Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Washington v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 14, 2017

KRISELDA JEAN SCRUGGS WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Kriselda Jean Scruggs Washington's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record (Doc. No. 16), to which Defendant Social Security Administration (SSA) has responded (Doc. No 21). Plaintiff filed a reply to the SSA's response. (Doc. No. 22.) Upon consideration of the parties' briefs and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc. No. 11), [1] and for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment will be DENIED and the decision of the SSA will be AFFIRMED.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act on August 12, 2009, [2] alleging disability onset as of August 12, 2009, due to severe depression, bipolar disorder and memory loss. (Tr. 135.) Her claim to benefits was denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review. Plaintiff subsequently requested de novo review of her case by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). ALJ Scott C. Shimer heard the case on September 1, 2011, when Plaintiff appeared with counsel and gave testimony. (Tr. 27-47.) Testimony was also received from an impartial vocational expert. (Id.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until November 21, 2011, when ALJ Shimer issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 10-23.) That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 12, 2009, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease (left shoulder); bipolar disorder; and a history of polysubstance abuse, and osteoarthritis (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) which includes the ability to lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk 6 hours out of 8 hours; and sit 6 hours out of 8 hours. The claimant is restricted to simple routine repetitive tasks. She can have occasional contact with the public. Workplace changes should be gradual and infrequent and she may require infrequent direct non-confrontational supervision. She is also restricted from work involving production rate, pace, and/or assembly line work.
5. The evidence establishes the claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant, born on February 10, 1966, was 43 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was protectively filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has a limited (11th grade) education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and 416.969(a)).
10. The claimant has not been under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act since August 12, 2009, the date the application was protectively filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).

(Tr. 12-14, 18-19.)

         On June 17, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of ALJ Shimer's decision (Tr. 1-6), thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the SSA. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). If ALJ Shimer's findings are supported by substantial evidence based on the record as a whole, then those findings are conclusive. Id.

         II. Prior Claim and Finding

          Prior to filing the application for SSI that is the subject of the instant case, Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act and an application for SSI under Title XVI of the Social Security Act on September 27, 2006. In both applications Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of June 1, 1992. Both applications were denied at the initial and reconsideration stages of state agency review. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested de novo review of her case by an ALJ. The prior ALJ, John R. Daughtry, heard the case on June 16, 2009. Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing, as did Kenneth Anchor, an impartial vocational expert.[3] At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until July 29, 2009, when ALJ Daughtry issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 51-63.)

         In his written decision, ALJ Daughtry stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) which includes the ability to lift and/or carry 30 pounds occasionally and 15 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk up to 7 hours in an 8 hour workday; sit up to 6 hours in an 8 hour workday; can engage in unlimited pushing/pulling and can otherwise perform a full range of light work. The claimant can understand, remember, and carry out simple, low-level detailed directions; can maintain concentration and persistence necessary to perform simple and low-level detailed tasks with normal supervision; no production rate, pace, assembly line work; can have occasional contact with the general public; can interact with co-workers and supervisors; may require infrequent direct non-confrontational supervision; and can adapt to infrequent changes.

(Tr. 55.)

         IV. Review of the Record

         Prior to reviewing Plaintiff's medical records, ALJ Shimer briefly set forth the limits of his review, as follows:

Under AR 98-4, [4] Drummond v. Commissioner of Social Security, 126 F.3d 837');">126 F.3d 837, [842-43 (6th Cir. 1997)], a prior administrative law judge['s] finding must be adopted on a subsequent disability claim barring additional evidence that would support a contrary finding. The Sixth Circuit court stated that “evidence not considered in the earlier proceeding would be needed as an independent basis to sustain a finding contrary to the final earlier finding.”

(Tr. 14.)

         ALJ Shimer then summarized Plaintiff's medical records:

