United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES A. STAMPELOS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Social Security case was referred to the undersigned upon
consent of the parties by United States District Judge Mark
E. Walker. ECF No. 8, 9. It is now before the Court pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the final
determination of the Acting Commissioner (Commissioner) of
the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's
application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pursuant
to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. See ECF No.
1. After careful consideration of the record, the decision of
the Commissioner is affirmed.
Procedural History and Facts
Keica Nell Chapman filed an application for Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) on June 11, 2013, alleging disability
caused by breast disease, depression, anxiety, birth defect
in left hip, and constant pain. Tr. 169. The onset date
was alleged to be June 15, 1999. Tr. 145. The application was
initially denied on September 30, 2013, and upon
reconsideration on November 15, 2013. Tr. 97, 103. Plaintiff
requested a hearing, which was held in Tallahassee, Florida,
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Andrew Dixon, III, on
September 11, 2015, at which Plaintiff appeared with her
attorney, Alan Andrews. Plaintiff, through her attorney,
amended the alleged onset date to June 11,
2013. Tr. 32. Plaintiff and impartial vocational
expert John Black, Ed.D., testified. Tr. 28-60.
hearing, Plaintiff testified that she had not worked full
time for the past fifteen years. Tr. 34. She left school in
eighth grade and did not obtain a GED because, she said, she
could not concentrate. Tr. 36. She testified she has burning
in her hips and tingling down to her toes due to back pain.
Id. It is worse in her left leg, and is a sharp,
stabbing pain like “little needles are being poked in
[her] toes.” Tr. 38-39. She said she cannot sleep well
at night, and tosses and turns and her hip pops. Tr.
36. She takes pain mediation daily but it wears off
and “gets to where it just doesn't help.” Tr.
37. She said she has back pain all of the time and her back
and her hips can “lock up” due to pain when she
is sitting or standing. Id. She testified she has
“been known to have to be put in a wheelchair for two
months.” Tr. 38. She said she can stand for about 15 or
20 minutes and then must start moving and then sit down.
Id. When sitting for less than 30 minutes, she said,
she must change position. Tr. 40. When she shops, she
generally uses a motorized cart. Id. Injections for
pain have provided only short-term relief. Tr. 41. She
testified that she has had two back surgeries-one in 1999 and
one in 2001-and the doctors are considering another surgery.
Tr. 48. She has not had any recent physical or occupational
therapy. Tr. 49.
testified she has urinary problems which, she believes, are
associated with her back pain. Sometimes she cannot urinate
at all and must catheterize herself, up to twice a week. Tr.
42. No. treatment is planned for that condition because the
doctor's bills were too high. Tr. 49-50. She said she is
still having problems with breast pain and discharge, which
affects her ability to reach. Tr. 42-43.
testified that most recently she has been taking Prozac and
Risperdal for her depression and mental issues. Tr. 43-44.
Prior to that she took Paxil and Zoloft but could not
tolerate the side effects. Tr. 48. Plaintiff said her memory
and focus are impaired and sometimes she goes blank and does
not remember what she is doing. Tr. 45. She said her husband
sometimes has to remind her to eat. Tr. 46. She has become
short-tempered and frustrated, and does not want to be around
people, although she does not want to be alone at home and
will call her husband to come home. Tr. 45-46. She no longer
feels comfortable driving to the store and managing her bank
account. Plaintiff testified that she has had no treatment
for any psychological or mental issues because she had no
insurance or money to do so. Tr. 47.
December 16, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff is not disabled and is not entitled to SSI. Tr.
12-22. The Appeals Council denied review on February 2, 2017.
Tr. 1-3. Thus, the decision of the ALJ became the final
decision of the Commissioner and is ripe for review.
Accordingly, Plaintiff, appearing pro se, filed a Complaint
for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381,
et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See
ECF No. 1.
decision issued on December 16, 2015, the ALJ made the
following pertinent findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 11, 2013, the application date. Tr. 14.
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis of the left hip,
status post Paget's disease, anxiety disorder, and
anti-social personality disorder. Tr. 14.
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. Tr. 14.
The ALJ explained that the impairments do not meet the
requirements of listing 1.02 or 1.04 because the record does
not show any gross anatomical deformity and chronic joint
pain and stiffness with signs of limitation of motion or
other abnormal motion of the affected joints, and findings on
appropriate medically acceptable imaging of joint space
narrowing, bony destruction, or ankyloses of the affected
joint with an inability to ambulate or perform fine and gross
movements effectively. Id.
The ALJ also found that the severity of the impairments,
singly and in combination, do not meet or medically equal the
criteria of listing 12.04, 12.06, and 12.08 in that the
mental impairments did not result in at least two of the
following: marked restriction of activities of daily living;
marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked
difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or
pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation. Id.
