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Hanson v. Astrue

February 11, 2009

KATHLEEN M. HANSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosalyn M. Chapman United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Kathleen M. Hanson filed a complaint on December 13, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying her application for disability benefits. The Commissioner answered the complaint on April 30, 2008, and the parties filed a joint stipulation on May 22, 2008.

BACKGROUND

I.

On July 1, 2002 (protective filing date), plaintiff applied for disability benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 423, claiming an inability to work since May 21, 2001, due to joint inflammation, pain, and depression. Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 75-78, 82. The plaintiff's application was initially denied on November 22, 2002, and was denied again on April 21, 2003, following reconsideration. A.R. 59-67. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge Helen E. Hesse ("the ALJ") on March 1, 2004. A.R. 31-55, 68. On March 25, 2004, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 9-17, 334-42. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on June 9, 2004. A.R. 5-8, 261, 343-46.

The plaintiff then filed a civil complaint challenging the Commissioner's decision. Hanson v. Barnhart, case no. CV 04-1027-RC ("Hanson I").*fn1 On February 25, 2005, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, judgment was entered remanding this matter under sentence four, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further proceedings. A.R. 347-49. Following remand, the ALJ held a new administrative hearing on March 7 and June 11, 2007. A.R. 449-88. On September 24, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision again finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 262-74.

II.

The plaintiff, who was born on September 22, 1960, is currently 48 years old. A.R. 76. She is a high school graduate, who attended college for a short time, and who previously worked as a sales manager, salesperson, telemarketer, and baker. A.R. 34, 83, 88, 95-102, 452-53.

Since May 8, 2000,*fn2 the plaintiff has received treatment from her primary care physician, Jay Ferns, D.O., who has diagnosed her with Raynaud's phenomenon,*fn3 a cervical spine strain, anxiety, atypical chest pain and fatigue, among other conditions. A.R. 144-75, 247-48, 251-53, 405-32. Subsequently, Dr. Ferns referred plaintiff to Brigid M. Freyne, M.D., a rheumatologist, who examined plaintiff on January 29, 2003, and diagnosed her with fibromyalgia*fn4 /chronic fatigue syndrome,*fn5 primary Raynaud's phenomenon, and depression. A.R. 245-46, 353-74. Dr. Freyne continued to treat plaintiff for Raynaud's phenomenon and fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, and repeatedly noted plaintiff had anywhere from 12 to 18 of the fibromyalgia trigger points.*fn6 A.R. 230-44, 353-74, 433-39. On December 16, 2003, Dr. Freyne opined plaintiff meets the American Rheumatological criteria for fibromyalgia, and her symptoms include multiple tender points, nonrestorative sleep, chronic fatigue, morning stiffness, muscle weakness, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent and severe headaches, premenstrual syndrome, numbness and tingling, sicca symptoms, Raynaud's phenomenon, dysmenorrhea, breathlessness, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. A.R. 256-60. Dr. Freyne opined plaintiff:

can occasionally lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds and bend and twist at the waist and frequently lift and/or carry up to 10 pounds; can walk 2 blocks without rest or severe pain; must walk for 4 minutes every 30 minutes; can sit for 30 minutes at a time and about 4 hours in an 8-hour day; can stand for about 20 minutes at a time and stand/walk for about 2 hours in an 8-hour day; needs a job that permits shifting positions at will; can use her hands for grasping 60% of the workday; can use her fingers for fine manipulation 50% of the workday; and can use her arms to reach overhead 5-10% of the workday. A.R. 258-59. Dr. Freyne also opined: plaintiff experiences pain daily, which can be caused by changing weather, cold, fatigue, hormonal changes, movement/overuse, and stress; emotional factors contribute to the severity of her symptoms; plaintiff's pain is frequently sufficiently severe to interfere with her attention and concentration; she has a moderate limitation in her ability to deal with work stress; and she experiences drowsiness as a result of medication she takes. A.R. 257-58. Dr. Freyne indicated plaintiff's impairments are likely to produce good and bad days and she would miss work more than three times a month due to her condition. A.R. 255, 260.

On July 20, 2006, Dr. Freyne opined plaintiff: can occasionally lift and/or carry up to 10 pounds, twist, stoop, and crouch; can frequently lift and/or carry less than 10 pounds and climb stairs; can stand and/or walk for less than 2 hours in an 8-hour day; can sit for about 2 hours in an 8-hour day; can sit for 45 minutes and stand for 15 minutes without having to change position, and must be able to shift positions at will from sitting to standing/walking; must walk for 5 minutes every hour; will need to lie down at unpredictable intervals every 4-6 hours; can never climb ladders; is limited in her ability to handle objects; and must avoid all exposure to extreme cold, avoid even moderate exposure to extreme heat, and avoid concentrated exposure to wetness, humidity, noise, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, and hazards. A.R. 385-87. Dr. Freyne also opined plaintiff would miss work more than three times a month due to her condition. A.R. 387.

Medical expert Sami Nafoosi, M.D., testified at the administrative hearing, that plaintiff has Raynaud's disease, fibromyalgia and depression. A.R. 467-74. Dr. Nafoosi opined plaintiff: can occasionally lift up to 50 pounds and frequently lift up to 25 pounds; can sit for up to 8 hours in an 8-hour day; can stand and/or walk for 6 hours in an 8-hour day; and should not work in environments that expose her to extremes of temperature changes. A.R. 473.

DISCUSSION

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