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Antoinette Adkins v. Michael J. Astrue

March 18, 2011

ANTOINETTE ADKINS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT

(Doc. 1)

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying her applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Sheila K. Oberto, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born in 1949, completed high school, and previously worked as a child care provider. (Administrative Record ("AR") 243, 257, 262.) Plaintiff stopped working in 2002 because she "couldn't do it any more." (AR 127, 256.) On July 15, 2003, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning on April 29, 2003, due to renal rickets, arthritis, and osteoporosis. (AR 32, 243-46, 256.)

A. Medical Evidence

1. State Agency Physicians

On July 13, 2004, James B. Peery, M.D., a state agency physician, assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity ("RFC").*fn2 Dr. Peery opined that Plaintiff could (1) occasionally lift and/or carry 50 pounds and frequently 25 pounds; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling with the upper extremities. (AR 353.) Plaintiff had no postural, manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. (AR 354-56.) Therefore, Plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant work as a day care worker. (AR 30, 360.) On November 13, 2004, another state agency physician, James V. Glaser, M.D., affirmed Dr. Peery's assessment. (AR 359.)

2. Gilbert Sunio, M.D.

On May 29, 2004, Dr. Sunio, a board-certified internist, performed a consultative examination of Plaintiff. (AR 347-51.) Plaintiff's chief complaints were osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rickets, and low back and joint pain. (AR 347.) Plaintiff reported that she could do housework very slowly and drive for short distances, but could not stand very long or walk very far because of pain.

(AR 348.) Dr. Sunio noted that Plaintiff was able to walk to the examination room and get on and off the examination table without assistance. (AR 348.) Her gait was normal but slow, and she used a cane to ambulate. (AR 349.) Plaintiff was 59 inches tall, weighed 279 pounds, and had tenderness in the lumbar spine area and minimal tenderness and crepitus in both knee and hip joints. (AR 348, 350.)

Dr. Sunio assessed osteoarthritis, mostly involving the lumbar spine and hip and knee joints, history of osteoporosis, history of rickets, chronic smoker, hypertension, and obesity. (AR 350.) Dr. Sunio's functional assessment of Plaintiff was as follows:

The number of hours that [Plaintiff] could be expected to stand and/or walk in an eight-hour workday is 4-6 hours. The limitation is due to aggravation of pain in her lower back and hip and knee joints with prolonged standing and walking. The number of hours that [Plaintiff] could be expected to sit in an eight-hour workday is 4-6 hours. The limitation is due to aggravation of pain in her lower back associated with prolonged sitting. She presently uses a cane for balance, especially on uneven terrain. The amount of weight [Plaintiff] could lift and carry frequently is 10 pounds and occasionally is 20 pounds. The limitation is due to aggravation of pain in her lower back associated with heavy lifting. There are frequent postural limitations on bending, stooping, and crouching due to limited movements of her lumbar spine. There are no manipulative limitations in reaching, handling, feeling, grasping, and fingering. There are no relevant visual, communicative, or workplace environmental limitations. (AR 350-51.)

3. Saman Ratnayake, M.D.

On June 13, 2006, Dr. Ratnayake, Plaintiff's treating physician, opined on a questionnaire that Plaintiff's medical problems precluded her since 2002 from performing any full-time work at any exertional level, including the sedentary level.*fn3 (AR 318, 496.) Plaintiff's primary impairments were impaired mobility due to rickets, lower extremity edema, degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, and upper and lower extremity paresthesias.*fn4 (AR 318, 496.)

Dr. Ratnayake opined that, without rest or support, Plaintiff could sit an hour and stand and/or walk ten minutes at one time. (AR 318, 496.) Plaintiff was unable to lift, push, or pull greater than five pounds because of upper extremity paresthesias, and needed to elevate her legs one hour per day. (AR 318, 496.)

On June 8, 2007, Dr. Ratnayake noted that Plaintiff had severe degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine. (AR 807.) Plaintiff's "underlying disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine is a permanent condition[,] and her overall prognosis is poor. At this point, most of the management is limitation of activity and pain control." (AR 807.) "The expected duration of the limitations is lifelong." (AR 807.)

B. Administrative Proceedings

The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR 160-67, 181-96.)

1. March 9, 2006, Hearing

On March 9, 2006, ALJ James P. Berry held a hearing where Plaintiff, Plaintiff's friend and former co-worker Jeanette Harmon, and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. (AR 59-95.) Ms. Harmon testified that she had known Plaintiff for 15 to 20 years and had worked together providing day care. (AR 91.) Ms. Harmon would help Plaintiff on a part-time basis with her heavy cleaning. (AR 91.) Ms. Harmon also testified that Plaintiff ultimately was unable to perform her job as "it was just too much for her" "because she couldn't run after the kids or be there constantly with the kids like she needed to be, and to deal with them." (AR 91.) ...


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