United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES A. STAMPELOS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a Social Security case referred to the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge upon consent of the parties by United
States District Judge Robert L. Hinkle. ECF No. 10. It is now
before the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for
review of the final determination of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff's
applications for a period of disability and Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social
Security Act (Act) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
under Title XVI of the Act. After careful consideration of
the record, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.
Procedural History and Facts
February 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed an application with the
Social Security Administration for a period of disability and
Disability Insurance Benefits pursuant to Title II of the
Social Security Act. Tr. 206-07. On that same date she also
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Tr.
208-14. She alleged disability beginning May 1,
2015, based on degenerative disc disease, high blood
pressure, gout, knee problems, and shoulder problems. Tr. 79.
The claims were denied initially on May 24, 2016, and upon
reconsideration on August 3, 2016. Tr. 78-95, 98-119, 122-23.
requested a hearing and a hearing was held on August 22,
2017, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Janet McCamley.
Tr. 37-77. Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified, and
impartial vocational expert William “Earl”
Thompson testified by telephone. On December 7, 2017, a
decision was issued finding Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr.
11-18. The Appeals Council denied review on August 31, 2018.
Tr. 1-3, 301.
November 1, 2018, Plaintiff, appearing through counsel, 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. Respondent filed an answer on
March 22, 2019, ECF No. 11, and both parties filed memoranda
in support of their positions, which have been considered.
ECF Nos. 15, 16.
hearing held August 22, 2017, before ALJ McCamley,
Plaintiff's counsel stated that the medically
determinable severe impairments were osteoarthritis of the
right knee, lower left extremity gout, and obesity. Tr.
40-41. Plaintiff testified that she weighs 264 pounds and is
5' 5”” tall. Tr. 42. She testified that she
was a certified nursing assistant and had worked in 2013 to
2015 more as a companion. Tr. 43-44. She assisted her client
with taking him to appointments, various daily activities,
and assisting him into and out of the bathtub. Tr. 45. If he
fell, she would assist him in getting up. Id. She
did not do any heavy lifting. Tr. 46. After her client died
in 2015, she had three months of unemployment benefits but
tried during that time to find another job. Tr. 47. She
testified her knee and suspected gout started getting worse.
Tr. 46. She saw a doctor in August 2015 but did not have
complaints until she sought treatment in October of 2015. Her
gout was diagnosed in April 2016. Tr. 47-48.
reported to consultative examiner Dr. Wayne Sampson in May
2016 that she was “bone on bone” in her knee,
although her knee had not yet been X-rayed. Tr. 48. She
testified that she had earlier seen Dr. Kessler, whom she
believed was an orthopedic physician, at Lincoln Neighborhood
Medical Center about her knee and he told her that her knee
was “bone on bone.” Tr. 49, 50. She testified
that she was later seen at Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic
through a vocational rehabilitation service in February of
2017. Tr. 49.
testified that her son lives near her and she helped take
care of his children ages 4, 6, and 7 during the summer of
2017. Tr. 53. Her son was not paying her regularly, but would
help her pay some of her bills. Tr. 54. She said she is
living in a place owned by her sister and does not pay rent.
asked about her emergency department visit in June 2017
seeking medication for foot pain, Plaintiff testified that
she told the nurse that she was due to have upcoming knee
surgery because her orthopedic doctor had told her he would
do the surgery, although she agreed he had told her in March
2017 that he could not do it unless she lost 25 to 40 pounds.
testified that she cannot do her former work as companion
because her pain is worse now than it was. Tr. 59. She said
she could not walk around the mall, although she testified
she tries to walk for exercise. Tr. 60. She said she could
stand and walk about two hours in an eight-hour day.
Id. Plaintiff testified that her companion job was
very active and she sat for only about 2 to 2.5 hours a day.
Tr. 73. She said her gout flares up sometimes two or three
times a month and sometimes only once a month for several
days at a time. Tr. 61-62. When it was mentioned that she did
not complain of the gout to TOC when she visited in February
2017, she said it was because it had gotten worse in the past
three to four months. Tr. 62. She testified she went to the
Tallahassee Memorial emergency center three times with foot
pain, although record (Tr. 444) shows only a June 2017 visit.
