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Ruffley v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 28, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.




Stacey Lynn Ruffley, ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying her applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. and § 1381 et seq. This matter comes before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF. Nos. 10, 12). The record has been developed at the administrative level. (ECF No. 7).[1] For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 10) is denied and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12) is granted.


Plaintiff filed her applications on May 21, 2010, claiming disability since February 17, 2006, due to diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and depression. (R. at 148-153, 200). Her applications were denied (R. at 77-100), and she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (R. at 101). A hearing was held on January 20, 2012, wherein Plaintiff appeared and testified, and James Rossi, an impartial vocational expert, also appeared and testified. (R. at 42-65). On February 13, 2012 the ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits. (R. at 19-37). Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied (R. at 1-4), rendering the Commissioner's decision final under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). She filed her complaint challenging the ALJ's decision on September 25, 2013 (ECF No. 3), and the parties subsequently filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 10 and 12).

Accordingly, the matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.


A. General Background

Plaintiff was thirty-six years old on the alleged disability onset date. (R. a 35). She was a high school graduate, and continued working at substantial gainful activity levels until March 2010. (R. at 22-23, 35). Thereafter, Plaintiff worked part-time as a waitress at Bob Evans restaurant. (R. at 52, 201, 277). Plaintiff also previously worked as a data entry clerk. (R. at 201).

B. Medical Background

Physical impairments

Plaintiff was seen by Jill Fuller, a CRNP at Community Health Net, on January 27, 2010 and reported that she was a diabetic, but had not been on medication for four years due to a lack of insurance. (R. at 252). Plaintiff complained of painful neuromas on the bottom of her left foot. (R. at 252). She was assessed with Type 2 diabetes, noncompliant. (R. at 252). Ms. Fuller started her on Metformin and Glipizide, and completed medical assistance disability forms. (R. at 252). Ms. Fuller ordered blood work to be completed once Plaintiff secured insurance. (R. at 252). On February 10, 2010, it was noted that Plaintiff's blood sugar levels were in the 200's. (R. at 251). She was referred to a podiatrist for her foot complaints, and an EMG was ordered for her arms and hands.[2] (R. at 251). On February 24, 2010, Plaintiff complained of numbness in her wrists and hands, and indicated that she wore wrist splints at night. (R. at 250). Ms. Fuller assessed her with, inter alia, peripheral neuropathy and diabetes.

Plaintiff was seen by Santo Fioretti, DPM on February 26, 2010 and complained of painful bumps on her feet. (R. at 272). Physical examination revealed nodules in both feet and pain on palpation. (R. at 274). Plaintiff was diagnosed with plantar fibromatosis of both feet, and Dr. Fioretti scheduled surgery for the removal of the nodules in her left foot. (R. at 274).

Plaintiff returned to Ms. Fuller on March 3, 2010, who reported that Plaintiff's blood sugar levels had improved. (R. at 249). Plaintiff was assessed with bilateral foot neuromas, diabetes, carpal tunnel, and conjunctival hemorrhaging secondary to uncontrolled diabetes, and was referred to an ophthalmologist. (R. at 249).

Plaintiff had foot surgery on March 17, 2010 and did well post-operatively with minimal complaints. (R. at 276). On March 30, 2010, Ms. Fuller reported that Plaintiff's blood sugar levels had greatly improved, and Plaintiff reported that her foot pain was not bad post-surgery. (R. at 248). By April 14, 2010, Dr. Fioretti reported that Plaintiff had "healed satisfactorily" and she was released to return to her regular work duties. (R. at 276).

When seen by Ms. Fuller on April 22, 2010, Plaintiff complained of a sinus infection for which she had been treated in the emergency room. (R. at 246). Ms. Fuller reported the bottom of Plaintiff's foot was healing "very well." (R. at 246). Plaintiff reported pain and some loss of sensation, but stated overall she was "pretty happy" with the surgery. (R. at 246). Plaintiff was diagnosed with lingering bronchitis and bronchospasm. (R. at 246). Ms. Fuller administered an albuterol breathing treatment, and prescribed a nebulizer for home use. (R. at 246). She also prescribed Neurontin. (R. at 246).

On June 9, 2010, J.P. Dailey, M.D., an ophthalmologist, completed a questionnaire stating that Plaintiff was diagnosed with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema on April 19, 2010. (R. at 264). Plaintiff reported increased eye pain and "floaters, " but her symptoms had improved in February 2010 with new glasses. (R. at 264). He prescribed eye drops and recommended that she control her blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. (R., at 265). Dr. Dailey noted that diabetic retinopathy was a lifetime condition and that Plaintiff's prognosis was guarded. (R. at 270).

On July 28, 2010, Plaintiff underwent a consultative physical examination performed by Joseph Prezio, M.D. (R. at 280-284). Plaintiff reported a history of diabetes without treatment for a number of years. (R. at 280). Plaintiff further reported diabetic neuropathy in both feet, early stages of retinopathy in both eyes, depression, and carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands. (R. at 280). Plaintiff reported that splints had not proved helpful, and she had feelings of numbness and pain in her hands at night. (R. at 280). Plaintiff was able to perform activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, and personal care, but stated that foot pain compromised these activities at times. (R. at 281). Dr. Prezio noted that Plaintiff was in no acute distress but did not make good eye contact during the examination.

On physical examination, Dr. Prezio reported that Plaintiff had a normal gait and stance, did not require an assistive device, but she was unable to heel and toe walk. (R. at 281). Plaintiff was able to fully squat, but had pain in her left foot. (R. at 281). Plaintiff did not require assistance getting on or off the exam table or rising from a chair. (R. at 281). Plaintiff had some diminished range of motion of her left ankle, pinpoint tenderness along the incision of her left foot, and the probable presence of a fibroma in her right foot, but her remaining physical examination was unremarkable. (R. at 282). Plaintiff exhibited a full range of motion of her back, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, hips and knees. (R. at 282). She also had full strength in her extremities, her joints ...

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