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Webster v. Social Security Administration

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

February 19, 2019

JOYA NICKOLE WEBSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Aleta A. Trauger Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ALISTAIR E. NEWBERN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This case was referred to the Magistrate Judge to dispose or recommend disposition of pretrial motions under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). (Doc. No. 4.) Now pending in this Social Security appeal is Plaintiff Joya Nickole Webster's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Doc. No. 18), to which the Commissioner of Social Security has responded (Doc. No. 21). Having considered those filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Doc. No. 12), and for the reasons given below, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that Webster's motion for judgment be GRANTED IN PART, that the decision of the administrative law judge be REVERSED IN PART, and that the case be REMANDED for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. Background

         Webster, who is now 48 years old, suffers from multiple ailments. Chief among them, and most salient to this appeal, are impairments to her left shoulder, left hand, back, and right knee. After two surgeries on her left shoulder and repeated attempts to rehabilitate it, Webster still suffers from shoulder tendinitis and pain that increases with movement.[1] That pain is exacerbated by cervical radiculopathy, known colloquially as a pinched nerve, and cervical spine degenerative disc disease, which causes pain to radiate from Webster's neck into her shoulders and, occasionally, her fingers. Webster's left ring finger has caused her additional pain since it was caught in a door and fractured. Webster also experiences lower back problems, which worsened after a fall. In her right knee, Webster has developed osteoarthritis and chondromalacia, which is inflammation caused by deterioration of the cartilage beneath the kneecap.[2] Two car accidents have exacerbated Webster's conditions. She uses a cane to walk.

         Webster also experiences several other chronic illnesses, including diabetes, obesity, anxiety, and asthma. At the time of her application for benefits, Webster was five feet, three inches tall and weighed 225 pounds. (Tr. 197.) Her doctors have repeatedly described her diabetes as poorly controlled, and Webster takes medications for recurring anxiety and asthma attacks. Webster is a high school graduate who received some vocational training in cosmetology and data entry. She has worked at a call center, in collections, and most recently, as a baby sitter. (Tr. 198.)

         On September 3, 2014, at 44 years old, Webster filed an application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act and a Title XVI application for supplemental security income (SSI), alleging that she has been disabled since June 10, 2007, which is when she stopped working.[3] (Tr. 181, 197.)

         After Webster's claims were denied on initial review and again on reconsideration (Tr. 67, 78, 92, 99), she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) (Tr. 124). That hearing took place on September 21, 2016, in Nashville, where Webster appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 10, 40, 124, 138-39.) A vocational expert (VE) also testified. (Tr. 53.) On December 2, 2016, the ALJ determined that Webster was not disabled at the fifth step of the relevant analysis, finding that, although Webster could no longer perform any of her prior jobs, she had the residual functional capacity[4] (RFC) to do certain low-skilled sedentary jobs that exist in sufficient numbers in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4); (Tr. 19). On November 16, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Webster's request for review of the ALJ's decision, rendering that decision final. (Tr. 1, 169.)

         Webster timely filed this civil action on January 15, 2018, seeking review of the ALJ's decision to deny her DIB and SSI. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); (Doc. No.1). She raises four arguments, all of which concern the ALJ's construction of her RFC. First, she contends that the ALJ did not provide good reasons for declining to adopt the December 22, 2015 medical opinion of her primary care physician, Dr. James Sullivan. (Doc. No. 18-1, PageID# 1714-16.) Second, and relatedly, she argues that the ALJ improperly relied on the medical opinions of consulting physicians who never examined her. (Id. at PageID# 1713-14.) Third, she argues that the ALJ made several other miscellaneous errors in analyzing her RFC. (Id. at PageID# 1721-22.) Finally, she argues that the ALJ failed to properly analyze her credibility. (Id. at PageID# 1717- 21.)

         A. Relevant Medical History

         According to Webster, her pertinent medical history begins towards the end of October 2012. (Id. at PageID# 1707.) From that point through August 2016, Webster repeatedly sought medical attention due to pain in her shoulders, back, right knee, and fingers. She also sought treatment for anxiety and various other medical issues. The summary below provides an overview of the relevant treatment that Webster received for her conditions.

         1. Webster's Left Shoulder

         Webster's shoulder problems began in December of 2012, when she reported pain in her left shoulder. Dr. Vincent Morelli at Nashville General Hospital (NGH) performed an arthrogram and an MRI on that shoulder on December 18, 2012. Both revealed the onset of calcific tendinitis, a disorder in which calcium phosphate deposits accumulate in tendons, most commonly those of the shoulder, causing pain and inflammation.[5] (Tr. 870, 891.)

