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Corbett v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

February 25, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.


JANET F. KING, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff in the above-styled case brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration which denied her disability applications. For the reasons set forth below, the court ORDERS that the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff Shelley Ann Corbett filed applications for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income in 2010, alleging that she became disabled on March 1, 2008. [Record ("R.") at 20, 80-81]. After her applications were denied initially and on reconsideration, an administrative hearing was held on February 23, 2012. [R. at 37-77, 98-105, 110-15]. The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued a decision on May 2, 2012, denying Plaintiff's applications. [R. at 20-32]. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, and Plaintiff filed a complaint in this court on September 26, 2013, seeking judicial review of the final decision. [R. at 1-5; Doc. 3].

II. Statement of Facts

The ALJ found that Plaintiff Corbett has low back pain, obesity, palpitations/supraventricular tachycardia, bipolar, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. [R. at 23]. Although these impairments are "severe" within the meaning of the Social Security regulations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. [R. at 24]. The ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work with a number of physical and mental limitations. [R. at 26]. Although Plaintiff was found to be incapable of performing her past relevant work, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. [R. at 30-31]. As a result, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is not disabled. [R. at 32].

The ALJ's decision [R. at 20-32] states the relevant facts of this case as modified herein as follows:

Emergency records from Newton Medical Center show that the claimant had a June 2006 visit for right hip sprain and a January 2007 visit for acute pharyngitis with hypertension to be ruled out. (Exhibits 3F and 8F).

Medical records from Rockdale Medical Center document a total abdominal hysterectomy, performed in April 2008, with no malignancy identified on pathology. She developed a subcutaneous hematoma postoperatively. This was shown to be resolving on ultrasound of the abdomen obtained in early May 2008. (Exhibit 7F).

Records of treatment from Alliance Family Care, LLC, covering the period from January 2006 to October 2011 show a variety of diagnoses including: cough and acute bronchitis; palpitations; upper respiratory infections; anxiety state; bursitis; benign hypertension; TMJ arthralgia; allergic rhinitis; obesity; menopausal disorder; bipolar I disorder, single episode, moderate; lumbago; and infective otitis externa. The claimant's height is recorded as 67 inches, and her weight during this period fluctuated within the range from 186 to 233 pounds. Examination on January 25, 2010, revealed decreased range of movement in the lumbosacral spine with tenderness to palpation and paraspinous muscle tenderness, but negative straight leg raising. (Exhibits 2F, 6F, and 9F).

Medical records from Largo Medical Center are for a brief hospitalization, from August 19 to August 22, 2009. Although the claimant, on admission, complained of hemiplegia and hemiparesis, the principal diagnosis was shown as anxiety state. During that admission, she also underwent laparoscopic cholecystectomy for biliary dyskinesia and gastroenteritis. She reportedly tolerated the procedure well. (Exhibit 1F). During an office visit on August 28, 2009, the claimant claimed to have had a stroke as well as a cholecystectomy. (Exhibit 6F). However, the hospital records clearly do not document a stroke or any such neurologic event. (Exhibit 1F).

Records from the Gwinnett County Detention Center are from November and December 2011. This evidence consists primarily of administrative forms or questionnaires that were completed based on information provided by the claimant. The claimant's height is recorded as five feet six inches and her weight 214 pounds. On November 9, 2011, she reported that she had previously been diagnosed with clinical depression and bipolar, for which she had been on Cymbalta and Seroquel. But she stated that she had been off both medications and was suffering badly with headaches, nightmares, trembling, and severe depression. On November 17, 2011, she requested that she be moved to a medical unit so that her heart condition, supraventricular tachycardia ("SVT"), could be closely monitored. Notes indicate that she was to be "scheduled to see provider." On that date the claimant also reported that she had been on Cymbalta, Xanax, and Seroquel until she was incarcerated. She indicated that she had been seen twice by a mental health counselor but still had no medication. She was described as tearful, labile, and agitated. The claimant was seen by a medical provider on December 12, 2011, for evaluation of SVT. A baseline EKG was obtained on December 13, 2011, and notes from December 15, 2011, show that Atenolol was prescribed. (Exhibit 10F).

