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DAVIS-ATKINSON v. BARNHART

March 26, 2003

MELISSA DAVIS-ATKINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweet, District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff pro se Melissa Davis-Atkinson ("Davis-Atkinson") brought this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to obtain judicial review of a final decision of defendant Jo Anne B. Barnhart, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner"), denying Davis-Atkinson's request for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Commissioner has moved for judgment on the pleadings, seeking an affirmance of the Commissioner's decision.

For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's motion is granted.

Prior Proceedings

Davis-Atkinson filed for disability insurance benefits and SSI benefits as of April 23, 1998. She alleged that she had been disabled since December 1, 1991. She was last insured for disability insurance benefits as of September 30, 1992. Following a hearing on August 5, 1999, her applications were denied by an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on September 17, 1999. The Appeals Council granted Davis-Atkinson's request for review of the ALJ's decision, vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the case to the ALJ for further proceedings.

Another hearing was held on April 24, 2001. On September 26, 2001, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Davis-Atkinson was not disabled. The ALJ's decision became final when the Appeals Council denied Davis-Atkinson's request for review on January 17, 2002.

On March 18, 2002, Davis-Atkinson filed the instant complaint in this Court. The Commissioner made the instant motion on January 24, 2003, and Davis-Atkinson submitted an affirmation in opposition dated February 14, 2003. The motion was considered fully submitted on March 5, 2003. Testimony and Non-Medical Evidence Davis-Atkinson was born on August 7, 1969 and was thirty-two years old at the time of the Commissioner's final decision in this case. She testified at the administrative hearings that she had graduated from high school and had attended beauty school. She stated that she had previous work experience as a department store clerk, salon assistant and telephone interviewer. Davis-Atkinson stated that she had last worked in 1996 or 1997 at a beauty salon. She indicated that this job required her to walk two hours, stand two hours, sit three hours and occasionally bend. She reported that her job as a department store clerk involved two hours of walking, one hour of standing and four hours of sitting in an eight-hour day. The job required no lifting or carrying. Davis-Atkinson stated that she performed the job of telephone interviewer sitting.

Davis-Atkinson testified that she stopped working in 1996 or 1997 because she had uncontrolled seizures and because she became pregnant. Davis-Atkinson testified that she did not believe that she could continue to work because it "would be complicated for an employer to keep somebody who has to stay out a lot."

Davis-Atkinson testified that she experienced a seizure every one to two months, associated with her menstrual cycle. She stated that she occasionally fell into things and became confused, that she had an "aura" and a headache before a seizure, and that she had another type of seizure, which she called a "staring" seizure. Davis-Atkinson was pregnant at the time of the April 2001 hearing, and stated that she was taking no seizure medication.

Davis-Atkinson also reported that she had arthroscopic knee surgery in 1998, but admitted that her knee had been improving. Davis-Atkinson testified that she had mood swings and was not very rational when she had disagreements with her son's father. She stated that she did fairly well on some days.

Davis-Atkinson testified that she spent her time caring for her three-year-old son in the morning, taking him to school and then staying with her mother. She stated that she made her bed and occasionally swept. Davis-Atkinson testified that because she has allergies, her mother helps her with the housework. Davis-Atkinson stated that she does not have problems sitting, but that she sometimes has problems standing for long periods of time.

Medical Evidence

There is no medical evidence prior to September 1997. On September 12, 1997, Davis-Atkinson had a baby at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital ("St. Luke's"). There is no further evidence of medical treatment until a year later, when Davis-Atkinson was seen in August 1998 at an outpatient clinic at St. Luke's for complaints of pain in her left knee. She underwent arthroscopic surgery with partial meniscectomy of her left knee on August 31, 1998. After surgery, Davis-Atkinson reported much less knee pain.

On October 16, 1998, Davis-Atkinson was seen at the neurology clinic of St. Luke's, where she reported that she had a seizure three weeks earlier with a headache and fatigue and that she had had three seizures in the prior six weeks. Depakote, a compound of sodium valproate and valporic acid used for prophylactic treatment of migraine headaches and to reduce complex partial seizures, was prescribed. Davis-Atkinson was also treated for a rash.

Davis-Atkinson next received treatment at the outpatient clinics of St. Luke's during the period of May 1999 through July 5 1999. She had an annual gynecological exam on May 13, 1999. On May 14, 1999, Davis-Atkinson was seen at the neurology clinic, where she reported that she had seizures that occurred at her menses, with a headache aura. She also reported episodic depression which resulted in her occasionally forgetting to take her medication. Depakote was continued.

On May 27, 1999, Davis-Atkinson was seen at the clinic after she complained of dysmenorrhea and requested a prescription for Anaprox, which was prescribed. She was noted to have a seizure disorder, which was "well controlled on Depakote." Valproic acid level was noted to be subtherapeutic, at 19.6 ug/ml.

Davis-Atkinson visited the gynecology clinic several times in June 1999, during which time a possible cyst was noted. On July 13, 1999, she was seen at the gynecology clinic for abdominal pain, at which time she was noted to have a possible dermoid cyst on the left ovary. Medication was prescribed for a urinary tract infection. Davis-Atkinson was seen at the neurology clinic on July 16, 1999, and Depakote was continued.

Dr. Besler of St. Luke's prepared a report on September 1, 1999, noting that Davis-Atkinson's most recent examination was on July 13, 1999. He reported that Davis-Atkinson had a history of a dermoid cyst, recurrent urinary tract infections and a seizure disorder. Clinical findings consisted of tenderness of the left quadrant of the abdomen. Diagnoses were seizure ...


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