         That pain continued over the course of the following months, prompting another hospital visit on April 3, 2013, when Webster saw Dr. Ronald Baker, also at NGH. Webster told Dr. Baker that the pain in her left shoulder often radiated down to her elbow at night and that she was having trouble sleeping. She experienced pain during Dr. Baker's range of motion examination. Because Webster expressed no interest in surgery, Dr. Baker proceeded with a conservative treatment regimen consisting of steroid injections and physical therapy. (Tr. 413.)

         Webster was evaluated for a course of physical therapy on April 8, 2013. As part of the evaluation, Webster reported that the pain in her left shoulder was a five out of ten at rest and a ten out of ten when grooming and dressing. (Tr. 929.) The physical therapist concluded that Webster needed help dressing 25% of the time and that she needed help with grooming and housecleaning 50% of the time. (Tr. 930-31.) The therapist labeled Webster's condition severe, meaning that it “interrupts [her] ability to work, eat, sleep, and participate in daily life.” (Tr. 931.) The evaluation concluded with a prescribed course of physical therapy: Webster would have sessions twice a week for four weeks. (Tr. 932.) Webster's goal was to reduce pain for uninterrupted sleep and to increase her range of motion to facilitate daily living. (Id.)

         On April 29, 2014, Webster presented at NGH to establish a relationship with a primary care physician, Dr. Sullivan, and the resident he was supervising, Dr. Sonya Reid-Lawrence. (Tr. 398-99.) Dr. Reid-Lawrence's notes from the appointment reflect that, in addition to suffering from diabetes, recurrent abscesses, chronic heart failure, and osteoarthritis, Webster had tendinitis in both shoulders and exhibited a decreased range of motion. (Id.) As discussed below, Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Reid-Lawrence provided medical opinions as to Webster's RFC in December 2015 and March 2016 respectively.

         By July 28, 2014, Webster concluded that the physical therapy had not helped her shoulder. After receiving a referral (Tr. 421) back to Dr. Baker from Dr. Sullivan, Webster asked to pursue additional treatment. (Tr. 590.) She reported that her pain was worst at night and when attempting to raise her left arm above shoulder level. (Id.) Dr. Baker noted that Webster's range of motion was diminished in her left shoulder and that she had positive Neer and Hawkins impingement signs.[6] (Id.) Dr. Baker concluded by stating that he would “plan for surgical intervention in the near future.” (Id.)

         On September 5, 2014, Webster continued to complain of pain in her left shoulder and stated that she would like to proceed with surgery. (Tr. 1002.) Dr. Baker declared that Webster had “failed conservative [treatment], ” and scheduled an arthroscopic bursectomy and acromioplasty for September 9, 2014. (Tr. 1002, Tr. 589.) That procedure aims to reduce shoulder inflammation by removing a small portion of the acromion, which is a bone that extends over the shoulder joint, and a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that cushions neighboring bone structures.[7](Tr. 918.) Dr. Baker performed the procedure on September 9, 2014, without complications. (Tr. 917-18.) At Webster's post-operation appointment on September 22, 2014, Dr. Baker noted that Webster was doing well overall, although pain limited her range of motion and palpation of the shoulder caused tenderness. (Tr. 422.) Dr. Baker prescribed another course of physical therapy and an anti-inflammatory drug. (Id.)

         Over the next several months, the condition of Webster's left shoulder steadily declined. On February 24, 2015, Webster returned to the hospital complaining of pain. (Tr. 967.) Dr. Reid-Lawrence noted that Webster's pain had worsened over the past month and instructed Webster to continue taking her medications and return for a follow-up appointment in three months. (Tr. 968.) On March 18, 2015, Webster saw Dr. Baker and informed him that, despite having done well with physical therapy initially, she had stopped making progress, and the pain in her left shoulder had begun radiating into her hand.[8] (Tr. 1342.) Dr. Baker's examination revealed a decreased range of motion in Webster's shoulder and decreased grip strength in her left hand. (Id.) He gave Webster a steroid injection, told her to return to physical therapy, and stated that they would take an MRI of the shoulder if pain persisted in two months. (Id.) Webster sought emergency room treatment on April 12, 2015, complaining of a constant sharp and throbbing pain in her left shoulder. (Tr. 1318.) She stated that her pain had increased after her most recent injection and that she was out of pain medication. (Id.) The ER doctor refilled Webster's prescriptions and discharged her. (Tr. 1320.) Webster returned to Dr. Baker for a follow-up examination on May 18, 2015, during which Dr. Baker noted that Webster continued to have pain in the same areas of the shoulder and that that pain increased with cervical range of motion exercises. (Tr. 1297.) Dr. Baker hypothesized that Webster's shoulder pain might be related to cervical radiculopathy. (Id.)

