr. 230-31). She reported taking her medications as prescribed, and she denied any untoward side effects (Tr. 230). She denied depression, sadness, crying spells, and she denied anxiety and panic attacks (Tr. 230). She said she had been sleeping well with her adjusted medications (Tr. 230). She reported pain from fibromyalgia and arthritis, and she said she did not "have any energy, " which she attributed to fibromyalgia (Tr. 230). On examination, she appeared to be in pain and her mood appeared dysphoric (Tr. 230).
The next week, at Church Hill, Plaintiff asked to be rechecked for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus (Tr. 241). She also reported fatigue, cramping, worsening fibromyalgia, and pain knots in her joints (Tr. 241). On examination, Plaintiff had mildly reduced range of motion in her hands and back, as well as swelling in the joints of both hands (Tr. 241). Later that month, Plaintiff reported that she was still depressed ...

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