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O'Keefe v. Commissioner of Social Security

April 15, 2008

SHARON O'KEEFE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



DECISION AND ORDER

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff Sharon O'Keefe ("Plaintiff") filed an application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") on March 22, 2004 and an application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") on April 12, 2004. Dkt. No. 7, Administrative Transcript ("AT"), 68-70, 224-26. The applications were denied initially. AT 29-34, 227. A request was made for a hearing. AT 35. A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on May 3, 2005. AT 231-58. In a decision dated June 15, 2005, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. AT 13-24. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on January 30, 2006. AT 5-8. Plaintiff commenced this action on March 14, 2006 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision. Dkt. No. 1, Compl.

B. Contentions

Plaintiff makes the following claims:

(1) The Commissioner failed to develop fully the administrative record. Plntf's Brief, at 12 (Dkt. No. 8).

(2) The Commissioner erred by failing to find that Plaintiff's arthritis and depressive disorder were severe impairments. Id. at 11.

(3) The Commissioner erred by failing to find that Plaintiff's obesity, anxiety, and agoraphobia meet a listed impairment. Id. at 11.

(4) The Commissioner failed to make a proper credibility determination. Id. at 13-14.

(5) The Commissioner's determination that Plaintiff is not disabled is not supported by substantial evidence. Id. at 14-15.

Defendant argues that the Commissioner's determination is supported by substantial evidence in the record, and must be affirmed. Deft's Brief (Dkt. No. 9).

C. Facts

Plaintiff was thirty-five years old at the time of the hearing. AT 235. Plaintiff completed one year of college. AT 98, 235. Plaintiff last worked as a secretary. AT 83. Plaintiff claimed that she stopped working on July 2, 2003, AT 82, but she subsequently attempted to work at various jobs until January 29, 2004. AT 120. She alleges disability due to severe morbid obesity, agoraphobia, arthritis, and narcolepsy or idiopathic hypersomnolence.*fn1 AT 82.

1. Physical Condition

From February of 2004 to January of 2005, Plaintiff treated with Edgar Henriques, M.D. AT 168-82, 218-22. On February 20, 2004, Dr. Henriques performed a hysteroscopy*fn2 and "D&C"*fn3 due to dysfunctional uterine bleeding. AT 137.

On February 16, 2004, Plaintiff saw Mark Tallman, M.D., a cardiologist, for a preoperative risk assessment for gastric reduction surgery. AT 131-32. Dr. Tallman found that Plaintiff's risk was low. AT 132. He diagnosed her as suffering from a left hemiblock, morbid obesity, and dyspnea. Id.

On February 17, 2004, Plaintiff was examined by Alyse Bellomo, M.D., a gastroenterologist. AT 134-36. Dr. Bellomo diagnosed Plaintiff as suffering from obesity. AT 135-36. Dr. Bellomo performed an endoscopy of Plaintiff's stomach on March 1, 2004.*fn4 AT 139. The procedure revealed an ulceration due to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics. Id. A biopsy revealed mild gastrisis. AT 140.

On March 24, 2004, Plaintiff was examined by E. Taft, M.D. AT 149-51. Dr. Taft found that Plaintiff has an underlying bleeding defect, noting that vonWillebrand's disease*fn5 is "most likely." AT 151.

On April 2, 2004, Plaintiff was examined by Vanessa Denning, M.D., a nutritionist. AT 162-63. Dr. Denning diagnosed Plaintiff as suffering from hyperlipoproteinemia, essential hypertension, degenerative joint disease, morbid obesity, and hypersomnolence. AT 163.

On June 8, 2004, Plaintiff was examined at the request of the agency by Mario Brezler, M.D. AT 207-11. Dr. Brezler diagnosed Plaintiff as suffering from morbid obesity and hyperlipidemia, and noted a history of agoraphobia, idiopathic hypersomnia, and multiple D&Cs. AT 211. Dr. Brezler found no exertional limitations, but found that Plaintiff is limited in her ability to drive due to idiopathic hypersomnolence. Id.

The record also contains a Physical Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") Assessment completed by B. Anderson, a non-physician analyst, on June 17, 2004. AT 183-88. It was indicated that Plaintiff has no exertional limitations. AT 184. It was also indicated that Plaintiff has an environmental limitation, specifically that she should avoid hazards. AT 186.

2. Mental Condition

On June 8, 2004, Plaintiff was examined at the request of the agency by Annette Payne, Ph.D. AT 213-17. Dr. Payne diagnosed Plaintiff as suffering from panic disorder with agoraphobia, moderate to severe, and depressive disorder not otherwise specified. AT 216. Dr. Payne found that Plaintiff could follow and understand simple directions and instructions; perform simple, rote tasks under supervision; and consistently perform simple tasks. Id. Dr. Payne also found that Plaintiff would have difficulties performing the following: learning new tasks, performing complex tasks, making appropriate decisions, relating with others, and dealing with stress. Id. Dr. ...


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