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Mejia v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 28, 2017

MARIA C. MEJIA, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN G. KOELTL, District Judge

         The 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.

         The parties have filed cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         On 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 Dkt. 9.

         I.

         The administrative record contains the following facts.

         The 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).

         On 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, 229-30).

         On September 4, 2012, the plaintiff underwent a lumbar MRI that revealed degenerative disc disease and left lateral disc herniation. (Tr. 266-67).

         Dr. 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).

         On 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.” (Tr. 401).

         On 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).

         On 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).

         On 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).

         On 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).

         On 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. Medvedovsky ...


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