The claimant testified that she currently lives in a small duplex unit rent-free, in exchange for working as property manager of the duplex units. She acknowledged that this is considered a part-time job. In response to questioning about her duties, she testified that rent checks are delivered to her once a month and that it takes her ten to fifteen minutes to get the money processed and to the bank. The claimant mentioned that she had served 45 days in jail because she had outstanding fines on returned checks (of her own) and that the fines were dropped when she was released because of the time served. She first testified that she does not drive because she does not have a car but, when specifically asked when she had last driven, she responded "the other day" when she borrowed her ex-husband's truck. According to her testimony, she receives food stamps and does her grocery shopping "across the street" on a weekly basis. The claimant maintains that, except for the days when the rent checks are delivered to her, she spends her time "doing nothing." She denied watching television, attributing this to a lack of concentration. She later mentioned that she naps during the day.

The claimant testified that she had been terminated from one job in 2007 because of "irrational behavior and outbursts." She testified that she recently tried to work in sales and marketing at Ramada but was terminated because she was "butting heads" with the marketing manager. She maintains that every time she tries to work she gets scatterbrained, confrontational, and argumentative. The claimant is, however, apparently able to interact appropriately with the individuals who bring her their rent payments. She testified that she is on bad terms with the owner of the duplex units but "deals with it." She testified that she is on good social terms with her ex-husband. She mentioned that she used to go to church and misses it but has no desire to go.

The claimant testified that on a "good" day she feels rested, goes through the day without confusion or confrontations, and is able to stay on task. However, she maintains that she has an average of only two good days a week and that, even on a "good" day, she loses concentration after 45 minutes to an hour.

The claimant initially alleged disability due to osteoarthritis, heart (SVT), "uteran, " hernia, and bipolar. (Exhibit 2E). When filing her request for reconsideration, she alleged worsening of her bipolar disorder and "extreme" depression. (Exhibit 5E). She again claimed that her condition had worsened when she filed her request for hearing. The claimant alleged inappropriate behavior, disorientation, severe mood changes, severe depression, confusion, severe memory loss, and rapid, incoherent speech. (Exhibit 11E). At the hearing she testified that, in addition to her anxiety and depression, she has back and hip pain and sleep "issues." She maintains that she can lift eight or nine pounds with her right arm and ten to fifteen pounds with her left arm, that she can stand for two to three hours at most in an eight hour day, that she can walk fifteen to twenty minutes on a flat surface, and that she can sit for eight hours in an eight hour day. The claimant contends that she would not be able to show up at a full time job every day, would miss an average of two days a week because she would be too tired or have no concentration, and would not be able to work the full day on the other three days. With regard to her property management job, she testified that she could not work at this job full time because it would require too much interaction with the tenants. The claimant acknowledges that she has had no formal psychiatric treatment. She maintains that she wants psychiatric treatment but cannot afford it. She is treated by a primary care physician, Dr. Abbasi, who charges $59.00 per visit. These charges are reportedly paid by the claimant's ex-husband and her middle daughter. According to her testimony, she has been taking Cymbalta since 2007 and Seroquel for the past year-and-one-half. The Cymbalta reportedly does not help. The Seroquel reportedly helps her mood but makes her tired. She testified that she had taken lithium carbonate initially but is not currently taking it because it did not do anything.

The claimant has, on occasion, complained of pain in various joints. For example, she complained of right hip pain in June 2006, at which time x-rays were normal. (Exhibit 8F). That was approximately 21 months before the alleged onset of her disability. Primary care notes covering the period from June 2006 to October 2011 consistently describe her gait as being within normal limits. (Exhibits 2F, 6F, and 9F). Records of treatment do not show persistent musculoskeletal complaints that have been felt to warrant x-rays, any other imaging studies, or orthopedic referral. The claimant, by her own testimony, takes only over-the-counter medication for her allegedly disabling pain.

In terms of the claimant's alleged heart/SVT, records of treatment show that she complained of palpitations in June 2007, at which time she stated she had "bouts of SVT." Atenolol was prescribed at that time, apparently without further investigation of her complaints. (Exhibit 2F). The evidence of record does not document any episodes of SVT. Her palpitations were apparently well controlled on the Atenolol. SVT was not mentioned again until she was incarcerated. The claimant at that time stated that she had been diagnosed with SVT in March 2011, had been unable to have ablation secondary to insurance issues, and had been on Atenolol which had helped her manage this condition. (Exhibit 10F). The only medical ...

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