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Scott v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 17, 2014

STEPHANIE MARIE SCOTT, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

Charles E. Binder, Esq., Law Office of Harry J. Binder and Charles E. Binder, P.C., New York, New York, for Plaintiff.

Hon. Richard S. Hartunian, United States Attorney, Jason P. Peck, Esq., Special Assistant United States Attorney Social Security Administration, Office of Regional General Counsel, Region II New York, New York.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

NORMAN A. MORDUE, Senior District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

The Commissioner found plaintiff Stephanie Marie Scott disabled as of February 17, 2010, and awarded benefits. Plaintiff brings this action to challenge the Commissioner's disability onset date determination and claims her disability began on July 29, 2009, more than six months earlier. As discussed below, the Court finds that the ALJ's disability onset date determination is not supported by substantial evidence.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was thirty-one when she applied for benefits, has Type I, insulin-dependent, diabetes, a diagnosis she received at age ten. She graduated from high school, attended three years of college and worked continuously in various positions, including cashier, bookkeeper, waitress, nursing assistant, and employment security officer, until July 26, 2009, when, she alleges, she had to stop because her diabetes and blood sugars were "[u]ncontrollable" and she was suffering from depression. T.162. The following is a recitation of the relevant evidence.

Medical Evidence

In April 2009, two months prior to the alleged disability onset date, plaintiff was admitted to the intensive care unit in Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, New York for: diabetic ketoacidosis; diabetes mellitus Type I, uncontrolled; dehydration; urinary tract infection; and electrolyte imbalance. T.498.

On June 19, 2009, plaintiff went to the office of her primary care physician, Dr. Martin Masarech, to obtain treatment for a wound on her right thumb. T.306.

On July 20, 2009, plaintiff went to Dr. Masarech's office complaining that her "sugar has been off" and that she was having pelvic discomfort. T.311. Dr. Masarech diagnosed a urinary tract infection and directed plaintiff not to work for three days. T.311.[1]

On July 26, 2009, the alleged disability onset date, plaintiff "went home from work early" because she "was not feeling well" and her "doctor took her out of work". T. 162. At the time, she had been working full time as a cashier at a home improvement store. She has not worked since then.

Plaintiff returned to Dr. Masarech's office on August 3, 2009. T.314. She complained of chills, fatigue, nasal congestion and wheezing. T.314. Dr. Masarech commented that plaintiff was depressed and "crying, stressed - frustrated over sugar." T.315. Dr. Masarech prescribed an antidepressant. T.315. He also assessed bronchitis and prescribed an antibiotic. T.315. Dr. Masarech excused plaintiff from work for one month: August 3, 2009 to September 3, 2009. T.316.

On September 3, 2009, plaintiff went to Dr. Masarech's office. T.318. He characterized plaintiff's diabetes as "uncontrolled" and noted that plaintiff was experiencing increased fatigue. T.318. Plaintiff reported that she felt unable to work or to deal with stress. T.318. Dr. Masarech recommended that she "stay off work until sugars stabilize" and excused her from work from September 3, 2009 to October 3, 2009. T.320.

Plaintiff went to see Dr. Masarech on October 9, 2009. T.322. Dr. Masarech's record indicates that plaintiff's diabetes was "uncontrolled", that she "has been managed with - diet - insulin - fingerstick blood sugars", has been "experiencing - increased fatigue", and has been "[u]nable to get accurate glucose readings (too high for machine to read)". T.322. Under "Assessment/Plan", Dr. Masarech wrote: "DM, uncomplicated, type I, uncontrolled. Moderate, very out of control - needs stable lifestyle - needs to be out of work". T.323.

Plaintiff went to Dr. Masarech's office on October 29, 2009 complaining of pelvic discomfort and reported that she had been in contact with her endocrinologist, but that her blood sugar levels "were over 600 in last 2 days." T. 326. Dr. Masarech prescribed an antibiotic and Diflucan and advised her to stay in close contact with her endocrinologist. T.327.

On November 18, 2009, plaintiff was admitted to the hospital because her blood sugar was high. T. 473. Plaintiff complained of "having some weakness, tiredness, achiness and she knew that her sugars are getting out of control." T. 473. Doris Hughs, a nurse practitioner at the hospital, assessed "[d]iabetic ketoacidosis with underlying poorly-controlled type I diabetes." T.477. When plaintiff was discharged on November 21, 2009, her diabetic ketoacidosis was "resolved" and her "sugars" were below 200. T.478.

On February 10, 2010, plaintiff reported to Dr. Masarech that she was depressed and anxious, "lots of stress - sugars up - not sleeping". T. 430. On February 24, 2010, plaintiff went to Dr. Masarech's office complaining of a cough and fever. T.434. On May 3, 2010, plaintiff went to Dr. Masarech's office and reported back pain and depression. T.439. On May 17, 2010, plaintiff went to Dr. Masarech's office because she had a wound on her right lower quadrant. T.444. Dr. Masarech diagnosed a lesion on her abdomen "due to injection site-spontaneously draining" but with "no toxic features" and prescribed an antibiotic. T.444.

On June 22, 2010, plaintiff went to the hospital for "excision of abdominal wall subcutaneous lesions." T. 453. After the procedure, plaintiff was admitted for "control of her glucose". T.454.

Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital "for the management of diabetic ketoacidosis" again on: August 13, 2010, October 18, 2010, November 17, 2010, and December 5, 2010. T.551, 548, 540, 537.[2]

Opinion Evidence

The Commissioner referred plaintiff to Dr. August Valmond for an internal medicine examination on January 11, 2010. T.378. Plaintiff told Dr. Valmond that "her blood glucose runs constantly greater than 240" and "sometimes... greater than 300." T. 378. She also reported having "protein in the urine and blood in the urine, which is secondary to her diabetes." T.378. Plaintiff stated that she was able to cook, clean, do laundry and shop but that her mother and husband help her. T.379. After examining her, Dr. Valmond diagnosed, among other things, "[u]controlled diabetes mellitus, type 1", [h]istory of asthma and "[h]istory of depression" and stated that plaintiff "would benefit from better control of her diabetes mellitus" and "should avoid smoke, dust, and other known respiratory irritants secondary to asthma history." T.381.

The Commissioner referred plaintiff to Mary Ann Moore, Psy.D., for a psychiatric evaluation on January 11, 2010. T.384. Dr. Moore opined that plaintiff "may have some slight difficulty dealing with stress, but can generally relate adequately with others, make appropriate work decisions, and maintain a regular work schedule." T.387. Dr. Moore further stated that while "[r]esults of the examination appear to be consistent with psychiatric issues, ...


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