United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Tracie E. Thackara, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM Docs. 1, 4, 5, 6. 9. 11.
GERALD B. COHN, Magistrate Judge.
I. Procedural Background
On June 13, 2008, Tracie E. Thackara ("Plaintiff") protectively filed an application as a claimant for supplemental security income, with an alleged disability onset of March 26, 1998. (Administrative Transcript, hereinafter, "Tr." at 11 (Doc. 5)). On August 26, 2011, Plaintiff's claim was denied at the initial level of administrative review. (Tr. 11). At Plaintiff's request, on August 27, 2012, an administrative law judge ("ALJ") held a hearing at which Plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, and a vocational expert appeared and testified. (Tr. 337-387). On October 17, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled and not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 8-24). On October 26, 2012, Plaintiff filed a request for review with the Appeals Council (Tr. 7), which the Appeals Council denied on November 29, 2013, thereby affirming the decision of the ALJ as the "final decision" of the Commissioner. (Tr. 4-6).
On January 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed the above-captioned action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), to appeal a decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying social security benefits. Doc. 1. On May 20, 2014, the Commissioner ("Defendant") filed an answer and an administrative transcript of proceedings. Doc. 4, 5. On June 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed a brief in support of the appeal ("Pl. Brief"). Doc. 6. On August 11, 2014, Defendant filed a brief in response ("Def. Brief"). Doc. 9. On November 5, 2014, the Court referred this case to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. On December 12, 2014, Plaintiff filed a letter notifying the Court that a reply brief would not be filed. Doc. 12.
II. Relevant Facts in the Record
Plaintiff was born on June 24, 1972, and thus was classified by the regulations as a younger person through the date of the ALJ decision on October 17, 2012. Pl. Brief at 1; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). Plaintiff graduated from high school (Tr. 125, 342) and completed beautician school (Tr. 281). Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled in 1998 at the age of twenty-five, but she continued to work until 2008. (Tr. 110, 281, 342-43; Pl. Br. at 1). Plaintiff owned and operated a candle business, hand-pouring candles and selling them at craft shows. (Tr. 343). She also has past relevant work experience as a waitress. (Tr. 344).
Plaintiff lives with her husband, who receives disability benefits, and her disabled, adult son. (Tr. 128, 243, 346). Plaintiff alleges that she experienced a number of symptoms, including chronic pain, in her shoulders, neck, upper and lower back and right arm. Pl. Brief at 2. According to Plaintiff, she has been in two car accidents, the latest occurring in May of 2008 and, over time; her physical symptoms caused her to become depressed and anxious. Pl. Brief at 2. Plaintiff asserts that her symptoms cause her not to be able to focus on anything. Pl. Brief at 2.
A. Relevant Treatment History and Medical Opinions
1. Dr. Laura Siems, M.D., Treating Physician
Dr. Siems treated Plaintiff from approximately February 2010 through January 2012. (Tr. 195-225, 267-78, 304-24). During 2010 and 2011, Plaintiff visited Dr. Siems six times for regular checkups and pharmacological adjustments. (Tr. 195-96, 201-02, 207-08, 217-18, 268-69, 308-11). On June 30, 2010, Plaintiff reported neck pain and numbness in her right upper extremity and jaw line. (Tr. 217-18). Plaintiff did not report any mental symptoms, and Dr. Siems observed Plaintiff to be fully alert and oriented with normal affect. (Tr. 218).
Dr. Siems referred Plaintiff to neurologist, Laurence Primack. (Tr. 217). On October 11, 2010, Dr. Siems opined that Plaintiff's depression was "well controlled on [her] current [medications]." (Tr. 207-208). On December 2, 2011, Plaintiff reported an increase in depression, memory problems, and fatigue. (Tr. 308).
2. Dr. Laurence Primack, M.D., Neurologist
On August 3, 2010, Dr. Primack observed that Plaintiff was oriented and that she exhibited intact language abilities, fund of knowledge, memory, and ...