United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
FINAL OPINION AND ORDER
F. KING, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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 application. For the reasons set forth
below, the court ORDERS that the
Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED.
filed an application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on May 19, 2014, alleging that
she became disabled on April 30, 2014. [Record
(“R.”) at 20, 189]. After Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, a
hearing was held by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on October 20, 2016. [R. at 20, 36-79,
131, 141]. The ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
claim on March 29, 2017, and the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on January 16, 2018. [R.
at 8-13, 20-30]. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this court on
March 21, 2018, seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision. [Doc. 3]. The parties have
consented to proceed before the undersigned Magistrate Judge.
found that Plaintiff has the following impairments which are
severe within the meaning of the Social Security regulations:
diabetes mellitus and hypertension. [R. at 22]. The ALJ also
found that the following are non-severe impairments: obesity,
diabetes, degenerative joint disease, lumbar disc disease,
and depression. [R. at 22-23]. Despite the existence of these
impairments, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. [R.
at 24]. The ALJ found that Plaintiff is able to perform her
past relevant work as a companion because it does not require
the performance of work-related activities precluded by
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). [R. at 28]. The ALJ also made an
alternative finding that there are other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform. [R. at 29-30]. As a result, the ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff was not under a disability from April 30,
2014, the alleged onset date, through the date of the
ALJ's decision. [R. at 30].
decision of the ALJ [R. at 20-30] states the relevant facts
of this case as modified herein as follows:
claimant was born on May 11, 1960, and was 53 years old,
which is defined as an individual closely approaching
advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date. The
claimant subsequently changed age category to advanced age.
(20 C.F.R. § 404.1563). The claimant has at least a high
school education and is able to communicate in English. (20
C.F.R. § 404.1564).
claimant has left hip pain, left shoulder pain, diabetic
retinopathy, low back pain, and obesity. The evidence shows
that the claimant is 5'7” in height and weighs 203
pounds, which is obese. (Ex. 2F at 24). The claimant is to
follow a diet plan, avoid high calorie drinks, and exercise.
With regard to lumbar disc disease, the claimant reported low
back pain radiating down into her right leg. (Ex. 6F at 20).
In July of 2014, the claimant was involved in an automobile
accident resulting in moderate low back, neck, and head pain.
(Ex. 8F at 35). Examination revealed little, if any, evidence
of joint pain, joint swelling, neck pain, extremity pain,
extremity swelling, motor deficits, or sensory deficits. (Ex.
8F at 36). The claimant did not require overnight
hospitalization, but she was prescribed pain medication upon
discharge from the Emergency Room. (Ex. 8F at 38). An MRI of
the lumbar spine revealed multi-level degenerative disc
disease at ¶ 4-L5 with right disc protrusion, and she
had difficulty walking on her heels and toes due to pain.
(Ex. 6F at 20-21). Notwithstanding, the evidence shows that
the claimant walked with a normal gait, had normal muscle
tone, and 5/5 muscle strength in all major muscle groups.
(Ex. 6F at 8, 21). Straight leg raising was negative, and
range of motion in the lumbar spine was painless. (Ex. 8F at
hearing, the claimant reported having significant left
shoulder pain. However, there is little or no evidence of any
fracture, dislocation, joint arthritis, or joint swelling of
the shoulder. (Ex. 11F at 3, 4, 6, 18). The claimant alleged
having left hip pain which caused difficulty getting out of
bed in the morning due to stiffness, but there is little
evidence to support disabling degenerative hip disease. The
claimant also alleged having decreased visual acuity.
However, there is no neovascularization and no clinically
significant macular edema. (Ex. 9F at 5; Ex. 10F at 82).
claimant has alleged severe depression. However, her
depression does not cause more than minimal limitation in her
ability to perform basic mental work activities, and there is
no medical opinion that her depression significantly limits
her ability to perform work-like activities.
23, 2014, the claimant completed a Function Report. (Ex. 7E).
She reported having diabetic neuropathy in her hands and
feet. The claimant stated that she is able to prepare light
meals, complete household cleaning, do laundry, drive,
grocery shop, follow written and verbal instructions, and get
along with people. Notwithstanding, she reported that she
required help with vacuuming, washing dishes, putting clothes
in the dryer, and performing yard work. In addition, the
claimant reported having difficulty sustaining
attention/concentration due to depression.
claimant testified that she has suffered with diabetic
neuropathy for twenty years, which has progressed to
requiring insulin three times per day. She also reported
having ongoing bilateral foot pain as a result of diabetes.
The claimant stated that she required brief hospitalizations
in 2012 and in 2014 at Eastside Emory Hospital due to
uncontrolled blood glucose levels, bilateral foot pain, and
episode of syncope.
claimant alleges that diabetic neuropathy has limited her
mobility, balance, and ability to operate foot controls. She
alleges that diabetic retinopathy has affected both eyes,
causing blurry vision and bleeding behind her eyes. The
claimant also alleges that bending or stooping causes left
hip and knee pain and that she is limited to walking no more
than five to ten minutes and sitting for twenty to thirty
minutes (with no low sitting). She further reported having
difficulty with overhead reaching with the left arm due to
previous car accidents and bursitis.
claimant reported that she took prescribed pain medications
for diabetic neuropathy but that the medication caused
drowsiness, balance problems, and disorientation. She
testified that her foot pain was generally at level eight in
severity on a pain scale of one to ten. Nonetheless, the
claimant reported never being pain-free. She stated that, on
good days after taking medication, her pain dropped to a five
or six in severity but that, on a bad day, her pain remained
at a high level.
claimant further indicated having low back pain due to
degenerative disc disease with lumbar spondylosis, subsequent
to a car accident in 2000. To treat her disc disease, the
claimant testified that she uses hot compresses and Advil. In
addition, the claimant testified that she suffers from
hypertension, which causes “nagging” headaches
and tiredness to the point where she must lie down (time not
regard to performing activities of daily living, the claimant
indicated that she was able to perform self-care needs
unassisted, make up her bed, do some household chores, load
the dishwasher, make herself breakfast, drive, and grocery
shop. For entertainment, she reported that she used to enjoy
bowling but that she quit due to her physical condition.
claimant has suffered with diabetes for a number of years.
Documented blood workup revealed an A1C of 10%, but her goal
was set for 7%. (Ex. 2F at 8, 9). Originally, the claimant
was treated with Metformin due to an A1C level of 6.5%, but
the medication was not well tolerated. (Ex. 6F at 43).
Thereafter, the claimant developed uncontrolled diabetes with
diabetic neuropathy, including burning, tingling, and
numbness in her hands and feet. (Ex. 2F ...