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Dean v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 20, 2014

TINA DEAN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


THOMAS M. DiGIROLAMO, Magistrate Judge.

Tina Dean ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or the "Commissioner") denying her applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24).[1] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that she is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.



Plaintiff was born in 1973, has a GED, and previously worked as a teacher's assistant. R. at 27, 42-43, 158. Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on October 9, 2008, alleging disability beginning on May 2, 2007, due to fibromyalgia, tachycardia, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. R. at 17, 137. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 71-88. On June 28, 2011, ALJ G.B. Arthur held a hearing in Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. R. at 17, 38-70. On December 28, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled since the alleged onset date of disability of May 2, 2007. R. at 14-34. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 22, 2013. R. at 1-4, 12. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

On April 26, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. Upon the parties' consent, this case was transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. The case subsequently was reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now fully submitted.


Summary of Evidence

A. Nichole Brown, CRNP (Wildewood Medical Care)

The ALJ noted in his decision:

On April 26, 2007, [Plaintiff] participated in a medical evaluation, which was performed by Nichole L. Brown, a certified registered nurse practitioner. Nurse Brown [an "other source"] noted that [Plaintiff] has been diagnosed with migraines, fibromyalgia, tachycardia, overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome. According to nurse Brown's findings, [Plaintiff] can never climb, squat and crawl. She should never be exposed to cold, heat, humidity, dust or heights. She cannot perform repetitive tasks with her hands regarding simple grasping or manipulation. Surprisingly, these restrictions are also translated by Nurse Brown into psychological restrictions in performing activities of daily [living], social functioning, concentration and repeated episodes of decompensation.

R. at 20; see R. at 214-17.

On February 14, 2007, Nurse Brown noted, with John Tidball's M.D., acknowledgment that [Plaintiff] was being treated for fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression and palpitations. It was asserted that working was difficult for [Plaintiff] due to multiple medical visits. On March 30, 2007, nurse Brown, singularly, noted that [Plaintiff] was unable to work due to fibromyalgia, severe lower back pain and balancing problems. On August 24, 2007, Nurse Brown noted again, in an unsupported non-physician opinion, that [Plaintiff] was unable to work.

R. at 20; see R. at 397, 403, 405.

B. James Nutter, Ed.D.

The ALJ noted in his decision:

On June 24, 2009, [Plaintiff] visited James Nutter Ed.D for a psychological evaluation. Dr. Nutter noted that [Plaintiff] drove to the examination. [Plaintiff] reported receiving treatment from Pathway. She noted having PTSD because her fiance was shot by her estranged lover who she then ended up shooting. She alleged having sleep disturbance, labile affect with crying, anger episodes, and "feeling like she was in a shell[."] She said she believed that she smelled strange things, and had visual phenomena's [sic]. Yet, on evaluation, there was no evidence of irritability, aggressiveness, violence, poor impulse control, or apathy. Her sensorium and cognition were clearly adequate. She had average intelligence without any limitation for general fund of information[.]

R. at 21; see R. at 561-67.

C. Nalin Mathur, M.D.

The ALJ further noted in his decision that on June 24, 2009,

[Plaintiff] visited Nalin Mathur M.D., for a consultative examination. [Plaintiff] told Dr. Mathur that she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at a young age and has been living with it. [Plaintiff] asserted she could sit no more than 20-30 minutes, stand for no more than 20-30 minutes, walking no more than ten minutes, and would have difficulty lifting[] and carrying any objects. She indicated she could bear weight only up to 5 pounds. Yet, on examination, her cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine was all within normal range and had good range of motion. Her small joints were nontender and there was no swelling or synovitis. However, Dr. Mathur indicated[] she [had] 18 tender points[.]

R. at 22; see R. at 568-73.[2]

D. State Agency Medical Consultants

On June 30, 2009, J. Biddison, M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity ("RFC"). R. at 592-99. Dr. Biddison opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; (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. R. at 593. Plaintiff had no postural, manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 594-96.

On that same date, G. Dale, Jr., Ed.D., evaluated on a psychiatric review technique form Plaintiff's mental impairments under paragraph B of Listings 12.04 and 12.06 relating to affective disorders and anxiety-related disorders. R. at 574-87. Dr. Dale opined that Plaintiff's mental impairments caused her to experience (1) mild restriction in activities of daily living; (2) moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning; (3) moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and (4) one or two episodes of decompensation of extended duration. R. at 584. Dr. Dale did not find evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under paragraph C of these Listings. R. at 585. Accordingly, Dr. Dale assessed Plaintiff's mental RFC (R. at 588-91) and opined that she was moderately limited in her ability to (1) understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; (2) maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; (3) perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances; (4) complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods; (5) interact appropriately with the general public; (6) get along with co-workers or ...

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