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Stagnitta v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

April 11, 2014

DIANA E. STAGNITTA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Diana E. Stagnitta ("Plaintiff" or "Stagnitta"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) of the Social Security Act, claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") improperly denied her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB").

Currently before the Court are the parties' competing motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, I grant the Commissioner's motion, deny the Plaintiff's cross-motion, and dismiss the Complaint.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 27, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging disability as of March 2, 1985 (which was later amended to December 31, 2002 and then May 31, 2008), which was denied. Administrative Transcript [T.] 37, 63-64, 98-100, 126, 129. On July 1, 2011, an administrative hearing was conducted before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Ramon E. Quinones, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified. T. 34-54. On July 22, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled from December 31, 2002 through July 22, 2011. T. 20-33.

The Appeals Councils denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's Decision the final decision of the Commissioner. T. 1-6. This action followed.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's Mental Health History

Plaintiff treated with psychiatrist Tulio R. Ortego, M.D. from approximately 2003 to 2011. T. 359-366, 369-380. Treatment notes from 2004 show that Plaintiff was taking Lithium, Seroquel, Zoloft, Protonix, and Synthroid, and that she was mildly depressed due to postpartum stress. T. 369-380. Dr. Ortego's treatment notes from November 2005, May 2006, and November 2007 show no evidence of psychosis. T. 370-374.

In September 2008, Plaintiff met with Dr. Ortego, who noted that Plaintiff's motor activity was decreased, her speech was spontaneous and she was talkative, although her thought processes remained organized, her content was goal-directed, her mood was full range, her affect was congruent, and her insight, judgment and concentration were fair. T. 368. Dr. Ortego noted that Plaintiff was doing well and prescribed her Lithium and Zoloft. T. 368.

In December 2008, Plaintiff met with Dr. Ortego to discuss her concerns that her Lithium medication may be having an effect on her physical health. T. 367. Dr. Ortego continued Plaintiff's prescription of Zoloft, decreased her supply of Lithium and prescribed Depakote. He noted that Plaintiff was doing well and she showed no acute signs or symptoms of mania, depression or psychosis. T. 367.

Plaintiff continued to see Dr. Ortego throughout 2009, and his clinical findings remained fairly consistent and the same as prior visits. T. 359-366.

In May 2010, Dr. Ortega completed a treatment summary report in which he identified Plaintiff's treating diagnosis as bipolar disorder, manic with psychosis. T. 313, 356. He noted that Plaintiff's symptoms included mood swings, poor impulse control, delusional thinking, poor sleep, racing thoughts and pressured speech, poor insight and increased aggressiveness. T. 356. He noted that Plaintiff was doing well on the medications he had prescribed for her and assessed her prognosis as fair to poor with treatment and medication. T. 314. Dr. Ortego opined that Plaintiff was "unable to work" and checked boxes on a form indicating that Plaintiff was limited in sustaining concentration and persistence, social interaction, and adaptation. T. 318.

Plaintiff met with Dr. Ortego in June and July 2010, and Dr. Ortego noted that Plaintiff had no gross symptoms or signs, but was mildly labile. T. 354-355. Plaintiff also met with Dr. Ortego in April 2011, at which time Plaintiff was preoccupied with the death of a relative. T. 352. Plaintiff also met with Dr. Ortego in May of 2011, at which time she indicated she was feeling alright and denied any acute signs, symptoms, mania or mood swings. T. 350. Dr. Ortego prescribed Seroquel, Zoloft, and Lithium and noted that Plaintiff's affect was full, that she demonstrated good range of emotion, and had no problems expressing herself. T. 350.

Plaintiff's Physical Health History

In March 2008, Anthony Ragusa, M.D., internal medicine, began treating Plaintiff at Greater Rochester Internal Medicine. His initial assessment was hypothyroidism, obesity, bipolar disorder, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. T. 212.

In April 2008, Plaintiff underwent a thyroid ultrasound which showed a complex cyst in her left thyroid lobe and was otherwise normal. T. 231.

In October 2008, Dr. Ragusa referred Plaintiff to Krishnajua Rajamani, M.D. for further assessment of Plaintiff's thyroid abnormality and for her complaints of fatigue and voice hoarseness. T. 242-243. Plaintiff underwent a parathyroid scan, which was positive for a functioning parathyroid nodule in the left lobe. T. 235.

In November 2008, after complaining to Dr. Ragusa of low back and right leg pain, she underwent imaging of her lumbosacral spine and right leg. The test of her spine revealed mild disc degeneration, and the right leg test was normal. T. 236-237.

In February 2009, Dr. Rajamani confirmed a diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism in a report to Dr. Ragusa based on lab results of elevated parathyroid hormone level, mildly elevated TSH levels, and the results of the parathyroid scan. T. 244.

In June 2009, Dr. Rajamani ordered a neck ultrasound, which showed that the thyroid was unremarkable. An ultrasound guided fine needed aspiration, however, showed a left-sided nodule. T. 239, 240. Dr. Rajamani referred Plaintiff to Nagendra Nadaraja, M.D. ...


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