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Leach v. Saul

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 16, 2019

HYACINTH A. LEACH, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOHN J. O'SULLIVAN CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (DE #18, 03/04/2019) and the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (DE #19, 04/02/2019). The plaintiff seeks reversal of the Social Security Administration's denial of Supplemental Security Income (hereinafter “SSI”) Benefits. The complaint was filed pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §405(g) (hereinafter “Act”) and is properly before the Court for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (hereinafter “SSA”). The matter was referred to the undersigned for entry of a judgment by Judge Ungaro on February 4, 2019. (DE #17, 2/4/19). Having carefully considered the filings and applicable law, the undersigned rules that the Administrative Law Judge's (hereinafter “ALJ”) decision is upheld, that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (DE #19, 04/02/2019) is GRANTED, and that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (DE #18, 03/04/2019) is DENIED, in accordance with the following Order.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 10, 2015, Hyacinth Leach (“the plaintiff”) filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and SSI. (Tr. 15). The application was denied initially on August 12, 2015, and upon reconsideration on December 15, 2015. (Tr. 70, 107-08). An administrative hearing was held on November 13, 2017, where the plaintiff testified and was represented by counsel. (Tr. 35-62). A vocational expert (“VE”) also testified at the hearing. (Tr. 58-62). On December 19, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act from October 14, 2012, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 26). The ALJ's decision became final when the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for review on August 3, 2018. (Tr. 1).

         FACTS

         I. Plaintiff's Background

         The plaintiff was born in 1955 in Trinidad and Tobago. (Tr. 229). The plaintiff is a United States citizen and was 62 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 29, 229). The plaintiff has high school education. (Tr. 41). The plaintiff is separated and has three children and five grandchildren. (Tr. 37-38). The plaintiff currently lives alone. (Tr. 38). The plaintiff was her mother's caregiver for over a decade until her mother passed away on May 3, 2017. (Tr. 38). The plaintiff alleges an onset date of October 14, 2012, arising out of carpal tunnel syndrome, migraines, a stroke, and a heart murmur. (Tr. 254). The plaintiff has not worked since that time, except as a babysitter for her grandson. (Tr. 40, 254).

         The plaintiff previously worked as an office manager, property manager, event manager, telemarketer, server, and a medical biller/coder. (Tr. 268). As an office manager, the plaintiff sat “at a desk, typing or working on a computer.” (Tr. 274). The plaintiff reported that she spent eight to nine total hours sitting each day. (Id.) The plaintiff did not report having to lift anything as part of the office manager job. (Id.) As a property manager, the plaintiff was “on her feet monitoring employees while doing housekeeping.” (Tr. 272). The plaintiff reported lifting boxes of toilet tissues and napkins for bathrooms. (Id.) The plaintiff's work history report indicates that she frequently lifted twenty-five pounds. (Id.) As an event manager, the plaintiff “maintained and managed housekeeping for Gulfstream Race Track.” (Tr. 273). The plaintiff did not report having to lift anything as part of the event manager job. (Tr. 273). The plaintiff reported standing for eight hours per day, walking two to three hours a day, sitting for two hours per day, and climbing one to two hours per day while working as an event manager. (Id.)

         II. Chronological Medical Evidence Prior to the ALJ Hearing

         The plaintiff began feeling pain in her hands in 2008 and was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in 2012. (Tr. 348). The plaintiff was diagnosed at the Emergency Room and discharged with a wrist brace.[1] (Tr. 348). On January 31, 2013, the plaintiff underwent X-rays at Memorial Hospital Pembroke Urgent Care Center that showed a small calcified fragment at the base of her right index finger. (Tr. 413). The plaintiff's symptoms worsened with activity, but she took Tramadol and wore a hand splint that mediated the pain. (Tr. 385) During another visit to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital Urgent Care Center on December 22, 2014, the plaintiff complained of bilateral “numbing” hand pain. (Tr. 402). At a general checkup on October 5, 2015, at UHI CommunityCare Clinic, the plaintiff stated she had swelling and pain throughout her body along with her joint pain. (Tr. 385). On October 26, 2015, the plaintiff had an X-ray of both hands, at Medical Park Group with Dr. Grazie Christie, that suggested mild degenerative changes but no fractures, dislocations, or bone abnormalities. (Tr. 374). On July 18, 2016, another X-ray at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital with Patrick Owens noted degenerative changes in the plaintiff's thumbs. (Tr. 417).

         The plaintiff suffered two strokes, one in 1991 and one in 2001. (Tr. 348). At the disability examination, the plaintiff reported left side weakness and difficulty with her left leg. (Id.) The plaintiff said she had not had any physical therapy because she could not afford it and that she experienced difficulty bending and walking. (Id.) The plaintiff reported that she could not walk for more than 15 minutes but, did exercises at home. (Id.)

         The plaintiff has a history of migraines since the time she was a child. (Id.) The plaintiff only took over the counter medication but kept the migraines under control by avoiding sunlight and other triggers. (Id.) The plaintiff indicated that she got nauseous and lost vision in one of her eyes when she experienced migraines. (Id.) The plaintiff claimed that she is unable to go into her yard because of the sun, but that she is not completely limited to indoor activities. (Tr. 348-49).

         The plaintiff underwent a psychiatric evaluation at UHI CommunityCare Clinic with Dr. Saiqa Ismail on October 19, 2015. (Tr. 379). The plaintiff complained about a loss of sleep, loss of energy, and depression. (Tr. 380). The plaintiff was prescribed Celexa and advised to diet and exercise. (Tr. 382-83).

         The plaintiff's disability examination demonstrated that the plaintiff did not suffer from heart murmurs. (Tr. 348). The plaintiff indicated that her neurologist told her that she had a murmur. (Id.)

         III. Plaintiff's Hearing Testimony

         A hearing was held before an ALJ on November 13, 2017. (Tr. 33-63). The plaintiff testified at the hearing. (Tr. 37-58). The plaintiff indicated that she stopped working in October 2012 when she filed for disability insurance. (Tr. 48). The plaintiff was working as a server for a catering company at that time. (Tr. 49). The plaintiff stated that she damaged her right-hand by holding trays and pushing carts. (Id.) The plaintiff “didn't even realize it was happening” because she had lost feeling in her right hand. (Id.) The plaintiff described numbness in her fingers and pain through her wrist and shoulder. (Tr. 49). On a pain scale of one to ten, ten being excruciating, the plaintiff testified her pain was at a ...


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