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Lewis v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

March 20, 2017




         This cause is before the Court regarding the appeal by Rosie Marie Lewis of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Lewis's application for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). In rendering this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court has carefully reviewed the Administrative Record [7] regarding Lewis'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 [9], Memorandum Brief [10], Defendant's Motion to Affirm Commissioner's Decision [13], Memorandum Brief [14], and Plaintiff's Rebuttal [15]. The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, and the District Judge has entered an Order of Reference [12]. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73.

         For the reasons discussed in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the undersigned finds that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. Accordingly, the Motion to Affirm [13] is granted, and Plaintiff's Motion [9] is hereby denied.


         Lewis filed her application for a period of disability, DIB, and SSI on September 20, 2012, and alleged a disability onset date of April 15, 2011, when she was thirty-nine years of age. [7] at 63, 81, 154-162, 174.[1] Lewis's earning record demonstrated that she had acquired sufficient quarters of coverage to remain insured through March 31, 2015. Id. at 174.

         Lewis was born on April 8, 1972, and she was forty-two years of age on the date she was last insured. Id. at 23. Thus, she was considered a “younger person” under the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). Lewis completed high school with a certificate of attendance for completing a special education curriculum. [7] at 36, 373. In the fifteen years leading up to her disability onset date, Lewis had been employed as a poultry line operator, poultry grader, and box assembler. Id. at 54. The poultry line operator is classified as light, unskilled work with specific vocational preparation (“SVP”) of 2. Id. The poultry grader is classified as light, semiskilled work with an SVP of 3. Id. And the box assembler is classified as light, unskilled work carrying an SVP of 2. Id. She had worked since 1995 in the chicken processing industry. Id. at 180.

         In her request for disability, Lewis alleged that she is disabled and stopped working due to several conditions: osteoporosis in left leg, high blood pressure, and a bad case of arthritis in her left leg. Id. at 179. In her application, she also stated that she was five feet, one inches tall and weighed one hundred seventy pounds. Id. The Court observes that Lewis did not assert that borderline intellectual functioning was a disabling condition in her application for benefits. Id.

         The Social Security Administration denied Lewis's application initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 63-70, 72-79, 81-88, 89-96. Lewis requested a hearing, which was held on June 16, 2014, via video, with Lewis, who was represented by counsel, appearing in Meridian, Mississippi, and the ALJ presiding from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Id. at 27. On July 11, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Lewis was not disabled. Id. at 12-21. The Appeals Council denied her request for review on September 14, 2015, id. at 1, and this appeal followed.


         The Court has determined that a detailed recitation of the medical records is not necessary because the parties summarized Lewis's records in their briefs, and the ALJ provided thorough summaries in her decision. Nevertheless, a review of the observations and evaluations of certain examiners will aid in the consideration of this case.

         On November 14, 2012, Dr. Anthony Fouts conducted a consultative medical examination of Lewis. Id. at 357-362. At the examination, Dr. Fouts documented that Lewis was sixty-four inches tall and weighed one hundred ninety-five pounds, with a BMI of 33.5. The doctor commented that she had high blood pressure. Id. at 360.[2] Dr. Fouts found that Lewis had a full range of motion in her shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands. Id. at 360. Her fine and gross manipulation were intact, and her grip strength was 5/5. Id. Lewis had a full range of motion in her right hip, knee, and ankle without joint effusion or joint instability. Id. As to her left lower extremity, Dr. Fouts found full range of motion of her left hip, knee, and ankle, with no joint instability or joint effusion. Id. He commented that her left calf is about 1½ inches smaller in diameter than the right calf, with depressed scars along the shin, which was consistent with her history of a childhood injury to her left leg. Id. at 359-360. He commented that the pulses in her left foot were diminished, but he could feel them, and that there were no signs of vascular insufficiency in the left foot or left leg. Id. at 360. He also noted that her gait was normal, she did not require a “balance device, ” and she could “walk for about a half mile.” Id. at 359-360. Dr. Fouts concluded that she “would seem to have a good physical basis for a chronic pain syndrome of the left lower extremity, ” and that her blood pressure was “markedly elevated.” Id. at 360. He also concluded that Lewis's “EKG does meet criteria for left ventricular hypertrophy which could be viewed as end[]organ damage for her high blood pressure.” Id.

         Lewis's attorney arranged for her to see Patricia M. Sandusky, Ph.D., for a psychological evaluation on May 14, 2014. Id. at 375-378. Dr. Sandusky observed that Lewis completed the twelfth grade in a special education program and noted that she had worked at least fifteen years in the poultry industry. Id. at 375. Dr. Sandusky commented that Lewis indicated that she could bathe, provide meals, engage in basic housekeeping, and care for her young child. Id. at 376. She commented that Lewis had three children, ages two, fifteen, and twenty-two at the time of the examination. Id. Dr. Sandusky commented that Lewis's affect was euthymic, she showed no indication or gave no report of significant depression, and she gave no indication of anxiety. Id.

         Dr. Sandusky administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, IV Edition, to Lewis. Id. at 376-377. Lewis obtained a full scale IQ of 72, which the psychologist found to be in the 3rd percentile and within the borderline range. Id. at 377. She commented that “there was significant variability in composite scores, ranging from a low of 71 in processing speed to a high of 83 in working memory.” Id. Her diagnostic impression was “Borderline Intellectual Functioning” and “Impaired left leg (by report).” Id. The psychologist concluded, as follows:

Based on intellectual functioning, Ms. Lewis would have much difficulty functioning in a work environment that did not involve some type of repetitive motion or manual labor. If her physical condition is considered prohibitive of this, taken together, these conditions may reflect a disability prohibiting her from functioning in a work environment. Ms. Lewis is considered capable of handling funds in her own best interest if so assigned.

Id. at 378.


         In her July 11, 2014, decision, the ALJ evaluated Lewis's impairments using the familiar sequential evaluation process[3] and found that she has the severe impairments of obesity; left lower extremity osteoarthrosis; history of osteomyelitis and/or osteochondral defect; and essential hypertension. Id. at 14. The ALJ determined that Lewis's left ventricular hypertrophy, peripheral vascular disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, and borderline intellectual functioning were nonsevere. Id. at 14-15.

         The ALJ concluded that Lewis does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R Park 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id. at 16. The ALJ determined that Lewis did not meet the requirements of Listing 1.02 (major dysfunction of a joint due to any cause) because her left lower extremity osteoarthritis and remote history of osteomyelitis do not prevent her from ambulating effectively or performing fine and gross movements effectively. Id. The ALJ considered the combined impact of her impairments, including obesity, and concluded that she did not meet or medically equal the criteria for any listed impairment. Id.

         The ALJ determined that Lewis's borderline intellectual functioning did not meet or medically equal the criteria of Listing 12.05 (intellectual disability) because there was no evidence of adaptive functioning deficits prior to age 22. Id. The ALJ noted that although Lewis's high school transcript indicated that she completed high school with a special education certificate, she received passing grades in some regular classes, which was inconsistent with intellectual disability and illiteracy. Id. The ALJ pointed out that she could read the newspaper, do simple math, and engage in normal independent activities of daily living. Id. at 16-17. Finally, the ALJ pointed to her many years of substantial gainful activity, as evidenced by her ...

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