         In June 2015, Webster again sought surgical intervention. Dr. Baker diagnosed Webster with “frozen shoulder and persistent pain” on June 11, 2015 and planned a surgery for July 14, 2015. (Tr. 1278.) On that day, Webster was evaluated before the operation by an anesthesiologist who determined that, given Webster's heightened white blood cell count and recent dental abscess, the surgery had to be cancelled. (Tr. 1269.) Dr. Baker concluded that Webster could return for surgery after being cleared by Dr. Sullivan. (Id.)

         Webster was unable to reschedule the shoulder surgery quickly. In August 2015, Webster slammed her left hand in a door, fracturing her ring finger. (Tr. 1248.) When she saw Dr. Baker on September 2, 2015, she informed him that she recently had six screws put in that finger and therefore wanted “to let [it] heal before proceeding with any type of treatment for her shoulder.” (Tr. 1092, 1095.) Webster was instructed to make an appointment when her hand had improved. (Tr. 1095.) Then, on October 11, 2015, Webster was rear-ended in a car accident, further complicating her recovery. When Webster saw Dr. Baker for a follow-up appointment three days later, her left arm was in a sling and she rated her left shoulder pain a ten out of ten. (Tr. 1224.) Webster stated that she had been unable to use her arm since the accident. (Id.) She also complained of pain and numbness in her left ring and pinky fingers. (Id.) Dr. Baker diagnosed her with a left shoulder contusion and cervical strain and prescribed physical therapy and continuation of her medication regimen. (Tr. 1227.)

         Webster turned again to options for non-surgical treatment of her shoulder. Beginning on October 29, 2015, she commenced another four-week round of physical therapy. (Tr. 1214-18.) When therapy ended on December 17, 2015, Webster still had significant pain in her left shoulder, although it had decreased somewhat. (Tr. 1218.) By then, Webster had also begun experiencing discomfort in her right shoulder.[9] At a November 24, 2015 appointment with Dr. Baker, Webster stated that, since the accident, she had experienced neck and bilateral shoulder pain that radiated into her fingers. (Tr. 1195.) Range of motion exercises confirmed that pain. (Tr. 1198.) Dr. Baker ordered an MRI of the neck and cervical spine and prescribed additional physical therapy. (Id.)

         On January 26, 2016, Webster saw Dr. Reid-Lawrence for a routine follow-up and complained of worsening left shoulder pain that had been limiting her daily activities. Webster reported that the pain was “6/10, constant, worse with movement and partially relieved by [L]ortab.” (Tr. 1168.) Dr. Sullivan ordered an MRI of the left shoulder, which took place on February 10, 2016. (Tr. 1166.) The MRI revealed a “[n]ear complete tear of the distal supraspinatus tendon” and “[m]ild osteoarthritis of the acromioclavicular joint with effacement of the underlying fat.”[10] (Id.) When Webster saw Dr. Baker on March 7, 2016, her left shoulder pain had jumped to a ten out of ten, and Dr. Baker noted that left drop arm was present.[11] (Tr. 1159.) Webster was scheduled for another shoulder surgery to repair the torn tendon and reduce inflammation. (Tr. 1160.)

         That surgery took place on March 15, 2016, without complications. (Tr. 1147.) Dr. Baker began the procedure with an arthroscopic examination, which revealed that the supraspinatus tendon was intact, but that the labrum, which is a rubbery cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket and steadies the ball of the joint, had been torn.[12] (Tr. 1148.) The exam also revealed a bone growth on the acromion. (Id.) Dr. Baker removed the labral flap and the bone growth and finished with a subacromial bursectomy. (Id.)

