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White v. Berryhill

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

February 26, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Crenshaw Chief Judge


          Newbern Magistrate Judge

         To the Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief Judge

         Pending before the Court in this Social Security appeal is Plaintiff Evamarie White's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Doc. No. 20), to which the Acting Commissioner of Social Security has responded (Doc. No. 21). Upon consideration of these filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc. No. 18), [1] and for the following reasons, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that White's motion for judgment be DENIED and that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.


         White filed an application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act on August 25, 2012, alleging disability onset as of August 16, 2012, due to uterine cancer, depression, anxiety, diabetes, and asthma. (Tr. 20, 163.) Florida Disability Determination Services (DDS) denied White's claims upon initial review and again following her request for reconsideration. White requested de novo review of her case by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ heard the case on March 28, 2014, in Tennessee, while White appeared with counsel and gave testimony via videoconference from Florida. (Tr. 20, 34-48.) A vocational expert (VE) also testified. After the hearing, the ALJ took the matter under advisement until May 6, 2014, when he issued a written decision finding White not disabled. (Tr. 17-28.)

         On August 19, 2015, the Appeals Council denied White's request for review of the ALJ's decision, (Tr. 1-4), rendering that decision final. This civil action was timely filed, and the court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).


         White, born on August 18, 1960, was 55 years old on her application date and had worked most recently as an accounts payable clerk. (Tr. 20, 147, 219.) She has alleged a number of physical and mental impairments, but her claims of error relate only to her alleged mental health and right upper extremity impairments. (Doc. No. 20, PageID# 454-55.) The following review of the record therefore focuses on those impairments.

         A. Review of the Record

         White summarized the relevant evidence of record in her briefing as follows:

On July 10, 2012, the Plaintiff had a mammogram which showed a mass-like density in the upper outer quadrant of the right breast (Tr. 272). A repeat MRI, dated July 20, 2012 showed similar results, which the radiologist interpreted as normal summation of breast tissue (Tr. 270).
On August 1, 2012, the Plaintiff had a biopsy of the uterus (Tr. 293). On August 12, 2012, the Plaintiff was diagnosed with endometrioid adenocar[c]inoma (Tr. 296). September, 2012, MRI of the uterus showed findings suggesting myometrial invasion (Tr. 295).
On October 23, 2012, the Plaintiff had a total hysterectomy, bilateral removal of ovaries, and pelvic lymph node dissection (Tr. 333).
The Plaintiff also has been having problems with swelling of her right arm and right leg (Tr. 359). Plaintiff has been having a lump under her right breast since 2004 (Tr. 359).
On January 11, 2013, Plaintiff sought mental health treatment complaining of symptoms of depression and anxious mood (Tr. 348). Plaintiff reported symptoms of gastric distress, insomnia, loss of appetite, difficulty with concentration, increased forgetfulness, mind racing, feeling inadequate, increased anxiety when in family gatherings, loss of interest, lack of pleasure, fatigue, lack of energy/motivation, social withdrawal, painful thoughts which often reoccurred as problematic dreams, increased unprovoked crying episodes, excessive worry, unjustified fears, being oversensitive toward the reaction of others, and other problems (Tr. 348). Plaintiff subsequently underwent individual mental health therapy (Tr. 384-389).
On February 28, 2014, the Plaintiff again complained of right arm swelling from shoulder to fingertips (Tr. 390). She was unable to lift her arm and no longer could reach behind her back to wipe after bowel movements (Tr. 390). Exam revealed edema of the right arm to fingertips with decreased strength (Tr. 393). She also had difficulty following her diabetes treatment due to finances and had her blood sugar fluctuating widely from 134 to 415 (Tr. 390). Plaintiff also had an abnormal 10-gram monofilament exam of both of her feet (Tr. 393). Among other things, Dr. Gagliardi diagnosed the Plaintiff with diabetic polyneuropathy, arthritis, adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood (Tr. 393).

(Doc. No. 20, PageID# 455-57 (footnotes omitted).)

         B. ALJ Decision

         The ALJ's decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 16, 2012, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: type II diabetes mellitus; asthma; and obesity (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. 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, ...

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