United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. ANDERSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ann Norman appeals the final decision denying her second
application for supplemental security income (SSI). The
Commissioner requests an order pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), affirming the final decision of the Administrative
Law Judge. Having carefully considered the hearing
transcript, the medical records in evidence, and all the
applicable law, the Court finds that the decision should be
6, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant application for SSI
alleging a disability onset date of January 26, 2013, due to
anxiety, arm impingements, swelling in her legs and ankles,
problems with her right foot, and pain in her shoulder,
elbow, neck, and right ankle. She was 49 years old on her
application date, and has a GED with past relevant work
experience as a housekeeper, a shuttle-bus driver, and
assembly worker. Following agency denials of her application,
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) rendered an
unfavorable decision finding that she had not established a
disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
She now appeals that decision. A review of the record reveals
that Plaintiff filed a prior application which was denied by
the Appeals Council on March 27, 2014. No appeal was taken
from that decision making it administratively final. In this
regard, the ALJ noted that records from the prior period of
adjudication were reviewed but not considered.
one of the five-step sequential evaluation,  the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 6, 2014, the application date. At steps
two and three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
degenerative disc disease; osteoarthritis; mild degenerative
joint disease of shoulders with impingement syndrome;
obesity; lower-extremity edema; anxiety disorder; and pain
disorder were severe, but they did not meet or medically
equal any listing. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity to perform light work
with the following exceptions:
No exposure to unprotected heights or hazardous machinery;
and occasional overhead reaching. She can perform simple,
routine tasks; with no direct interaction with the public.
She can work in close proximity to others, but she must work
independently, not in a team.
on vocational expert testimony, the ALJ concluded that given
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, she could perform work as a housekeeper,
cafeteria attendant, and mail clerk.
review in social security appeals is limited to two basic
inquiries: A(1) whether there is substantial evidence in the
record to support the [ALJ's] decision; and (2) whether
the decision comports with relevant legal standards.”
Brock v. Chater, 84 F.3d 726, 728 (5th Cir. 1996)
(citing Carrier v. Sullivan, 944 F.2d 243, 245 (5th
Cir. 1991)). Evidence is substantial if it is Arelevant and
sufficient for a reasonable mind to accept as adequate to
support a conclusion; it must be more than a scintilla, but
it need not be a preponderance.@ Leggett v. Chater,
67 F.3d 558, 564 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting
Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d at 295 (5th Cir.
1992)). This Court may not re-weigh the evidence, try the
case de novo, or substitute its judgment for that of
the ALJ, even if it finds evidence that preponderates against
the ALJ's decision. Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d
431, 434 (5th Cir. 1994).
appeals the ALJ's denial of her claim for one central
reason: the ALJ failed to provide good cause for rejecting
her treating physician's opinion. Specifically, she
maintains that the ALJ's reasons for rejecting the
opinion were not supported by substantial evidence, and
remand is warranted because her treating physician indicated
that she was disabled.
testified at the administrative hearing that a combination of
severe physical and mental impairments prevents her from
performing any employment on a continuing basis. Chronic
edema requires her to elevate her legs and a
“roll-away” right ankle causes her to frequently
fall. She has back and neck pain, migraine headaches, and
limited use of her upper extremities. She has worn a sling on
her right arm every day for the past three years, and her
left arm has worsened as a result of overuse. She has taken
narcotic pain medication for years but testified that she
recently stopped seeing her pain management specialist after
he declined to pre-authorize her medications; she has
continued to take antidepressants as needed for anxiety and
depression, however. She has Medicaid and United Healthcare,
but testified that lapses in coverage have affected her
ability to seek treatment. Plaintiff asserts that her
limitations prevent her from concentrating, standing or
walking longer than 15-20 minutes, or from lifting her arms
over her head.
evaluating the evidence, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
medically determinable impairments could reasonably be
expected to produce some of her alleged symptoms, but her
testimony regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects were not fully credible. The ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to physically
perform light work limited to occasional overheard reaching
and no exposure to unprotected heights. As her first point of
error, Plaintiff asserts that this determination conflicts
with the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Bita
Ghaffari, who found Plaintiff's limitations would
effectively preclude her from performing even sedentary work.
Ghaffari opined that Plaintiff could not, inter
alia, sit, stand, or walk for longer than 15-20 minutes
at a time; lift or carry more than 10 pounds; bend more than
20%; or use either arm for a full workday. The ALJ concluded
that Dr. Ghaffari's opinion was inconsistent with the
evidence as a whole and her own treatment notes, showing no
edema and a low pain rating. Plaintiff notes that Dr.
Ghaffari found trace edema on one occasion, but she
acknowledges in her memorandum brief that Dr. Ghaffari did
not treat her for the physical impairments she alleges are
disabling. Records show that Pain-Management Specialist, Dr.
Fanni Manney, was Plaintiff's primary provider until he
declined to pre-authorize her prescriptions, while Dr.
Ghaffari, her family practitioner, primarily treated her for
anxiety, insomnia, and minor ailments from ...