United States District Court, S.D. New York
MARIA C. MEJIA, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
G. KOELTL, District Judge
plaintiff, Maria Cleofe Mejia, has brought this action to
seek review of a final decision of the defendant, the
Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”), that the plaintiff was not
entitled to Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The
plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on September 4
and 11, 2013, respectively, alleging that she became unable
to work on April 1, 2009. The plaintiff alleged the following
impairments: lumbar degenerative disc disease and
spondylosis; left knee meniscus tear; fibromyalgia;
depressive disorder; anxiety disorder; ulcerative colitis;
and other impairments. (Tr. 18-20). Her claims were initially
denied on December 13, 2013. She filed a written request for
a hearing on January 16, 2014, and the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) denied the plaintiff's claims
on April 16, 2015. After the Appeals Council declined review
on July 29, 2016, the decision of the ALJ became the final
decision of the Commissioner.
parties have filed cross-motions for judgment on the
pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of
appeal, the plaintiff concedes that the Commissioner properly
denied her applications for the period before September 4,
2012. The final decision is accordingly affirmed as to that
period. However, the petitioner maintains that the
Commissioner erred in failing to grant her applications as of
the amended onset date of September 4, 2012. See
administrative record contains the following facts.
plaintiff was born on August 9, 1964, and attended school
through the ninth grade in the Dominican Republic. (Tr. 56,
150). From 2002 through 2009, she worked as a home health
aide. (Tr. 56, 186). The record indicates that the plaintiff
did not earn income between 2009 and 2013. (Tr. 167). For
eight months in 2013, the plaintiff was paid to care for
children for four hours per day. (Tr. 56-57). The plaintiff
lives with her daughter. (Tr. 61, 158).
October 13, 2011, the F.E.G.S. WeCare program interviewed and
physically examined the plaintiff. (Tr. 211-36). F.E.G.S.
physician Dr. Zobidatte Moussa found that the plaintiff was
61 inches tall, weighed 198 pounds, and had a body mass index
of 37.41. (Tr. 224). Dr. Moussa found that the plaintiff had
“slight right foot sole tenderness, ” but
concluded that the examination was otherwise normal. (Tr. 24,
September 4, 2012, the plaintiff underwent a lumbar MRI that
revealed degenerative disc disease and left lateral disc
herniation. (Tr. 266-67).
Sangita Shah treated the plaintiff from at least 2010 through
April 1, 2013. (Tr. 275, 836-39, 864). On October 12, 2012,
Dr. Shah opined that the plaintiff was unable to work because
of her medical conditions (back pain, neck pain, shoulder
pain, ankle pain, and diabetes, the last of which was
diagnosed in August 2012). (Tr. 275). Dr. Shah noted that the
plaintiff complained of “constant body aches, weakness,
fatigue and swelling.” Dr. Shaw also opined that the
plaintiff's conditions “inhibit ability to work and
work may exacerbate her conditions.” (Tr. 275). He
noted that the plaintiff was under the care of many
specialists. (Tr. 275).
April 23, 2013, the plaintiff began seeing Dr. Mihail
Medvedovsky. (Tr. 434). Dr. Medvedovsky referred the
plaintiff to Dr. Latha Thanneer, a cardiologist. (Tr. 439).
On May 16, 2013, the plaintiff underwent an MRI on her left
knee, which revealed a tear of the anterior horn of the
lateral meniscus and advanced lateral patellofemoral
arthropathy. (Tr. 424). On June 24, 2013, Dr. Thanneer found
that the plaintiff had “no cardiac limitations for
physical activity and was encouraged to do exercise.”
September 10, 2013, Dr. Medvedovsky submitted a Multiple
Impairment Questionnaire in which he opined that, in an
eight-hour day, the plaintiff can sit for 5 hours and
stand/walk for 3 hours. (Tr. 524, 526). Furthermore, Dr.
Medvedovsky noted the plaintiff's complaints about her
left knee and lumbosacral area as a source of daily pain, and
that the plaintiff can never lift or carry more than 10
pounds. (Tr. 525, 527).
November 5, 2013, Dr. Thukral conducted an internal medical
examination of the plaintiff at the request of the Social
Security Administration (the “SSA”). (Tr.
871-875). The plaintiff self-reported her symptoms and
diagnoses, which included bilateral knee pain, lower
backache, hypertension, asthma, and other impairments. (Tr.
874). Dr. Thukral opined that the plaintiff had “no
limitations for sitting, pulling, or pushing, but has mild
limitations for standing (for a long time), bending, lifting,
carrying...due to bilateral knee pain and lower
backache.” (Tr. 874). Moreover, he opined that the
plaintiff needed to avoid smoke, dust, and other respiratory
irritants. (Tr. 874).
September 4, 2013, the plaintiff filed an application with
the SSA seeking DIB and on September 11, 2013, the plaintiff
filed another application seeking SSI. (Tr. 15). The
plaintiff claimed that her alleged disability began on April
1, 2009. (Tr. 15). The plaintiff's claims were initially
denied on December 13, 2013. (Tr. 98). On January 16, 2014,
the plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing before an
ALJ. (Tr. 15).
August 21, 2014, the plaintiff began receiving psychiatric
services at the Jewish Board for Family and Children's
Services. (Tr. 911). On December 3, 2014, the plaintiff
underwent a psychiatric evaluation, where she self-reported
that her ulcerative colitis made it difficult for her to eat
many things. (Tr. 914). On February 3, 2015, in an Evaluation
and Management Assessment, the plaintiff self-reported that
she had undergone an endoscopy and colonoscopy six months
before, and that she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis
and gastritis. (Tr. 936).
September 3, 2014, the plaintiff underwent a colonoscopy.
(Tr. 908). Aside from medium-sized non-bleeding internal
hemorrhoids, the digital rectal exam was normal, although the
presence of stool prevented visualization. (Tr. 908). Dr.