[T]he claimant returned to the Shade Tree Clinic on May 22, 2010, for follow up of right hip pain.[5] She has had two sessions of physical therapy, but was not sure if it was making a difference. She stated Motrin was not helping much and she wished she could get something stronger for pain. She was encouraged to continue physical therapy, as pain appears more muscular than true hip joint pain. She was not to be prescribed narcotic or anxiolytics because of multiple requests for such medications in the past. Exhibit 13F.
The claimant presented to the emergency room on July 19, 2010. She reported being involved in a motor vehicle accident on June 16, 2010, with no initial injury but over the last month, her right hip has been a little sore. She wanted Vicodin that “works” although she complained of mild pain. Physical examination was unremarkable except for mild right hip tenderness in the anterior aspect of the hip. She was neurovascularly intact with no motor or sensory deficits. Impression was sprained right hip. She was instructed to apply ice intermittently 15 to 20 minutes at a time four to six times daily. She was discharged home with a prescription for Tramadol. Exhibit 16F.
The claimant complained to a medical provider at Medical Necessities on October 27, 2010, of chronic pain in her right hip, right shoulder, legs, and lower back. Neurontin was prescribed. X- rays of right and left hip were normal. Cervical spine imaging studies revealed mild degenerative narrowing of the C5-6 disc space with no alignment abnormality. Lumbar spine imaging was normal. Impression was lower back pain - degenerative joint disease, cervical spine -degenerative disc disease, right shoulder - osteoarthritis, and muscle spasms. On November 24, 2010, she stated she was born with bone abnormality and has history of degenerative joint disease. She reported pain worse with prolonged sitting, standing, and lifting associated with numbness and tingling in upper extremities. She stated her medication was not working and Lortab and Soma were given. Examination on December 2, 2010, noted tenderness to palpation in the cervical and lumbar spine with slight decrease in range of motion. There was also tenderness to palpation of the right and left quadriceps and hamstrings and right shoulder with full range of motion. Straight leg raise was negative. She was encouraged to continue Lortab, Soma, and Xanax. On February 12, 2011, she complained of pain in her lower back, neck, and left shoulder. Laboratory testing results showed a positive ANA. Systemic erythematosus lupus was diagnosed with referral to rheumatologist. Lodine was prescribed. Exhibit 12F.
On August 14, 2010, she returned to the Shade Tree Clinic with right hip pain. She stated the pain does not radiate and is not associated with focal weakness, numbness, or paresthesia. She stated physical therapy was not making a difference. She reported having headaches for one and one-half years. She has not really been concerned with them until she saw a commercial on television for Fixodent denture adhesive that described headaches similar to hers. Headaches occur three to four times a week and have not changed in intensity over one and one-half years. Examination revealed pain on flexion and extension of the right hip with tenderness to palpation over greater trochanter and IT tract. She was again encouraged to continue physical therapy and instructed to continue Ranitidine and Ibuprofen. Laboratory testing was reviewed on May 28, 2011. The results are not entirely conclusive/indicative of lupus. She is to be seen in the arthritis clinic on June 21, 2011. She stated she was given the diagnosis of lupus two months ago at an outside clinic. She reported aching in her joints and itching throughout her body. She denied skin changes, rash on face, lymphadenopathy, pleuritic chest pain, palpitations, hematuria, and cold extremities. Laboratory testing was ordered to establish baseline. She was given a referral to rheumatology.[6] Exhibit 13F.
Dr. Nick Sowell performed a consultative physical examination for the Social Security Administration on November 19, 2009. The claimant was 67.5 inches tall and 164 pounds. Blood pressure was 115/67. She reported diagnosis three to five years ago of degenerative joint disease of the shoulders and history of multiple motor vehicle accidents and drug and alcohol addiction. She complained of pain in her shoulders, hips, legs, feet, ankles, and back with stiffness. She had no difficulty arising from her chair or getting onto and off the examination table. Gait, station, and mobility were normal. There was full range of motion in all joints. No physical functional assessment was performed. Exhibit 2F.
Non-examining State Agency medical consultant, James P. Gregory, M.D., reviewed the evidence and completed a physical residual functional capacity assessment on January 24, 2010. He assessed the claimant could lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk 6 hours out of 8 hours; and sit 6 hours out of 8 hours. Exhibit 7F. Non-examining State Agency medical consultant, Frank R. Pennington, M.D., reviewed the evidence on May 18, 2010, and concurred with the assessment of Dr. Gregory. Exhibit l0F. The opinions of Dr. Gregory and Dr. Pennington are well supported by the evidence and entitled to significant weight in this decision.
The claimant returned to Mental Health Cooperative on June 17, 2009.[7] She denied auditory and visual hallucinations, suicidal and homicidal ideation, and side effects to medications. Sleep and appetite improved and mood was stable. She was calm and cooperative with good eye contact. She was instructed to continue Depakote and Lithium. Lithium was changed to Seroquel on July 15, 2009, with improvement. A clinically related group (CRG) form was completed on September 24, 2009, reflecting moderate limitation in activities of daily living, interpersonal functioning, and adaptation to change and marked limitation in concentration, task performance, and pace with global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of 45. It is noted that she does not concentrate well when off medications. She complained of increased depression on October 2, 2009, due to being without medications for one month. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.