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Harrison v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 17, 2017

TERRI L. HARRISON
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security

          ORDER

          Juan R. Sánchez, J.

         AND NOW, this 13th day of January, 2017, upon consideration of Plaintiff Terri L.

         Harrison's Motion for Summary Judgment and Request for Review, the Commissioner of Social Security's response, and Harrison's reply, and after careful and independent review of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge M. Faith Angell, Harrison's objections, and the Commissioner's response, it is ORDERED:

         1. Harrison's objections to the Report and Recommendation (Document 19) are OVERRULED[1];

         2. The Report and Recommendation (Document 18) is APPROVED and ADOPTED;

         3. Harrison's Motion for Summary Judgment and Request for Review (Document 10) is DENIED;

         4. Judgment is entered affirming the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security; and

         5. The Clerk of Court is directed to mark this case CLOSED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Harrison seeks review of the denial of her application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits and her application for Supplemental Security Income by the Commissioner of Social Security. In a decision issued on March 4, 2013, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), applying the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920, concluded Harrison was not disabled at any time during the relevant period. The ALJ found Harrison suffered from the following severe impairments: (1) major depression disorder; (2) anxiety disorder; (3) HIV; and (4) history of alcohol abuse. However, the ALJ concluded these impairments did not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments. Upon consideration of the record, including Harrison's medical records and hearing testimony, as well as the hearing testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ concluded Harrison retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work, subject to the additional limitations that she requires simple and repetitive work involving no teams and no more than minimal contact with the public. Based on this RFC assessment, the ALJ found Harrison was capable of performing past relevant work as a hand packer and/or commercial cleaner.

In her request for review, Harrison argues the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ (1) failed to properly consider all of Harrison's ailments, namely peripheral neuropathy and (2) erred in affording great weight to the opinion of Dr. Fred Tehrani, a non-treating source. On November 5, 2015, Judge Angell issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) addressing these alleged errors, concluding the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence, and recommending the Commissioner's denial of benefits be affirmed. Harrison filed objections to the R&R, reasserting the two issues raised in her request for review.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), this Court reviews de novo “those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Upon de novo review of the record, this Court finds Harrison's objections meritless.

As to the first issue, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that the ALJ did not err in declining to find Harrison's peripheral neuropathy was a severe impairment, or in accounting for Harrison's complaints related to peripheral neuropathy in evaluating her RFC. The record shows Harrison was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, which was being treated with medication, but doctors' notes indicated Harrison was not complaining of pain, and was in fact “doing well, ” during the relevant time period. See R&R 10 (citing R. at 357, 420, 428, 480, 490). The record is devoid of any medical opinion concerning pain or functional limitation due to peripheral neuropathy. See Id. at 9. Although Harrison complained of pain in her hearing testimony, the Court grants deference to the ALJ's finding that Harrison's self-reported daily and work activities, as well as the medical record, are inconsistent with her subjective complaints. See Van Horn v. Schweiker, 717 F.2d 871, 873 (3d Cir. 1983) (“[T]he ALJ is empowered to evaluate the credibility of witnesses[.]”); 20 CFR § 404.1529(c)(4). The ALJ therefore had substantial evidence to exclude peripheral neuropathy as a severe impairment, and to find that any pain Harrison experienced did not affect her RFC. See Hughes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 297 F. App'x 123, 125 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding substantial evidence supported the ALJ's conclusion that an impairment was not severe where plaintiff's complaints of pain were unsupported by any objective medical evidence); Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 129 (3d Cir. 2002) (holding that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's rejection of plaintiff's complaints of pain where there existed “contradictory testimony and [a] lack of significant medical evidence or a medical opinion fully supporting ...


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