         Webster's post-surgery trajectory was again characterized by temporary improvement and then decline. On March 30, 2016, Dr. Baker noted that Webster had minimal pain in her shoulder post-surgery and prescribed physical therapy. (Tr. 1614.) Webster appears to have started therapy on April 7, 2016, but never returned for follow-up treatment. (Tr. 1643-44.) In June 2016, Webster started treatment with Dr. Alicia Jackson at Regents Medical Center (Regents) because Dr. Sullivan had retired.[13] (Tr. 1439.) Webster also complained that her shoulder had not improved after two surgeries and repeated efforts at physical therapy and that she no longer wanted to see Dr. Baker.[14] (Id.) In physical examinations on June 6, 2016, and August 11, 2016, Webster reported pain in her left shoulder and in her right shoulder during range of motion exercises. (Tr. 1435-36, 1647-48.) After Webster asked Dr. Jackson for a follow-up MRI of her left shoulder, Dr. Jackson referred Webster to Dr. Jason Haslam. (Tr. 1439, 1451.)

         Dr. Haslam obtained an MRI of Webster's left shoulder on July 8, 2016. (Tr. 1453.) The MRI revealed no partial or full-thickness rotator cuff tear, but Dr. Haslam did find mild tendinitis and blunting of the anterior labrum, “possibly secondary to previous debridement or chronic degeneration.” (Tr. 1458.) Webster received steroidal injections on July 14, 2016, and July 29, 2016. (Tr. 1455, 1458.) Dr. Haslam's notes from July 29, 2016 are the last substantive treatment record relevant to Webster's shoulders in the record. On that day, he noted that Webster's pain was rated a nine out of ten, that overhead motion aggravated her discomfort, and that previous injections and physical therapy had not provided her any significant relief. (Tr. 1453.)

         2. Webster's Back

         In the July 28, 2014 physical examination of Webster's left shoulder, Dr. Baker also found that Webster had paracervical and periscapular tenderness and diagnosed her with mild cervical radiculitis.[15] (Tr. 420.) Dr. Baker prescribed physical therapy for the cervical spine and also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. (Id.) When Dr. Baker saw Webster for a follow-up appointment on May 18, 2015, he found that cervical range of motion exercises caused Webster increased discomfort and ordered an electromyography (EMG) study to determine whether Webster was suffering from cervical radiculopathy. (Tr. 1297.) That study came back negative. (Tr. 1278.)

         But Webster's condition changed after the October 11, 2015 car accident. In a November 24, 2015 follow-up appointment, Dr. Baker observed a further decrease in Webster's cervical range of motion and noted a positive bilateral Spurling's test, which is a maneuver used to measure nerve root pain.[16] (Tr. 1198.) Webster described pain radiating from her neck and both shoulders into her fingertips. (Tr. 1195.) Dr. Baker ordered an MRI of the cervical spine, which took place on December 10, 2015. (Tr. 1080). Reviewing the MRI, Dr. Baker found a “straightening of the normal cervical lordotic curvature” and “[m]ultilevel disc dehydration.” (Tr. 1080.) Dr. Baker referred Webster to neurosurgeon Dr. Douglas Matthews (Tr. 1198), who reviewed the MRI on January 18, 2016 and found a small foraminal disc bulge at ¶ 5-C6 on the left (Tr. 1077). He diagnosed Webster with cervicalgia, cervical disc degeneration, cervical radiculopathy, noted her high body mass index, and prescribed her the same non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.[17] (Tr. 1077.)

         Webster has also suffered from chronic lower back pain. In a December 23, 2014 appointment with Dr. Reid-Lawrence, Webster complained of back pain in addition to shoulder pain. (Tr. 965.) In a follow-up appointment on February 24, 2015, Webster was still complaining of “chronic low back pain, ” which had worsened since she fell one month prior. (Tr. 967.) Dr. Reid-Lawrence noted paravertebral spine tenderness in Webster's lumbar area and ordered an X-ray of the lumbar spine and a refill of Webster's Lortab prescription.[18] (Tr. 968.) Webster continued to complain of lower back pain in medical appointments over the course of the next two years. In March 2015, Webster was still receiving Lortab for shoulder and back pain. (Tr. 1331.) Webster also complained of lower back pain during physical examinations at Regents between June and August 2016. (Tr. 1435, 1438, 1447, 1647.)

         3. Webster's Right Knee

         After Webster complained of right knee pain, Dr. Sabrina Finney of NGH ordered an X-ray of the knee on October 22, 2012, which revealed osteoarthritis but no evidence of fracture or other acute osseous lesion. (Tr. 887.) A December 13, 2012 MRI of Webster's knee confirmed the absence of a fracture and showed all tendons intact. (Tr. 890.) Although Dr. Reid-Lawrence noted Webster's osteoarthritis in April 2014, little appears in the record regarding Webster's knee until 2016. (Tr. 398.)

