United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 17) AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. 16)
AVERN COHN, District Judge.
This is a social security case. Plaintiff Janet Moore (Plaintiff) appeals from the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her application for Social Security Disability Benefits. Plaintiff claims disability since December 30, 2009, at age 51, due to severe back pain, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and incontinence. (Tr. at 78)
The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. (Docs 16, 17) The motions were referred to a Magistrate Judge (MJ) for a report and recommendation (R&R). The MJ recommends that the Court deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant the Commissioner's motion. Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Objection to the R&R. (Doc. 19) For the following reasons, the Court will adopt the R&R as the findings and conclusions of the Court, supplemented as below. The Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 17) is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 16) is DENIED.
The R&R sets forth the facts, many of which are repeated here. Plaintiff applied for disability benefits in March 2011, alleging that she was disabled and unable to work since February 2011, due to severe back pain, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and incontinence. (Tr. at 78) Plaintiff later amended her alleged onset date to December 30, 2009. The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied Plaintiff's claim, and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. After considering evidence presented at the hearing and in the record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to disability benefits because she retained the residual functional capacity to perform a limited range of light work. (Tr. at 78) In reaching her decision, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's own testimony and considered various medical assessments.
Plaintiff was 54 years old at the time of the administrative hearing. She has graduated from high school, earned an associate's college degree in business administration, and was self-employed as a childcare provider from 2008 through early 2011 (Tr. 67-68). During the relevant past, Plaintiff has been employed as a nurse's aide, school secretary, loan processor, and retail worker. (Tr. 69-71).
During 2008, while Plaintiff was employed as a nurse's aide, Plaintiff sustained a work-related injury. As a result, Plaintiff underwent a workers' compensation evaluation, which determined that she sustained injuries to her back and spine. In January 2011, Plaintiff and her former employer reached a settlement under the auspices of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, Workers' Compensation Board of Magistrates, determining that Plaintiff was entitled workers' compensation insurance benefits, the details of which were memorialized in a redemption (settlement) agreement. This was included as part of the record before the ALJ. (Tr. at 307-10)
On or about November 19, 2008, Plaintiff underwent a medical evaluation by Michael Groff, D.O., at the St. Mary's Neuroscience Program, complaining of pain in the back, upper buttocks, and down the posterolateral aspects both legs, with severe pain in the right heel and some numbness and tingling in the outside of the right foot. Dr. Groff reviewed Plaintiff's MRI images, and concluded that she suffered from multilevel degenerative changes throughout the lumbar spine, a herniated disc in her lower back, and a right radiculopathy causing disabling pain down her right leg. (Tr. at 463-66)
Between December 2008 and February 2010, Plaintiff continued to receive treatment at St. Mary's by a number of physicians, including Dr. Steven R. Klafeta, M.D. Repeatedly, the progress notes describe Plaintiff as presenting with severe right lower extremity pain, consistent with a lower back herniated disc, significant nerve compression, and right radiculopathy; repeatedly, these physicians advised her that she should pursue physical therapy with the possibility of a surgical procedure, and recommended that she return to work (Tr. at 320, 323, 327-29, 332, 340-41, 345-49, 353-55)
On November 28, 2012, Plaintiff underwent an additional consultation with Dr. Klafeta complaining of these same problems. Dr. Klafeta noted Plaintiff's "long history of back issues" and noted that, although she had been scheduled for surgery, she had some resolution of her back pain but continued to experience back problems, including some bilateral pain extending to her lower back, him, thigh, and knees. He also noted that Plaintiff had not had any conservative therapy because of insurance issues, and explained that a recent MRI showed degenerative disc problems, but some resolution of the right-side disc herniation. He stated that Plaintiff had lower back pain, bilateral lower extremity radicular pain, and "questionable" radiculopathy. He discussed treatment options with Plaintiff and recommended epidural steroid injections and physical therapy, and advised that surgery should be considered a "last ditch option." (Tr. at 474)
B. The ALJ's Decision
The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was impaired as a result of obesity, degenerative changes of the lumbar spine and hypertension, but that she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that ...