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Coryea v. Astrue

September 16, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer



Plaintiff Irene Marie Coryea ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, respectively. The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, and the record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is affirmed.


Plaintiff protectively filed her application for DIB and SSI on October 29, 2003, alleging disability as of September 25, 2003. (R. at 16, 18). On July 7, 2005, a hearing was held in Franklin, Pennsylvania before an ALJ (R. at 16). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing. (R. at 16). Joseph Kuhar, a vocational expert ("VE"), also testified. (R. at 16). On November 22, 2005, the ALJ issued a decision in which he determined that Plaintiff was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act. (R. at 17, 23-24). The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner in this case. (R. at 5-7). Plaintiff now seeks review of that decision by this Court.


Plaintiff was fifty years old at the time of the hearing before the ALJ. (R. at 17). She was born on May 13, 1955. (R. at 86, 398). Plaintiff has a bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies from The Pennsylvania State University, and her last employment was as a wraparound worker, working with children who suffer from behavioral and emotional problems.

(R. at 17). Previously, Plaintiff had worked as a job coach supervisor, assistant group counselor, and bakery clerk. (R. at 18). Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled on September 25, 2003 as a result of West Nile virus, thyroid problems, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and anxiety. (R. at 18).

A. Previous Applications

Plaintiff previously filed for DIB and her claim was denied by an ALJ on January 22, 1991.

(R. at 16). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 24, 1991. (R. at 16).Plaintiff then filed for SSI on December 20, 1991, alleging a disability onset date of May 14, 1988. (R. at 16). The claim was denied on June 11, 1992. (R. at 16). Plaintiff filed again for DIB and SSI on April 24, 1992. (R. at 16). Her applications were denied by an ALJ on November 15, 1993 and by the Appeals Council on May 5, 1994. (R. at 16). On October 29, 2003, Plaintiff again filed for DIB and SSI, bringing the Court to the present appeal. (R. at 16).

B. Medical Evidence

Dr. Magdy Iskander, M.D., treated Plaintiff for fibromyalgia*fn1 and episodic rheumatoid arthritis*fn2 from 1992 to 2001 and prescribed Plaintiff medication in 2001 for fibromyalgia. (R. at 17, 156-199). The ALJ found that according to Dr. Iskander's records, Plaintiff's fibromyalgia symptoms were stable and Plaintiff's rheumatoid arthritis symptoms required minimal treatment.

(R. at 17, citing Exhibit B-1F). During Plaintiff's hospitalization for West Nile virus in September of 2003, Dr. Iskander noted in her consultation that it had been four or five years since she last saw Plaintiff. (R. at 213).

Plaintiff was hospitalized on September 25, 2003 complaining of hearing loss, inability to stand, diffuse weakness, high fever, and respiratory distress. (R. at 204). Consulting doctors noted that her past medical history included hypothyroidism,*fn3 rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, chronic smoking and dyspnea on exertion. (R. at 211). Consulting doctors eventually diagnosed Plaintiff with West Nile virus. (R. at 249).

Dr. A. J. Joseph, M.D. has treated Plaintiff as her family doctor since 1997. (R. at 17, 41). On October 10, 2002, Dr. Joseph noted that he wanted Plaintiff to lose weight and "do natural things" before introducing more medication. (R. at 331). Besides her weight problem, Dr. Joseph stated that Plaintiff "seem[ed] to be okay." (R. at 331). On September 15, 2003, Dr. Joseph noted that Plaintiff had complained of back pain but had no physical findings consistent with a back injury.

(R. at 324). On October 3, 2003 and October 14, 2003, Dr. Joseph noted that Plaintiff was "doing quite well," that she was recovering from her illness, and that she did not seem to have any residual effects from the West Nile virus. (R. at 320, 322). On October 22, 2003, F.J. Pucharich, M.D., treated Plaintiff for palpable purpura, a rash on her legs. (R. at 318). He prescribed Plaintiff Tylenol No. 3 and Predisone for the Plaintiff. (R. at 318). He noted that Plaintiff had a presumptive positive for West Nile virus, and that Plaintiff stated she would be "okay," if only some of the swelling would abate. (R. at 318).

On October 24, 2003, Dr. Joseph noted that while Plaintiff complained of generalized malaise and fatigue, she looked "fairly good." (R. at 316). He noted that her improvement was sluggish but steady, and he stated, "I'm confident she will fully recover within a very short period of time." (R. at 316).

From November 3, 2003 to June 3, 2004, Dr. Joseph's records show that Plaintiff had no new complaints or problems, except for a mild flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis in November of 2003.

(R. at 312, 314, 353, 383). On June 3, 2004, Dr. Joseph diagnosed Plaintiff with H. zoster, shingles, noting that, besides the rash, she had no other complaints or problems. (R. at 382). From July 2, 2004 to January 6, 2005, Dr. Joseph's records show that Plaintiff had no serious complaints or problems and he was "delighted she is doing so well." (R. at 376-381). On January 6, 2005, Dr. Joseph noted that Plaintiff's blood pressure was difficult to control, and on January 21, 2005 noted that Plaintiff had complained of pain and itching on her face. (R. at 374-375).

On March 3, 2005, Dr. Joseph noted that Plaintiff's blood pressure was slightly elevated, but that it had come down when she relaxed. (R. at 373). On March 31, 2005, Dr. Joseph was concerned about Plaintiff's weight gain but was "happy with her overall situation." (R. at 372). On May 2, 2005 and June 3, 2005, Dr. Joseph noted that Plaintiff had no serious complaints or problems. (R. at 392-393). Plaintiff denied chest pain, shortness of breath, PND or othopnea on both occasions. (R. at 392-393). Dr. Joseph noted that Plaintiff was nervous on May 2, 2005 because a family member had undergone ...

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