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Domm v. Colvin

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 29, 2013



MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.


Plaintiff, Janice Elizabeth Domm ("Domm" or "Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act § 216(I) and § 223, seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is not supported by substantial evidence in the record and is contrary to applicable legal standards.

On June 6, 2013, the Commissioner moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g) on the grounds that the findings of the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence. On June 7, 2013, Plaintiff cross-moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.


On February 5, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB under Title II, § 216(I) and § 223 of the Social Security Act, alleging a disability since January 4, 2009 arising from arthritis in the knees, lower back pain, bursitis, breathing problems, diabetes, carpel tunnel in the right hand, coronary artery disease, circulation problems, tiredness and chronic pain. T. 161. Plaintiff's claim was denied on April 30, 2010. T. 52-56. At Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was conducted on August 19, 2011 before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). T. 25-49. Domm testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel. In addition, a vocational expert testified.

On September 15, 2011, the ALJ issued a Decision finding that Domm was not disabled at any time from the alleged onset date through the date last insured. (Tr. 12-21) On September 27, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's Decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4) Plaintiff filed this action on November 26, 2012.


Plaintiff is a 58 year old high school graduate with two years of college education. (Tr. 162) She worked as a front office supervisor and secretary in a nursing home from June, 1981 until January 4, 2009 when she was laid off. T. 162-3, 182, 285. Domm's work at the nursing home including typing, billing, answering phones and general office work. T. 163. She indicated that she needed technical knowledge working a copier, printer, postage machine, fax machine, and computer. T. 183. The position also required writing skills to write letters, process billing, create office procedures and filing insurance forms. T. 163, 189. This position did not require lifting and Domm stated that the most she would have to lift in the position is less than 10 pounds. T. 164. Domm supervised four other employees spending almost half her time in a supervisory role. T. 164, 183.

Plaintiff's daily routine includes getting herself dressed, eating breakfast, going out for a walk, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, dusting, emptying dishwasher, doing laundry and some computer work to pay bills, "surf the internet" and play games. T. 174. Domm also gardens and paints. T. 176. She is able to feed and take care of her dog, walking her twice a day. T. 174. Donm points out that she can no longer walk for more than 10 minutes without resting and that she must split up her chores to avoid pain in her knees, back and hips and she gets short of breath. T. 178. She also indicated that she can no longer lift items as heavy as 25 pounds. T. 174. Domm drives a car and goes to the mall on a daily basis for walks. She meets friends for lunch or dinner. T. 178. Plaintiff wears knee braces when she stands for long periods of time to prevent swelling and wears a hand splint at night. T. 179.

A. Medical History

Plaintiff has a history of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and coronary artery disease. T. 216. Domm was treated at Unity Cardiology Group for right coronary artery stenosis with the placement of stents in February, 2008. T.204-207. Plaintiff continued to experience shortness of breath in September, 2008 and was given a repeat cardiac catheterization. T. 204. Plaintiff was prescribed Plavix and Zocor. T. 259-260. By December, 2008, Dr. Gerald Ryan, Plaintiff's cardiologist, indicated that now that the right side has been corrected, it was time to address the left side of her heart. T.262.

Plaintiff was treated in January, 2009 with left heart catheterization, coronary angiography and primary stenting of the mid-left circumflex. T. 216-217. The medical records indicate the procedures had no complications and were successful. T. 216. Dr. Ryan commented in July, 2009, that a review of plaintiff's x-rays showed some scarring and decreased pulmonary function in her lungs. However, the lungs were clear and she has coarse breath sounds. T. 264. He advised Plaintiff be cautious with dust and exposure to allergens. T. 264. By February, 2010, Dr. Ryan observed that Plaintiff's treadmill exercise test in the office was normal although she did have some shortness of breath. T. 270. Plaintiff asked Dr. Ryan about permanent disability who advised her to "see what Dr. Lewish says about her knees." T. 270. Dr. Ryan again examined plaintiff on February 8, 2011 with a follow up treadmill test. He noted that plaintiff's heart rhythm was regular and her respiratory effort was normal. T. 271. Plaintiff was taking Nadolol for treatment of high blood pressure, Spironolactone and Furosemide for fluid retention, Lantus for control of diabetes, aspirin and vitamins. T. 271. Dr. Ryan advised Plaintiff to continue with the same medications and he would see her in one year. T. 271.

Plaintiff was initially diagnosed with osteoarthritis of her left knee by Dr. Gregory Lewish of Westside Orthopaedic Group in 2000. T. 226-27. He found no surgical intervention was warranted but he recommended physical therapy and to take Advil for pain. Dr. Lewish examined Domm for left knee pain in 2003 and again in 2005. T. 223-227. His recommendations remained the same as in 2000: strengthening exercises and over the counter pain medication. On March 18, 2010, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Lewish for evaluation of ongoing left knee pain. Dr. Lewish noted that Plaintiff had a history of an open left patellar realignment procedure in 1980 and had been experiencing pain in the knee since 1998. T. 219. Dr. Lewish observed that plaintiff walked with a satisfactory gait and stood with good posture. There was no edema, deformity or evidence of trauma. T. 219. The left knee was tender along the medial joint line region and the range of motion included five degrees to 126 degrees of flexion. T. 219. X-rays were taken of the knee and Dr. Lewish concluded that Plaintiff had "moderately severe left knee osteoarthritis primarily involving the medial and patellofemoral compartments." T. 220. He considered it a "fairly common problem" and explained to Plaintiff how the symptoms could be well controlled with conservative medical management with strengthening exercises and wearing a knee sleeve. T. 220. He noted that the knee arthritis was "not severe enough to warrant consideration of knee replacement surgery" and he specifically did not impose any restrictions or limitations. T. 220.

On March 31, 2010, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Sandra Boehlert as an independent medical examination. T. 232-236. Dr. Boehlert noted that Plaintiff had a history of coronary artery disease that was first diagnosed in 2008. She had stents placed and catherizations. Although Domm had nitroglycerin available to her, she reported that she has not needed to use it. She took Plavix and Bayer every day as well as hypertension pills, an ACE inhibitor and a water pill. Plaintiff also has had arthritis in her knees for which she does leg strengthening exercises. Plaintiff reported to Dr. Boehlert that she had to rest every 20 minutes when walking long distances and cannot stand more than 20 minutes before needing to rest. Plaintiff developed low back pain and hip pain in the past year but was not taking any pain medications. T. 232. Although Plaintiff had carpal tunnel syndrome in her right hand, she reported that she wears a brace at night and has no daytime limitations. T. 232. Plaintiff also reported that she took Lasix for fluid build-up in her legs and that she had fatigue. Plaintiff had diabetes since 2007 for which she was taking oral medications. Dr. Boehlert diagnosed Plaintiff with a history of osteoarthritis, lower back pain, a history of hip bursitis, coronary artery disease, carpal tunnel and dependent edema and found her prognosis to be "fair". T. 235. She specifically found that plaintiff had "no limitations noted on today's exam." T. 235.

A lumbrosacral spine x-ray taken of plaintiff on April 5, 2010 showed degenerative spondylosis at L1-L2 through L3-L4 but no compression fracture. T. 237.

On May 17, 2011, Plaintiff had an abdominal ultrasound performed to evaluate cirrhosis. T. 312. The images found that Plaintiff had no hepatomegaly but mildly increased diffuse echotexture of the liver which may be due to fatty infiltration. ...

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