United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. KEITH BALL, Magistrate Judge.
This cause is before the Court regarding the appeal by Margaret Jones of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Jones's request for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In rendering this Report and Recommendation, the Court has carefully reviewed the Administrative Record  regarding Jones's claims (including the administrative decision, the medical records and a transcript of the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")), Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment  and supporting Memorandum, Defendant's Motion for an Order Affirming the Commissioner's Decision , Defendant's Memorandum in Support of the Commissioner's Decision , and Plaintiff's Rebuttal Brief .
For the reasons discussed in this Report and Recommendation, the Court finds that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and hereby recommends that the decision be upheld.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff Jones, age 53 at the time of the hearing decision, appeals the Social Security Administration's denial of benefits. On November 30, 2010, Jones filed a Title II application for disability insurance benefits alleging an onset date of October 1, 2009, and alleging that she is unable to work due to bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and migraine headaches.  at 145. Jones also complained of weakness on her right side that causes her to fall three times a week and depression. Id. at 34-35. Jones formerly worked as a certified nurse assistant for nineteen years, and she last worked on June 2, 2007. Id. at 84. The Commissioner denied her request initially and on reconsideration. Id. at 14. After holding a hearing on October 11, 2012, during which she was represented by counsel, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 13, 2012. Id. at 14, 22, and 30. The Appeals Council denied her request for review of the ALJ's decision on November 29, 2013, and this appeal followed. Id. at 1.
In the ALJ's November 2012 decision, he worked through the familiar sequential evaluation process for determining disability. With regard to Jones's disability insured status, the ALJ found that Jones's earnings record demonstrated that she was insured through December 31, 2012. Id. at 14, 16. The ALJ found that Jones had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 1, 2009, the alleged onset date. Id. at 16. He concluded that Jones has the severe impairments of a "history of prior carpal tunnel release procedures, occasional headaches and mild obesity." Id. Nevertheless, the ALJ found that Jones did not have an impairment or combination of impairments of Listing severity. Id. Considering the record, the ALJ determined that Jones has the "residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except with no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, occasional climbing of ramps or stairs, and occasional balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling and crawling." Id. With that in mind, and after consulting a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded that Jones is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work, such as a cleaner, a poultry worker, and a fast food worker. Id. at 22. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Jones was not disabled from October 1, 2009, through the date of the decision, November 13, 2012. Id.
II. MEDICAL HISTORY
The Court has determined that a detailed recitation of the medical records is not necessary because the parties summarized Jones's records in their briefs, and the ALJ provided a thorough summary of the records in his decision.
Nevertheless, the observations and evaluations of a some of the medical professionals are worth noting. Dr. Azhar Pasha performed a consultative examination of Jones on May 10, 2010, at Riley Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. Id. at 197. Dr. Pasha observed that Jones had undergone bilateral carpal tunnel release surgery on her right hand in 2007 and on her left hand in 1995. Id. Dr. Pasha found that Jones had a negative Tinel's sign and a negative Phalen's test. Id. at 198. The doctor observed that Jones had good grip and dexterity in both hands, with a full range of motion in all the extremity joints of the body. Id. The doctor observed that Jones's gait was normal. Id. The doctor also stated that the "patient is unable to squat due to severe pain; however, the patient can walk without using a cane and cane is not felt to be medically necessary to prevent falls." Id. at 199. The doctor also found that Jones has "5/5 motor strength in all extremities." Id. The exam was "negative for significant anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation, " but the doctor did find "[m]ild anxiety and depression, " as well as migraine headaches and lower back pain. Id.
The ALJ referenced Jones's history of treatment by Dr. Rafique Ahmad in neurology at Rush Medical Group, Meridian, Mississippi. Id. at 18, 331. The record contains treatment notes from 2007 to 2011. Id. at 313-338. The ALJ observed that the treatment notes in 2010 and 2011 indicate treatment for headaches, but "do not indicate complaints of carpal tunnel syndrome residuals or any problems involving the right side of the body or the right knee." Id. at 18.
Plaintiff's treatment records from Dr. Razee A. Ahmad, of the East Mississippi Medical Clinic, Newton, Mississippi, are also in the record. Id. at 365-367. At Jones's latest visit on May 18, 2012, the doctor observed that she had not visited the clinic for eleven months, and that she admitted that she had not been taking medicines as prescribed. Id. at 365. At that time, the doctor commented that Tinel's sign was negative, and that she had normal gait and ambulation. Id. at 366. He also observed that she had "no anxiety, no depression, " and "normal behavior." Id. Jones also denied headaches and migraines at that visit, as well as loss of balance. Id. She did, however, complain of numbness or tingling in her right hand and right arm. Id.
Also in the record is an October 24, 2012, Medical Source Statement from Dawn Kiker, F.N.P, with East Mississippi Medical Center in Newton, Mississippi. Id. at 410-411. In that statement, Nurse Practitioner Kiker evaluated Jones's ability to perform certain work activities on a regular and continuing basis for eight hours a day, five days a week, or an equivalent work schedule. Id. Kiker indicated that Jones could occasionally lift and carry one to ten pounds, but could rarely lift and carry eleven to fifty pounds. Id. at 410. Kiker found that Jones could rarely reach with her right hand/arm, but could occasionally reach with her left hand/arm. Id. As to handling, the nurse practitioner stated that Jones should rarely handle with her right hand and should occasionally handle with her left hand. Id. Kiker concluded that Jones could rarely finger with her right hand and could occasionally finger with her left hand. Id. at 411. Characterized as persisting since July 2010, these restrictions were based on Kiker's diagnoses of chronic pain, pain in joint involving shoulder region, pain in joint involving lower leg, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Id.
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
This Court's review is limited to an inquiry into whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's findings, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 401 (1971), and whether the correct legal standards were applied. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); accord Falco v. Shalala, 27 F.3d 160, 163 (5th Cir. 1994); Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021 ...