The ALJ found that the criteria of Paragraph C were also not
met. Tr. 16. At the hearing, counsel for Plaintiff agreed
that none of the alleged severe impairments meet the listing
requirements pursuant to step three of the sequential
evaluation. Tr. 34.
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work, except she claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes,
and scaffolds, but she can frequently climb stairs and ramps.
She is limited to frequent balancing, kneeling, crouching,
and crawling, and occasional stooping. The claimant retains
the ability to reach and to handle and finger objects. She
can tolerate up to occasional exposure to hazards such as
heavy machinery and unprotected heights. The claimant can sit
for 30 to 45 consecutive minutes before standing to relieve
any discomfort. The claimant can stand for 20 consecutive
minutes before having to sit and rest, and walk no more than
10 consecutive minutes before having to stop. Mentally, the
claimant can understand, remember, and carry out simple
instructions as well as perform simple repetitive tasks due
to concentration deficits. She can have occasional
conversations and interpersonal interactions with coworkers.
Lastly, the claimant can interact with the public but should
not engage in any extensive transactions or negotiations. Tr.
As to back pain, the ALJ explained that radiological testing
in August 2013 showed mild disc space narrowing at ¶
4-L5 with moderate disc space narrowing at ¶ 5-S1 and
vacuum disc phenomena. Tr. 17. A consultative examination in
August 2013 by Dr. Victoria Te showed Plaintiff had a normal
gait, normal muscle strength, normal fine and gross
dexterity, and negative straight leg raising. Range of motion
was normal and full. Id. (citing Tr. 308-12). The
ALJ noted that in September 2014, radiological testing showed
disc desiccation and disc space height loss and the L4-L5
disc levels with mild endplate degenerative changes, and a
small disc bulge at ¶ 4-L5 with a small overlying
central disc protrusion causing central stenosis with minimal
bilateral foraminal narrowing and a minimal posterior disc
bulge at ¶ 5-S1. Id. (citing Tr. 356). However,
examination revealed normal gait, no evidence of motor or
sensory deficits, and equal bilateral reflexes. Tr. 17. The
ALJ noted that Plaintiff reported in October 2014 that her
pain was improving and that treatment recommendations were
inconsistent with a disabling degree of back pain. Tr. 18.
As to hip pain, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff had a history of
hip pain and that a physical examination revealed lumbar
paraspinal gluteal tenderness and increased pain with
extension past neutral, and an audible “pop” that
seemed to originate in the hip; however, straight leg raise
was negative and strength was normal; and treatment for hip
pain was sporadic with no treatment after March 2015. Tr.
As to Plaintiff's breast condition, the ALJ explained
that she has had fibrocystic disease with a mammogram
negative for cancer; and records showed symptoms were mild,
with no indication of aggressive treatment measures related
to the breast symptoms. Tr. 18.
As to Plaintiff's mental condition, the ALJ explained
that the records do not show any formal treatment for mental
health symptoms by a mental health care professional; and
noting that consultative examinations diagnosed Plaintiff
with adjustment disorder with sad mood and anxiety,
generalized anxiety disorder, and antisocial personality
disorder. Id. (citing Tr. 323, 435). The ALJ found
that the opinion of Dr. Nina Barnes, Ph.D., that Plaintiff
had no limitations on her ability to understand, remember,
carry out instructions, and interact with others is highly
inconsistent with allegations of disabling mental pathology.
Tr. 19 (citing Tr. 435).
In support of the determination of the RFC, the ALJ cited and
gave great weight to the agency consultative opinion of
Edmund Molis, M.D., that Plaintiff can lift and carry 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; can sit, stand,
or walk about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; occasionally
climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, and stoop; frequently
climb ramps and stairs, balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
Tr. 19 (citing records at Tr. 88-90). Partial weight was
given to the opinion of John Thibodeau, Ph.D., an agency
consultant who opined that Plaintiff could remember and
follow simple and short workplace instructions, work with
others, and maintain attendance and schedule. Tr. 20 (citing
5. The claimant has no past relevant work. Tr. 20.
6. The claimant was 40 years old, which is defined a younger
individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed.
7. The claimant has a limited education and is able to
communicate in English. Tr. 20.
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because
claimant does not have any past relevant work. Tr. 20.
9. Considering claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity (RFC), there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that the claimant can perform. Tr. 20. Based on the
testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff could perform the representative jobs of remnant
sorter, DOT #789.687-146, light, SVP 2, of which there are
30, 000 jobs nationally and 1, 400 in Florida; routing clerk,
DOT #222.687-022, light, SVP 2, of which there are 43, 000
jobs nationally and 2, 400 in Florida; and parking lot
cashier, DOT #211.462-101, light, SVP 2, of which there are
46, 000 jobs nationally and 1, 400 in Florida. Tr. 21.
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since June 11, 2013, the date the
application was filed. Tr. 21.
on these findings, and the reasons set forth in the decision,
the ALJ found Plaintiff is not disabled under section
1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. Tr. 21.
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