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 February 23, 2015, alleging
that she became disabled on January 15, 2015. [Record
(“R.”) at 16, 725, 879]. After Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, a
hearing was held by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on May 11, 2017. [R. at 30-63, 713-40].
The ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim on
February 28, 2018, and the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on May 9, 2018. [R. at
1-7, 13-23]. Plaintiff filed a complaint in this court on
June 22, 2018, seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's final decision. [Doc. 4]. 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: headaches, chronic low back pain,
post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), pain in
shoulder, and cervicalgia. [R. at 18]. The ALJ also found
that Plaintiff has the following non-severe impairments:
tinnitus, hypertension, and substance abuse (alcohol,
cannabis, and tobacco). [R. at 19]. Despite the presence 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 19-20]. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity allows her to perform past relevant work
as a nurse's assistant and massage therapist. [R. at
20-22]. As a result, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has not
been under a disability from January 15, 2015, the alleged
onset date, through the date of the ALJ's decision.
decision of the ALJ [R. at 16-23] states the relevant facts
of this case as modified herein as follows:
pertinent treatment notes from the Veterans Affairs
(“VA”) Medical Center report that the claimant
received treatment for PTSD, low back pain, neck pain, and
foot pain. Objective findings have been minimal. In December
2014, diagnoses included major depressive disorder, cannabis
use disorder, and alcohol use disorder. The claimant reported
doing “okay” at the time. In January 2015, the
claimant's mental status examination showed appropriate
grooming and hygiene, good eye contact, no psychomotor
agitation or retardation, organized and goal-directed thought
processes, average concentration and intelligence, and fair
insight and judgment. In March 2015, the claimant requested
that a form be completed stating that she was stable enough
to return to work. When the claimant was seen for a mental
status evaluation in May 2015, the results were essentially
unchanged from January 2015. The claimant reported getting
out of the house more often and decreasing her cannabis use.
The treatment provider noted that, during the examination,
the claimant smiled frequently. (Exhibit B5F).
claimant cares for six children, and her duties include
preparing meals, cleaning the home, and helping with
homework. Her symptoms appear to be decreased when she is
compliant with medication and abstains from substance abuse.
In May 2015, the claimant was found to be stable and coping
adequately. (Exhibit B1F, 19F).
claimant was incarcerated from mid-May 2015 until early July
2015. She was pregnant at the time. The claimant stated that
she had a history of treatment for PTSD but that she had not
been on medication for a while. She also reported a history
of physical and sexual abuse. She stated that, because she
was pregnant, she was going to hold off on treatment. The
claimant denied problems with mood, anxiety, or psychotic
symptoms. In June 2015, she was found to have no medical
complaints. (Exhibit B3F).
L. Murray, M. D., conducted a consultative examination of the
claimant in September 2015. The claimant told Dr. Murray that
she is able to make it through the day without medications.
Dr. Murray described the claimant's appearance as
“non-distressed.” She reported to Dr. Murray that
she was able to shop for groceries, prepare meals, and do
laundry. Dr. Murray reported no significant functional
limitations. He diagnosed PTSD but no physical impairment.
Dr. Murray opined that the claimant could sit up to eight
hours, stand/walk up to eight hours, and was able to bend,
kneel, crawl, stoop, and crouch. Dr. Murray reported no
limitations with respect to the claimant's ability to
reach, handle, feel, grasp, push, pull, or lift with both
Murray noted that there were no workplace, visual, or
environmental limitations and that there was no need for an
assistive device. (Exhibit B4F).
claimant presented to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in March
2016 complaining of low back pain and pain in the sacroiliac
joints. The claimant rated the severity of her pain as 3/10.
The examination revealed no significant abnormalities, and
the claimant was referred to physical therapy. (Exhibit
administrative hearing, the claimant testified that she has
six children ranging in age from 13 years old to two months
old. She stated that her main problem pertains to mental
health issues. She testified that she was sexually assaulted
by a physician while in the military. The claimant reported
mood swings, uncontrollable crying spells, problems with
memory, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. She was arrested
for murdering her boyfriend in 2015, but, according to her,
the charges were later dropped based on self-defense. She
reported that she had received a 70% disability rating from
the VA, which was later upgraded. She asserted that the
rating was based on PTSD. The claimant reported problems with
her back, feet, and legs, and she stated that she wore
special stockings for her legs. She appeared at the hearing
with a cane; however, the record fails to establish the
medical necessity of an assistive device. According to the
claimant, she can stand no more than 30 to 40 minutes due to
pain in her feet caused by plantar fasciitis. She stated that
she could sit 30 to 45 minutes but would have to constantly
move around and that she could walk two miles with stops. The
claimant also reported that her mother is her caregiver and
helps with the children.
facts will be set forth as necessary during discussion of