         Webster's knee pain flared after she was involved in a car accident that occurred in early 2016. In a March 30, 2016 appointment with Dr. Baker, Webster complained of knee pain that she rated a five out of ten and stated that “her right knee struck the dash during the [motor vehicle collision] that occurred several weeks ago.” (Tr. 1610, 1613.) She was using a cane prescribed by Dr. Crystal Bowman on March 7, 2016.[19] (Tr. 1161) and described “being unable to fully extend her knee and experiencing clicking and intermittent locking of the knee” (Tr. 1610). Dr. Baker diagnosed Webster with a right knee contusion and right knee internal derangement with a possible Meniscal tear; prescribed physical therapy for the knee; and planned to obtain an MRI of the knee in four weeks if its condition did not improve. (Tr. 1614.)

         Although Webster appeared for a physical therapy intake on April 7, 2016, she never returned for follow-up sessions. (Tr. 1643, 1644.) The notes from the intake mention that an MRI of the knee was scheduled for May 2, 2016. (Tr. 1639.) Dr. Baker's evaluation of that MRI, which appears to have been his last act as one of Webster's treating physicians, noted small joint effusion, no ligament or tendon tear, and mild fissuring of the patellar cartilage suggestive of chondromalacia patella.[20] (Tr. 1638.)

         Nurse Practitioner Stephen Johnson, who worked with Dr. Haslam, confirmed the diagnosis of chondromalacia after reviewing an additional MRI taken on June 28, 2016. (Tr. 1458, 1461.) On July 14, 2016, Johnson noted that Webster had a normal gait but that she experienced pain in range of motion exercises. (Tr. 1457-58.) He provided Webster with a steroid shot to the knee and a brace and encouraged her to exercise as tolerated. (Tr. 1458.) When Webster returned for a follow-up appointment on July 29, 2016, she reported that, although the knee brace had provided temporary relief, her pain was an eight out of ten and aggravated by bearing weight. (Tr. 1453.) After noting that Webster again had a normal gait but limited range of motion, Dr. Haslam gave Webster another injection. (Tr. 1454.) Dr. Haslam's treatment notes from this session do not mention exercise and instead refer to the prospect of repeat injections. (Id.) In physical examinations at Regents on June 6, 2016 and August 11, 2016, Webster was noted as having pain and limited range of motion in her right knee and walking with a slowed gait with the assistance of a cane. (Tr. 1434-36, 1647-48.)

         4. Webster's Left Hand

         Webster first mentioned discomfort in her left hand in connection with her shoulder pain. On March 18, 2015, Dr. Baker noted that the range of motion in Webster's left shoulder had decreased and that the pain there was radiating into her hand. (Tr. 1342.) At a May 18, 2015 follow-up appointment, Dr. Baker repeated his prior findings and documented decreased grip strength as well as wrist extension on the left side. (Tr. 1297.) On June 8, 2015, Webster indicated that her hand pain had started about six months after her first shoulder operation, that she “ha[d] pain along the left arm with certain movements of her shoulder, ” and that “she can have radiating pain to her thumb and her 5th digit on occasion.” (Tr. 1280.) Dr. Aaron Yang, who was being supervised by Dr. Baker, speculated that Webster's pain might be the result of cervical radiculitis. (Id.)

         Things got worse for Webster's left hand when she slammed it in a door on August 3, 2015. (Tr. 1248.) Webster received treatment at Skyline Medical Center after the accident, where she was diagnosed with a fracture. (Id.) Dr. Baker confirmed that diagnosis in an assessment of the finger on August 10, 2015, and referred Webster to a hand specialist for surgery. (Tr. 1251-52.) The surgery took place without complications on August 19, 2015. (Tr. 1369.) Fracture fragments were elevated, fibrous tissue was removed, and a plate and screws were embedded to keep the repair in place. (Id.)

         Although Webster experienced some pain after the surgery, her finger was healing as expected. At a post-op appointment on August 24, 2015, Webster received instruction regarding home physical therapy exercises and elevation of her injured hand. (Tr. 1365-67.) Three days later, Webster's wounds were noted as being “well-healed” and an X-ray showed “good alignment of the fracture.” (Tr. 1364.) A follow-up exam on September 15, 2015 revealed that, although “[r]egional soft tissues remain[ed] quite swollen, ” Webster's finger continued to heal “in anatomic alignment.” (Tr. 1362.)

