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Rhondadavis v. Mchaelj.Astrue

December 17, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norma L. Shapiro, J.


Plaintiff Rhonda Juanita Davis filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claims for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). See 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. Plaintiff argues the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") failed to address an allegedly probative piece of evidence. The evidence was submitted after the evidentiary hearing, but before the ALJ issued a decision. Plaintiff also argues the ALJ failed to develop the record adequately and did not issue an opinion sufficient to facilitate judicial review. Magistrate Judge Linda K. Caracappa had recommended plaintiff's motion for summary judgment should be denied. Plaintiff filed numerous objections to Magistrate Judge Caracappa's Report and Recommendation ("R&R"). Magistrate Judge Caracappa's R&R will be approved.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff is a 51 year old woman, born on October 15, 1960.*fn1 She has a high school education and has worked as a sales clerk and hotel housekeeper. She has two teenage children who live with her.

a. Medical Treatment and Evaluations

Plaintiff saw doctors at the Temple Medical Group from November 2005 through July 2010 for various conditions. From 2005 through 2007, plaintiff received occasional treatment, predominately for drug and alcohol abuse problems. For five months in 2008, plaintiff, complaining of pain, numbness, and tingling in her legs, went to Temple Medical Group nearly monthly. She was diagnosed and treated with medication for peripheral neuropathy and hepatitis C . In December 2008, plaintiff requested that her doctor sign a disability form; he refused.

Later that month, a pelvic ultrasound revealed a fibroid in plaintiff's lower uterine segment; the fibroid was removed by total abdominal hysterectomy. Plaintiff, complaining of abdominal pain, returned to Temple University Hospital after the hysterectomy. She was admitted and radiology tests revealed post-surgical adhesions causing bowel obstruction. A CT scan revealed an otherwise unremarkable abdomen, except for a soft mass on the right adrenal gland and a decompressed colon and terminal ileum. Plaintiff was discharged after several days with instructions to continue taking morphine, chloraseptic spray, Zofran, and pantroprazole.

In early 2009, plaintiff saw doctors in the Temple University gastroenterology unit several times. One doctor noted plaintiff sought hepatitis C treatment; he instructed plaintiff she must stop drinking prior to beginning treatment.*fn2 In May 2009, plaintiff went to Temple Rheumatology Associates complaining of a sharp pain in her legs and burning in her feet. Tests revealed no outward signs of sensitivity.

In June 2009, Dr. Barry Marks, a state agency consultant, examined plaintiff. He concurred with the diagnoses of peripheral neuropathy (secondary to alcohol) and hepatitis C. In July 2009, Theresa A. Pfleckl, also a state agency consultant, completed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment of plaintiff. She noted the diagnoses of peripheral neuropathy and hepatitis C. Later in July 2009, plaintiff had a colonoscopy at Temple University. A small polyp was found and removed; the test also showed small, internal hemorrhoids. There were no other abnormalities. In January 2010, plaintiff had an x-ray of both feet, which showed two healing stress fractures and improper alignment. In February 2010, plaintiff had a limited abdominal ultrasound at Temple; the findings were unremarkable.

b. Application for Supplemental Security Income

On November 19, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for SSI. She alleged an onset date of March 31, 2008 of both peripheral neuropathy and hepatitis C. Her application was denied at the state level on July 10, 2009. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an ALJ. The hearing was held before ALJ Paul R. Sacks on June 1, 2010. Plaintiff had a non-attorney representative from Community Legal Services. Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified.

In addition to the hearing testimony, the record includes reports from plaintiff's treating physicians. On July 6, 2010, after the ALJ hearing and about two weeks prior to the ALJ's decision, plaintiff provided a brief letter from Dr. Letitia Price. The letter, dated July 1, 2010, stated plaintiff has "multiple comorbidities," limiting her ability to stand, and she also suffers from "depression with repeated episodes of decompensation," making social interaction difficult. Dr. Price stated she performed a "clinical assessment." No clinical report or treatment notes accompanied this letter.*fn3

In a decision dated July 22, 2010, the ALJ determined plaintiff suffers from severe impairments of hepatitis C with bridging fibrosis and peripheral neuropathy (secondary to alcohol). He found that, despite these impairments, plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform light work. Based on this finding and testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ found plaintiff could be a cashier, office helper, or inspector. The ALJ concluded plaintiff was not disabled.

The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's petition for review on March 11, 2011. Plaintiff appealed that decision to the ...

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