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Lacy v. Astrue

August 10, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge



Joyce Cotton Lacy ("Plaintiff") brings this action seeking to overturn the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (hereinafter the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. This matter is before the Court on the parties' Joint Stipulation ("Jt. Stip.") filed on July 9, 2009. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.


Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits on July 13, 2006. (Administrative Record ("AR") 82). Plaintiff listed June 23, 2006 as the onset date of her disability. (AR 83). The Commissioner initially denied benefits on September 8, 2006 and again upon reconsideration on December 28, 2006. (AR 17). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on January 15, 2007. (AR 43).

On October 31, 2007, Plaintiff's hearing proceeded before ALJ Charles E. Stevenson.*fn1 (AR 5, 23). The ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision on November 9, 2007. (AR 14). On November 19, 2007, Plaintiff requested Appeals Council review. (AR 4). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 18, 2008. (AR 1). On September 24, 2008, Plaintiff filed the instant complaint.


A. Generally

Plaintiff was born on May 11, 1960. (AR 83). Plaintiff's past occupations included work in a donut shop. (AR 89). Plaintiff claims disability stemming from "[h]igh blood pressure,[]arm pain, both knees [being] in pain,[ and] leg pain" (AR 20). Plaintiff claims that these disabilities limit her ability to work by causing "[a]rm weakness," and preventing her from "lift[ing] over 10 lbs." (Id.). Plaintiff further claims that she has to "avoid prolonged standing or bending" because this causes her "knees [to] hurt badly." (Id.).

B. Relevant Medical History

1. Treating Physicians

In a summary report dated August 30, 2006, Dr. Lilian Chang, M.D. ("Dr. Chang") writes that she performed an internal medicine evaluation on Plaintiff. (AR 135-39). Dr. Chang's diagnostic impression of Plaintiff was as follows:

This 46-years-old, African American female presents with hypertension, hepatitis C, and bilateral knee pain.

Today's evaluation reveals no evidence of acute congestive heart failure. Her cardiovascular examination is unremarkable and her blood pressure is adequately controlled on medication at 134/82.

On the abdominal examination, there is no tenderness to palpation, rebound, or guarding. There are no stigmata of liver cirrhosis and no jaundice.

Her musculoskeletal examination is remarkable for tenderness to palpation of both knees, limited range of motion, and a slow gait. Her knee x-rays are currently pending.

(AR 138). Dr. Chang's functional assessment of Plaintiff was as follows:

With the limited range of motion of the knee joints, [Plaintiff] should be capable of lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. Standing and walking can be done cumulatively up to four hours of an eight-hour day. [Plaintiff] can sit for up to six hours of an eight-hour day. Bending, stooping, crouching, kneeling, squatting, and climbing can be done occasionally. She is not limited in using the extremities for pushing, pulling, reaching, handling, grasping, or fingering. There are no limitations in terms of hearing, seeing, or speaking.

(AR 139).

In a radiology report dated August 30, 2006, Dr. T. Divakaran, M.D. ("Dr. Divakaran") makes the following findings regarding Plaintiffs left and right knees:

The bony alignment is normal. No fractures are seen. Spurs are noted mainly from the lateral articular margins of the femur and tibia, tibial spine and minimally from the dorsal surface of the patella. There is tibiofemoral joint space narrowing, more prominent in the medial compartment. There is also calcification of the quadriceps tendinous attachment to the patella.

(AR 140). Dr. Divakaran's impression of Plaintiff's left and right knees was as follows:

Mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Calcification, quadriceps attachment.


In a visual acuity report dated August 30, 2006, a staff member of the Royalty Medical Group indicates that the Plaintiff "can visually move about the office without any help." (AR 141).

Finally, Plaintiff visited the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center emergency room on November 10, 2006 and December 18, 2006. (AR 152-53, 57-58). While these medical records are largely illegible, Plaintiff appears to ...

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