         The October 11, 2015 car accident disrupted Webster's healing. On October 14, 2015, Webster presented at NGH with pain and decreased range of motion in her left ring finger. (Tr. 1088.) She was also experiencing numbness in both that finger and her left pinky finger. (Id.) Dr. Baker ordered an X-ray, which showed “[n]o evidence of reinjury or other acute osseous abnormality.” (Tr. 1229.) Webster was still experiencing discomfort on November 24, 2015, when she reported that pain was traveling from her neck down both shoulders and into her fingertips. (Tr. 1195.) As discussed above, Webster was ultimately diagnosed with cervicalgia, cervical disc degeneration, and cervical radiculopathy. (Tr. 1077.) In examinations at Regents on June 6, 2016 and June 20, 2016, Webster showed weakness in both her left arm and hand. (Tr. 1439-40, 1447.) However, an August 11, 2016 exam did not mention any such weakness and noted a normal range of motion in Webster's left elbow and wrist. (Tr. 1648.)

         5. Other Medical Problems

         Webster has dealt with a host of other medical issues. She has undergone operations on her gallbladder (Tr. 423, 902), urethra (Tr. 583, 900), and ankle (Tr. 515), and has had multiple abscesses removed (Tr. 427, 435, 610, 629, 638). Webster's doctors have regularly referred to her diabetes as “poorly controlled, ” and she has been diagnosed with chronic hypertension, obesity, congestive heart failure, renal failure, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and asthma. (Tr. 423, 427, 438, 610-11, 614, 978, 1305, 1345, 1563, 1592.) She has also struggled with anxiety and depression, for which she has been prescribed Vistaril, Buspirone, Xanax, Prozac, Sertraline, and psychotherapy. (Tr. 937, 1101, 1104, 1116, 1120.) Although Webster claims that Adderall relieves her depression, it does not appear that she was ever formally diagnosed with ADHD or prescribed the drug, and a doctor informed Webster in September 2016 that Adderall is not used to treat depression.[21] (Tr. 1657.) Webster's mental health was worst during the several months-roughly, October 2014 through January 2015-when she was hosting her seventeen-year-old cousin and her cousin's one-month-old infant. (Tr. 1106, 1113, 1117, 1120, 1124.) In an April 28, 2016 psychological screening of Webster for bariatric surgery, [22] Webster was noted as having mild depression and anxiety, and Adjustment Disorder with mixed emotional features.[23] (Tr. 1431.) Webster underwent bariatric surgery on September 8, 2016. (Tr. 40.)

         B. Consulting Physicians' Opinions

         Denial of Webster's application for disability and SSI benefits on initial review was based on the January 13, 2015 opinion of Dr. Thomas Thrush. (Tr. 67, 78.) Thrush, a consulting physician for the Social Security Administration who had never treated or examined Webster, noted that she had severe diabetes, hypertension, asthma, joint dysfunction, and anxiety (Tr. 71), and opined that the medical evidence in her file supported the following work-related limitations: occasional lifting and/or carrying of up to twenty pounds; frequent lifting and/or carrying of up to ten pounds; standing or walking (with normal breaks) for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; sitting (with normal breaks) for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; limited left overhead reaching, but unlimited handling, fingering, feeling, pushing, and pulling; and avoidance of concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants. (Tr. 73-75.) Thrush concluded that Webster had the ability perform light work[24] and was therefore not disabled. After Webster requested reconsideration of the initial denial, Dr. Kevin Whittle provided an April 1, 2015 opinion echoing Thrush's conclusion and adopting the same work-related limitations.[25] (Tr. 89-92.)

         C. Treating Physicians' Opinions

         In a September 3, 2015 medical source statement, Dr. Sullivan stated that Webster suffered from congestive heart failure, a finger fracture, and frozen shoulder. (Tr. 1067.) He concluded that Webster could not reasonably be expected to maintain a forty-hour work week given her impairments, which included an inability to deal with work stress or timely complete tasks. (Tr. 1067-69.) He noted that surgery on Webster's “hand and major shoulder” was anticipated and that he would need to reevaluate her status after the surgery. (Tr. 1070.)

         He did so in a December 22, 2015 physical RFC questionnaire in which he stated that he had been treating Webster every three months for two years and that she suffered from diabetes, frozen shoulder, severe cervical radiculopathy, chronic lower back pain, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 1071, 1075.) He noted that Webster had pain on the right side of her neck, in her right shoulder, and in her left shoulder and arm, which she could not lift above her waist. (Tr. 1071.) He also added that Webster had a weak grip. (Id.) Dr. Sullivan provided the following list of work-related limitations:

• No. standing or sitting for more than thirty minutes ...

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