United States District Court, S.D. Florida
HYACINTH A. LEACH, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
J. O'SULLIVAN CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
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.
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.
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).
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.)
Chronological Medical Evidence Prior to the ALJ
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. (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).
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.)
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).
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).
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.)
Plaintiff's Hearing Testimony
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 ...