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Kells v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 20, 2014

MARY KELLS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. THOMAS MARTEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Mary Kells seeks review of a final decision by defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). In her pleadings, plaintiff alleges error with regard to the Commissioner's decision that she is capable of performing light work. Upon review, the court finds that the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence contained in the record. As such, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

I. Background

Plaintiff's medical issues date back to at least 2009, when she reported to Dr. Mark Neuman, D.C., complaining of neck and left shoulder pain. Dkt. 11, at 4. Over the course of her chiropractic treatment with Dr. Neuman, from June 22, 2009, to June 4, 2010, she was diagnosed with cervical strain, lumbar strain, shoulder pain, and limited range of motion. Dkt. 11, at 4. Dr. Neuman's notes from January 21, 2010, report that plaintiff "responds to manual manipulation to correct misalignments and restore range of motion." Dkt. 10, at 315.

Plaintiff reported to Dr. Jeremy Roderick, D.O., on March 1, 2010, for care related to diabetes and hypertension. Dkt. 10, at 320. She returned to Dr. Roderick on April 9, 2010, for follow-up, and again on May 28, 2010, to discuss depression, shoulder pain, and hip pain that she said worsens when she rides her boyfriend's motorcycle. Dkt. 10, at 317-18. Dr. Roderick's records from May 28, 2010, assessed plaintiff with myalgias, depression, and osteoarthritis but did not order an orthopedic evaluation. Dkt. 10, at 317. On August 17, 2010, MRI testing revealed a small amount of fluid in both hip joint spaces but otherwise normal findings with no evidence of bone edema, trapping of the sciatic nerve, or muscular abnormalities. Dkt. 10, at 351.

On August 26, 2010, plaintiff was examined by George W. Stern, Ph.D., on behalf of Disability Determination Services. Dr. Stern noted insufficient evidence to make a medical determination as to Plaintiff's mental health. Dkt. 10, at 359. Plaintiff returned to Dr. Roderick on September 13, 2010, and received a Kenalog injection in her right knee following x-ray results that were "essentially normal with osteoarthritis noted in the left medial joint." Dkt. 10, at 375. The same visit noted normal lung function without wheezes or rales rhonchi. Dkt. 10, at 375.

On December 29, 2010, plaintiff was examined by Michael H. Schwartz, Ph.D., on behalf of Disability Determination Services. Dkt. 10, at 383-85. Schwartz concluded that plaintiff's depression was controlled with medication and that she had no severe problems with cognition, memory, or emotions which would prevent her from working. Dkt. 10, at 384-85.

On February 15, 2011, Dr. James P. Cole, M.D., performed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment and opined that plaintiff had no exertional limitations, could never climb ropes, could occasionally climb ladders or scaffolds, had limited reach in all directions, and had no visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. Dkt. 10, at 386-91.

On March 22, 2011, Darrell Snyder, Ph.D., completed a Psychiatric Review Technique of plaintiff on behalf of Disability Determination Services. Dkt. 10, at 399. Dr. Snyder opined moderate limitations resulting from major depression and dysthymia with pain.

On November 22, 2011, Dr. Roderick completed a Medical Source Statement- Physical ("MSSP") and a Medical Source Statement-Mental ("MSSM") related to plaintiff's claim. Dkt. 10, at 426-28, 435-37. Dr. Roderick's MSSP opined that plaintiff could frequently lift or carry up to five pounds, occasionally lift or carry up to ten pounds, stand or walk continuously for thirty minutes, stand or walk for three hours throughout an eight-hour day, sit continuously for thirty minutes, sit for four hours throughout an eight-hour day, and was limited in push and/or pull by pain in her shoulders. Dkt. 10, at 436. Dr. Roderick's MSSP also opined that plaintiff could never climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; could occasionally reach, handle, see with far acuity, and see with depth perception; and could frequently finger, feel, see with near acuity, speak, and hear. Dkt. 10, at 437. Dr. Roderick also opined that plaintiff should avoid any exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, weather, wetness or humidity, dust, or fumes, and should avoid moderate exposure to vibration, hazards, and heights. Dkt. 10, at 437. Dr. Roderick concluded his MSSP by noting that plaintiff suffered from pain that would require her to lie down during an eight-hour work day and that she "is using occasional narcotics which would impair [her] judgment." Dkt. 10, at 437. Dr. Roderick's MSSM opined marked limitations on plaintiff's ability to perform activities within a schedule, be punctual, regularly attend work, and complete a workday and workweek without interruption from psychological symptoms. Dkt. 10, at 427-28. Dr. Roderick also opined moderate limitations in plaintiff's ability to concentrate, sustain a routine, work with others without being distracted by them, interact appropriately in public, accept instruction and criticism from supervisors, get along with co-workers, respond appropriately to changes in the work setting, travel in unfamiliar places or use public transportation, and set realistic goals or make plans independently of others. Dkt. 10, at 427-28.

On January 12, 2012, plaintiff was treated by Stacy A. Geil, A.P.R.N., M.S., apparently to continue treatment for the conditions previously handled by Dr. Roderick. Dkt. 10, at 440. Geil completed a MSSP for plaintiff's claim on May 23, 2012, wherein she opined that plaintiff could frequently lift or carry less than five pounds, occasionally lift or carry up to five pounds, stand or walk continuously for one hour, stand or walk for two hours throughout an eight-hour day, sit continuously for three hours, sit for four hours throughout an eight-hour day, and was limited in push or pull "for extent of time." Dkt. 10, at 447. Geil opined limitations in plaintiff's ability to stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, but did not indicate the extent of those limitations[1]. Dkt. 10, at 448. Geil opined that plaintiff should avoid any exposure to extreme cold and moderate exposure to wetness or humidity and vibrations; that plaintiff suffered pain that would require her to lie down for two to four hours of an eight-hour work day; and that plaintiff took medication that sometimes made her tired. Dkt. 10, at 448.

Plaintiff filed for DIB on March 25, 2010, alleging onset of disability on April 30, 2009. Dkt. 11, at 2. Plaintiff's application was denied on August 27, 2010, and again upon reconsideration on March 24, 2011. Dkt. 11, at 2. Plaintiff filed a request for hearing on April 19, 2011, and appeared via video at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on June 13, 2012. Dkt. 10, at 16. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 23, 2012. Dkt. 10, at 16-30. The ALJ concluded that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of type I diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis ("RA"), osteoarthritis of the right knee, obesity, and an affective disorder diagnosed as both major depression and dysthymic disorder. Dkt. 10, at 18. The ALJ determined that plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment, that plaintiff's residual functioning capacity ("RFC") allowed her to perform limited light work, and that she was unable to perform past relevant work. Dkt. 10, at 19, 21, 28. The ALJ specifically determined that:

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) in that the claimant can occasionally lift and/or carry 20 pounds, frequently lift and/or carry 10 pounds, stand and/or walk (with normal breaks) for a total of about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, sit (with normal breaks) for a total of about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. She can frequently push and/or pull with the upper and lower extremities. She can frequently balance, stoop, and crouch. She can occasionally kneel, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs, but must avoid climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant can occasionally reach overhead. She can frequently finger, handle and reach in other directions. She must avoid concentrated exposure to dangerous machinery, unprotected heights, cold temperature extremes and vibration. The claimant can perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks that are not performed in a fast-paced production environment or as an integral part of a team.

Dkt. 10, at 21. The ALJ further concluded that plaintiff was not disabled because, considering her age, education, work experience, and RFC, she can perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Dkt. 10, at 28. Plaintiff timely ...


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