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Rideout v. Soul

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

September 10, 2019

ANDREW M. SAUL, [1]Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Crenshaw, Chief Judge



         To: The Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief United States District Judge

         Pending before the court is Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 19), to which Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) filed a response (Docket Entry No. 22). Plaintiff has filed a reply to Defendant's response. (Docket Entry No. 23). Upon consideration of the parties' filings and the transcript of the administrative record (Docket Entry No. 12), [2] and for the reasons given herein, the Magistrate Judge RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's motion for judgment be DENIED and that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.


         Plaintiff, Charles Allen Rideout, filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act on January 27, 2015, alleging disability onset as of July 1, 2013, due to type 2 diabetes, ADHD, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. (Tr. 12, 44, 145). Plaintiff's claim was denied at the initial level on July 1, 2015, and on reconsideration on December 29, 2015. (Tr. 12, 79, 83). Plaintiff subsequently requested de novo review of his case by an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 12, 89, 91). The ALJ heard the case on July 19, 2017, when Plaintiff appeared with counsel and gave testimony. (Tr. 12, 24-39). Testimony was also received by a vocational expert. (Tr. 39-40). At the conclusion of the hearing, the matter was taken under advisement until January 9, 2018, when the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 12-19). That decision contains the following enumerated findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2013, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. The claimant has the following medically determinable impairments: obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes mellitus type II, degenerative disc disease, hyperlipidemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, hyperlipidemia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety (20 CFR 404.1521 et seq.).
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that has significantly limited (or is expected to significantly limit) the ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive months; therefore, the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments (20 CFR 404.1521 et seq.).
5. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from July 1, 2013, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).

(Tr. 14, 19).

         On May 14, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1-5), thereby rendering that decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This civil action was thereafter timely filed, and the Court has jurisdiction. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         The following summary of the medical record is taken from the ALJ's decision:

The claimant was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, sleep apnea, and ADHD several years before the alleged onset date and continued to work despite the conditions (Ex. 4F/2-3). In November of 2013, Robert Mangialardi, MD, confirmed obstructive sleep apnea, controlled with CPAP (Ex. 1F/2). In April of 2015, Murail Kolli, MD, confirmed unspecified chest pain, generalized hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), intermediate coronary syndrome, diabetes without complication, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), and history of abdominal aortic aneurysm (Ex. 2F/1). Dr. Kolli found the hypertension to be well-controlled on medication (Ex. 2F/7). In May of 2015, Dr. Hanket found the claimant's anxiety to be mainly in remission with treatment (Ex. 4F/4). Through most of 2015, Deepinder Bal, MD, reported that hypertension and hyperlipidemia were controlled or at goal (Ex. 5F/2). The claimant generally only attended annual physical exams without need for condition management (Ex. 9F/23). In 2016, Dr. Ball generally found the claimant to be doing well on medications (Ex. 9F/27). There were no hospitalizations for uncontrolled blood sugar or heart complaints. The observations of treating physicians, the extremely conservative medical management of conditions, and the lack of emergency or intensive medical care do not support more than minimal limitations.
The medical images and laboratory findings do not show at least minimal limitations (20 CFR 404.1512(b); 404.1529(c); SSR 16-3p, 96-8p).In April of 2015, EKGs showed asymptomatic right bundle branch block. Cardiac enzymes and chest x-rays were normal (Ex. 2F/5). A stress test showed no ischemic changes, adequate blood pressure and heart rate response, and low risk for cardiac chest pain due to unremarkable results (Ex. 2F/26). In October of 2016, a CT scan of the abdomen showed small inguinal hernias, multilevel degenerative changes, severe central canal stenosis at two levels, moderate canal stenosis at one level, minimal atherosclerotic disease in the abdominal aorta, and otherwise normal organs and bony structures (Ex. 7F/23). In October of 2016, a colonoscopy showed minimal diverticulosis (Ex. 9F/5-6). Pelvis ultrasound showed moderate post-void residual in the urinary bladder (Ex. 9F/10). The negative tests, the mild symptoms associated with findings (reviewed below), and the incidental findings without objective clinical signs (reviewed below) do not support more than minimal physical limitations.
The clinical signs[FN1] do not show significant limitations (20 CFR 404.1529(c); SSR 16-3p; 96-8p). In 2013, Dr. Mangialardi reported a completely normal physical examination aside from obesity (Ex. lF/3). In April of 2015, the claimant appeared at the emergency department with epigastric and chest pain with some nausea. Dr. Kolli linked symptoms to GERD, which abated with medication. Hospital physicians noted obesity with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 but otherwise reported normal physical exams with negative cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, neurological, and musculoskeletal signs (Ex. 2F/6, 17). Post hospitalization, Dr. Kolli reported normal physical exams except for asymptomatic hyperlipidemia (Ex. 3F/1). From the alleged onset date through October of 2016, Deepinder Bal, MD, reported obesity (BMI in the 30s), elevated triglycerides, and elevated blood sugars depending on dietary and medication compliance. Regardless of blood sugar and cholesterol, Dr. Bal recorded grossly normal physical examinations with no objective deficit of functioning in any body system (Ex. 5F). In 2016, ED physicians noted one instance of subjective abdominal pain, one instance of earache, and obesity but otherwise normal physical exams with intact motor strength in all extremities, gait, ambulation, and neurological signs (Ex. 7F; 8F). Dr. Bal noted improving obesity, mildly elevated blood pressure, one instance of ...

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