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Laguerre v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 29, 2014


Maria Del Carmen Laguerre, Plaintiff, Pro se, New York, NY.

For Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Elizabeth Rothstein, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, Office of The General Counse, New York, NY; David Stuart Jones, U.S. Attorney's Office, SDNY, New York, NY.



Pursuant to section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the " Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Maria Del Carmen Laguerre, proceeding pro se, appeals a decision by the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the " Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits (" SSI"). The Commissioner has filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the plaintiff did not oppose. The motion is granted.


A. Personal History

Ms. Laguerre was born on July 16, 1976, and filed her application for SSI in September 2011, when she was 35 years old. (R. at 91).[1] The protective filing date of her application is September 13, 2011.[2] (R. at 131). She attended college for two years and has worked as a cashier, tutor, and web developer/project manager. (R. at 107). She stopped working on May 1, 2011, due to her medical conditions, which included back problems, migraines, asthma, leg pain, and depression. (R. at 106). Her main reason for leaving her most recent job was depression. (R. at 111).

At the time of filing, Ms. Laguerre lived in an apartment with her family and took care of her three daughters with some help from her mother and sisters. (R. at 136-37). She reported that her conditions impeded her ability to walk, stand, and sit for extended periods of time; to climb stairs, kneel, squat, and reach without pain; and to concentrate, making it difficult to complete tasks. (R. at 137; 141-42).

B. Medical History

1. January 5, 2008 to September 12, 2011

On January 5, 2008, Ms. Laguerre was admitted to Metropolitan Hospital Center with migraines and abdominal pain that had lasted three weeks. (R. at 182-88). She was discharged on January 7, 2008. (R. at 182). She visited the neurology clinic on January 22, 2008, reporting that her migraines, which began after she suffered head trauma in 2002 and had since worsened, were mildly relieved by Topamax. (R. at 213-14). The physician prescribed an increased dosage of Topamax, continued her on Maxalt, and encouraged her to lose weight and avoid coffee and soda. (R. at 214).

The plaintiff followed-up with Judit Osvath, M.D., on February 24, 2008. (R. at 208-09). She reported that she suffered headaches every two days. (R. at 209). Ms. Laguerre had not taken Topamax for many months and reported that she suffered side-effects from the medication. (R. at 209-10). Dr. Osvath referred her for a neurology exam and for possible weight reduction surgery, noting that Ms. Laguerre weighed 315 pounds, menstruated irregularly, and had worsening hirsutism. (R. at 209-10). The plaintiff's mild persistent asthma was controlled with medication. (R. at 210).

Ambra Ferraris, M.D., evaluated Ms. Laguerre at the pulmonary clinic on June 30, 2010, prior to bariatric surgery. (R. at 204-05). She assessed the plaintiff with moderate persistent asthma/mild restrictive lung disease, morbid obesity, instability in the temporomandibular joint, possible reflux disease or gastritis, possible sleep apnea, and recurrent tonsilitis. (R. at 206-07). Dr. Ferraris continued Ms. Laguerre's asthma treatment and referred her to a maxillofacial specialist, a rhino-otolaryngologist, and a sleep study. (R. at 206-07).

Ms. Laguerre's pre-operative cardiology examination occurred on August 25, 2010. (R. at 194). She was diagnosed with shortness of breath (known as dyspnea) and cleared for surgery. (R. at 201-02). On the same date, the pulmonary clinic found " [c]hronic obstructive asthma, with (acute) exacerbation, " but " no absolute pulmonary contraindications for [bariatric] surgery." (R. at 196). The plaintiff was continued on her asthma medication and prescribed deep vein thrombosis prophylaxis, as well as nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) during sleep. (R. at 196). A chest x-ray in October 2010 showed no signs of acute cardiopulmonary disease. (R. at 215).

In a visit to the neurology clinic on January 3, 2011, Ms. Laguerre reported that she had last visited the clinic in September 2010 and restarted Topamax and Maxalt for her migraines. (R. at 190). Her bariatric surgery had been performed in October 2010. (R. at 190). Although she reported a severe headache episode the previous month, her current complaint was " daily headaches of mild to moderate intensity, " which she treated with Topamax and Maxalt supplemented with Motrin. (R. at 190-91). The physician increased her Topamax dosage, continued her on Maxalt, discontinued Motrin, and asked her to return for a follow-up in three months. (R. at 191).

2. September 13, 2011 to July 11, 2012

Ms. Laguerre returned to the neurology clinic for a follow-up on September 19, 2011. (R. at 241). The plaintiff reported that she had run out of her medication " months ago" and was taking up to six over-the-counter migraine pain relievers a day. (R. at 242). Upon examination, Anne Kleiman, M.D., found that the plaintiff had lost a significant amount of weight and weighed 267 pounds. (R. at 242). Her cranial nerves and tone were normal, she was mentally intact, and her gait was steady. (R. at 242). Dr. Kleiman diagnosed " [c]ommon migraine without mention of intractable migraine, " prescribed an increased dosage of Topamax (to 100 mg), directed the plaintiff to take Maxalt as needed and discontinue the over-the-counter medication, and to return in six weeks with a headache calendar. (R. at 242).

Approximately three weeks later, the plaintiff underwent a laproscopic procedure to remove her gallbladder as treatment for gallstones and pancreatitis. (R. at 220-23). She returned to the neurology clinic on November 7, 2011, complaining of ongoing migraines. (R. at 247). Her headache calendar showed frequent mild headaches and severe migraines approximately once per week. (R. at 248). Ms. Laguerre stated that she had stopped working because of her recent medical problems. (R. at 248). Dr. Kleiman continued ...

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