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Beining v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 13, 2014



CATHY BISSOON, District Judge.


For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 13) will be granted, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15) will be denied.

Plaintiff Kimberly Sue Beining ("Beining") protectively applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits on January 8, 2010, alleging that she had become "disabled" on December 23, 2009. (R. at 128). On January 28, 2010, her application for SSI benefits was denied on the ground that she was not financially eligible to receive them. (R. at 80). Pennsylvania's Bureau of Disability Determination ("Bureau") denied Beining's application for disability insurance benefits on August 4, 2010. (R. at 90). Six days later, Beining filed a request for an administrative hearing. (R. at 96). On July 7, 2001, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") David F. Brash. (R. at 34). Beining, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing. (R. at 40-66). Dr. William H. Reed, an impartial vocational expert, provided testimony about the expectations of employers existing in the national economy. (R. at 66-72). In a decision dated July 18, 2011, the ALJ determined that Beining was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act ("Act"). (R. at 19-29).

On August 12, 2011, Beining sought administrative review of the ALJ's decision by filing a request for review with the Appeals Council. (R. at 14). The Appeals Council denied the request for review on January 4, 2013, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") in this case. (R. at 1). Beining commenced this action on March 1, 2013, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (Docs. 1-2). The parties later filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 13 & 15). Those motions are now ripe for adjudication.

Beining was born on July 29, 1964. (R. at 41). She graduated from high school in 1982. (R. at 41, 146). Shortly after completing high school, Beining procured a license to work in the field of cosmetology. (R. at 43-44). Although Beining never worked in a beauty salon, she sometimes administered an acrylic substance to clients' nails in her home. (R. at 44). Beining eventually stopped working as a cosmetologist due to breathing difficulties attributable to her exposure to that substance. (R. at 44). At the time of the hearing, her license to work as a cosmetologist was no longer active. (R. at 44).

Beining later started to work as a cook for a restaurant known as Dave's Country Meats.[1] (R. at 43, 146, 168). While working in that capacity, she was required to stand and walk on a frequent basis. (R. at 60). Dr. Reed classified the position as a "semi-skilled" job at the "medium" level of exertion. (R. at 66).

As a child, Beining suffered from rheumatic fever. (R. at 47). That illness ultimately caused the mitral valve of her heart to fail. (R. at 47). Beining's mitral valve was surgically replaced in 2004. (R. at 47, 243). Since her ribs had to be broken and wired back together, the operation limited her lifting and carrying abilities. (R. at 47-48). An echocardiogram performed in 2006 yielded normal results. (R. at 243).

In February 2009, Beining started to work as a scheduler for a company known as Filter Queen Vacuums. (R. at 41-42, 243). At Filter Queen, she spent most of her time in a sitting position. (R. at 41). Dr. Reed classified Beining's scheduler job as a "semi-skilled" position at the "sedentary" level of exertion.[2] (R. at 66-67).

On May 8, 2009, arthroscopic surgery was performed on Beining's right knee. (R. at 266). The operation was designed to repair tears in her meniscus and tendons. (R. at 51). Three and a half months later, she was "still having trouble with swelling and pain." (R. at 282). Beining's persistent symptoms led Dr. Victor J. Thomas to conclude that she was suffering from a severe form of arthritis. (R. at 282). At the hearing, Beining testified that her right knee sometimes gave out on her, causing her to fall. (R. at 52). She stated that she needed to use a cane in order to keep her balance. (R. at 52). Beining responded in the affirmative when asked whether Dr. Thomas had encouraged her to use a cane. (R. at 62).

In December 2009, Beining suddenly became afflicted with a severe headache while using the restroom in a Kohl's department store. (R. at 499). The headache remained with her for several days. (R. at 499). Dr. Hubert Shick advised Beining to seek treatment in an emergency room if her condition continued to worsen. (R. at 499). On December 31, 2009, Beining began to experience "a complicated migraine [headache] with associated right-sided parasthesias." (R. at 42, 497). Believing that she had suffered a stroke, Beining contacted emergency medical personnel. (R. at 42). She was transported to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center ("UPMC") in an ambulance. (R. at 42). Objective tests later confirmed that Beining's symptoms were attributable to a migraine headache rather than to a stroke. (R. at 43). Beining never returned to work. (R. at 41-42, 145). At the hearing, Beining complained of debilitating migraine headaches occurring at the frequency of two times per month. (R. at 46). She testified that each migraine headache would last for at least three days, and that her longest migraine headaches would endure for as long as two weeks. (R. at 47). Beining's ongoing physical impairments ultimately caused her to suffer from anxiety and depression. (R. at 318).

Dr. Mary Ellen Wyszomierski, a nonexamining medical consultant, reviewed Beining's medical records in order to render an opinion as to whether disability insurance benefits should be awarded. On July 16, 2010, Dr. Wyszomierski opined that Beining could perform a range of "sedentary" work involving only occasional climbing, balancing, stooping and crouching, no kneeling or crawling, and no concentrated exposure to temperature extremes, wetness, humidity, vibration, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor ventilation, machinery, heights, or other workplace hazards. (R. at 312-315). In the narrative portion of her consultative report, Dr. Wyszomierski stated that Beining's migraine headaches appeared to be "well controlled." (R. at 317).

On July 27, 2010, Dr. T. David Newman performed a consultative psychological evaluation of Beining in connection with her application for disability insurance benefits. (R. at 318-322). Based on the findings of his evaluation, Dr. Newman reported that Beining had "marked" limitations in her abilities to understand and remember short, simple instructions and "extreme" limitations in her abilities to understand and remember detailed instructions. (R. at 320). Beining's ability to carry out instructions was deemed to be only "moderately" limited. (R. at 320). Dr. Newman indicated that Beining's impairments did not affect her abilities to respond appropriately to work pressures in a usual work setting, respond appropriately to changes in a routine work setting, and interact appropriately with supervisors, co-workers, and members of the general public. (R. at 320-321).

Dr. Emanuel Schnepp, a nonexamining psychological consultant, opined on July 28, 2010, that Beining was "able to meet the basic mental demands of competitive work on a sustained basis despite the limitations resulting from her impairment." (R. at 326). ...

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