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Roache v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

February 13, 2015

DAWN K. ROACHE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

John Corbett O'Meara, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Dawn K. Roache appeals the denial of Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties have submitted cross-motions for summary judgment on the administrative record. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and grant Defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Dawn K. Roache filed an application for DIB June 22, 2011, alleging disability as of November 1, 2010. Her claim was denied by the State Disability Determination Service (“DDS”), and she then requested an administrative hearing. Administrative Law Judge Gregory Holiday held a hearing December 3, 2012, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified. Following the hearing the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. The Appeals Council declined to review the decision March 4, 2014, rendering the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the defendant Commissioner.

BACKGROUND FACTS

In August 2009, more than a year before her alleged onset date, plaintiff Roache was treated at Detroit Receiving Hospital. She reported that she had been robbed two days before and fell on her knee. An x-ray of her knee was normal. Tr. at 270. About two months later Plaintiff was again seen at Detroit Receiving Hospital due to a fracture of her left wrist. Tr. at 255-56 and 266.

In November 2010, the month Plaintiff alleges her disability began, she was admitted to St. John Health and Medical Center due to a seizure witnessed by her family. Tr. at 216. Plaintiff also reported experiencing moderate to severe headaches about three times per week. She underwent several tests during her admission, including a CT scan of her head, a brain MRI and an echocardiogram, all of which revealed no abnormalities. Tr. at 219-224. Plaintiff was prescribed seizure medication and was discharged. Tr. at 212.

Plaintiff went to Detroit Receiving Hospital requesting a refill of her medications for left hand and back pain in March 2011. She stated that she had not had medications for the past two months and had been taking over-the-counter products, which did not help. Tr. at 246. Upon examination, she exhibited essentially normal findings. Tr. at 247.

In August 2011, plaintiff Roache met with Dr. Vaqar Siddiqui for a neurology consultation. She complained of neck and back pain, stating that it had worsened in the past six months. Tr. at 297. Plaintiff further complained that her back pain also radiated to her right leg. Regarding her seizures, she stated that she had been experiencing them since she was in a car accident when she was seventeen years old. She stated that her most recent seizure was in March 2011 and that she had stopped taking her seizure medications because “she ran out.” Tr. at 297. Upon examination Plaintiff exhibited good memory and normal mood, judgment, and abstraction, as well as normal reflexes and no motor weakness. Tr. at 298. Dr. Siddiqui also identified positive findings upon straight-leg testing on her right leg and a slightly unsteady gait on tandem. Dr. Siddiqui recommended several tests to further evaluate Plaintiff’s back and neck pain, left hand numbness, and seizures. Tr. at 298. However, there is no indication that Plaintiff underwent these tests.

In February 2012, Dr. Mark Gardner, a state agency psychologist, reviewed Plaintiff’s records, including Dr. Siddiqui’s normal mental status findings, and concluded that the medical evidence of record did not support Plaintiff’s complaints of mental health issues. Tr. at 73-74.

Throughout the period at issue, Plaintiff also regularly treated with Dr. Terry Baul, her primary care source. Dr. Baul’s records are partially illegible, but they reflect Plaintiff’s complaints of back and neck pain. Tr. at 301, 308.

STANDARD OF REVIEW AND ANALYSIS

A claimant seeking benefits based on disability bears the burden of proving that she is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (“Act”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a); Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1181 (6th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff must establish the existence of a medically-determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted, or can be expected to last, for a continuous period of not less than twelve months and that her impairments render her unable to engage in any substantial, gainful activity. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Abbott v. Sullivan, 905 F.2d 918, 923 (6th Cir. 1990).

The Act provides that “the findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Agency has the duty to weigh the evidence, resolve material conflicts, make independent findings of fact, and determine the case accordingly. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 399-400 (1971). Judicial review is therefore limited to determining whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards in ...


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