Tr. 63. When asked about how much weight she thought she
could lift, she testified she might be able to lift 20
pounds. Tr. 65. She said she cannot sit for more than 45
minutes without having to stand up to relieve pain and
stiffness in her knee. Id.
testified that she can attend her personal needs, shower,
cook, shop, do laundry, go to church, drive, and babysit
grandchildren unless she has a bad gout flare up, which can
last several days at a time. When she has a bad flare up she
cannot put weight on her foot and must stay in bed, which had
occurred about three times in the past three months. She
cannot do yard work or gardening. Tr. 67-69.
impartial vocational expert, William “Earl”
Thompson testified that based on the testimony presented,
Plaintiff has worked in the past as a companion, which is
listed as light, semi-skilled work, SVP 3, DOT code
309.677-010; nurse attendant, which is listed as medium
level, performed at heavy level, semi-skilled, SVP of 4, DOT
code 355.674-014; and caretaker, listed at medium level, SVP
of 2, DOT code 301.687-010. Tr. 71-72. He testified that the
caretaker job allows the person to sit and stand throughout
the day depending on the task at hand. Tr. 72. The vocational
expert was presented with the following hypothetical
question: Assuming an individual of Plaintiff's age,
education, and past work experience, who is limited to
performing light work activity, no climbing ladders, ropes,
and scaffolding, occasional climbing of ramps and stairs,
frequent balancing, occasional stooping and crouching, less
than occasional kneeling or crawling, can that person perform
any of the past work that Plaintiff performed? Tr. 74-75. The
vocational expert testified that the person could perform the
past work of companion, as performed and as per the DOT. Tr.
second hypothetical was presented, assuming all factors
stated in the first hypothetical, except standing and walking
is limited to a total of four hours in an eight-hour day,
could the person perform any of the past work that Plaintiff
performed? Tr. 75-76. The vocational expert testified that
the person could not perform the past work. Tr. 76. The
vocational expert was not asked about any other jobs that
could be performed pursuant to the second hypothetical
The Decision of the Administrative Law Judge
decision issued on December 7, 2017, the ALJ made findings
pertinent to this review. Tr. 12-17. Plaintiff, age 57, met
the insured status requirements through December 31, 2017,
and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May
1, 2015, the alleged onset date. Tr. 12, 14. Based on the
evidence of record, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of osteoarthritis of the right knee and obesity.
Id. The ALJ found Plaintiff's hypertension,
shoulder problems, and gout to be non-severe and only
minimally affecting Plaintiff's ability to work. Tr. 13.
found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of a listed impairment in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart
P, Appendix 1. Id. The ALJ noted that no acceptable
medical source mentioned a finding equivalent to a listed
impairment individually or in combination, and
Plaintiff's attorney representative did not contend
Plaintiff's impairments met any listing. Id.
assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (RFC)
and found she could perform light work with certain
limitations. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff cannot
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can occasionally climb
ramps and stairs, stoop, and crouch; may frequently balance;
and may infrequently (less than occasionally) kneel and
crawl. Tr. 13. In reaching this RFC determination, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff's medically determinable
impairments could reasonably be expected to produce her
alleged symptoms, as described in Plaintiff's testimony
at the hearing, but her statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effect of the symptoms are not
entirely consistent with the medical and other evidence in
the record. Tr. 14.
cited treatment records from an April 16, 2014, visit to the
Neighborhood Medical Center that documented complaints of
foot pain and right knee pain, with effusion, joint
swelling/edema, bony abnormality, and joint tenderness. She
was diagnosed with knee pain, hypertension, and morbid
obesity. Tr. 15 (citing records at Tr. 326). The ALJ cited
records from October 2014 documenting continued complaints of
knee pain and a request for an orthopedic referral, but
November 2014 records from the Neighborhood Medical Center
showed no complaints and a normal physical exam. Tr. 15
(citing records at Tr. 328-33).
noted that Plaintiff continued to visit the Neighborhood
Medical Center throughout 2015 for various symptoms not
related to right knee pain, and in August 2015 had no
complaints. Tr. 15 (citing records at Tr. 334-49).
cited records from January 2016 in which Plaintiff complained
of knee pain and foot pain, although her physical examination
was noted as normal. She was diagnosed with hypertension,
uterine bleeding, and obesity. She was prescribed Ibuprofen
and Neurontin for body pain. Tr. 15 (citing records at Tr.
350-52). The ALJ noted that complaints of gout and knee pain
continued in April 2016, and Plaintiff was diagnosed with
gout, anemia, and hyperlipidemia. Medications were
prescribed. Tr. 15 (citing records at Tr. 466-67).
noted that in February 2017, Plaintiff was seen by Dr.
Garrison Rolle at the Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic (TOC) for
right knee pain reported as 8/10. A physical examination
showed tenderness and X-rays showed advancing arthritis and
significant lateral compartment wear. Plaintiff received an
injection in her right knee. Tr. 15 (citing records at Tr.
376-78). The ALJ noted that Plaintiff saw Dr. Rolle at TOC in
March 2017 and was advised that she was not a good candidate
for total knee arthroplasty because of her obesity (BMI of
47.5) and was advised to lose weight. She was prescribed a
brace, which was difficult to wear, and conservative
treatment of exercise, ice, and NSAIDs as needed. Tr. 15
(citing records at Tr. 379-81). The ALJ cited TOC records
from June 2017 in which Plaintiff reported no progress in
weight loss and in which Dr. Rolle noted discussing further