United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
SARAH J. BROOKS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
F. COX DISTRICT JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. STEVEN WHALEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sarah J. Brooks (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), challenging a final decision of
Defendant Commissioner denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social
Security Act. The parties have filed cross-motions for
summary judgment which have been referred for a Report and
Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B). For
the reasons discussed below, I recommend that Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment be GRANTED and that
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be DENIED.
October 5, 2012, Plaintiff applied for DIB, alleging
disability as of November 1, 2009 (Tr. 138-141). After the
initial denial of her claim, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, held on February 3, 2014 in Livonia,
Michigan (Tr. 35). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Mary Connolly presided. Plaintiff,
represented by attorney Dan Lee Smith, testified (Tr. 39-64),
as did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Dr. Lois P.
Brooks (Tr. 64-66). On March 25, 2014, ALJ Connolly found
Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 29-30). On July 15, 2015, the
Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed the
present action on September 16, 2016.
born June 26, 1975, was 38 at the time of the administrative
decision (Tr. 30, 138). She graduated from high school and
attended two years of college (Tr. 182). She worked
previously as a residential care provider and as a child care
worker (Tr. 183). She alleges disability as a result of a
back injury, asthma, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and a
learning disorder (Tr. 181).
offered the following testimony:
worked formerly as a child care giver and in a group home as
an adult care giver for individuals with traumatic brain
injuries (Tr. 40-41). She worked in her home taking care of
children until November, 2012 (Tr. 41).
experienced disabling back pain and asthma (Tr. 42). She was
placed in special education classes in school due to learning
and emotional disabilities but was able to read (Tr. 43). She
experienced poor mathematical skills (Tr. 44). She currently
took Prozac (Tr. 44-45). She had also received treatment and
medication for anxiety (Tr. 46). Bouts of anxiety were
characterized by breathlessness and fear (Tr. 47). Prozac
created the side effect of suicidal ideation (Tr. 48). She
experienced depression intermittently (Tr. 49). The depression was
characterized by crying jags and lack of motivation (Tr.
49-50). She experienced daily headaches and migraines
approximately three times a week lasting between 5 and 48
hours (Tr. 51-52). None of her prescribed medicine resolved
the migraines (Tr. 51). Migraines were characterized by
blurred vision and faintness (Tr. 52).
lower back pain radiated into her left leg (Tr. 52). Aside
from the radiculopathy, she experienced the independent
conditions of Achilles tendinitis and plantar fascitis of the
left ankle and foot (Tr. 53). Her foot problems had worsened
since breaking her foot one year earlier (Tr. 53). On a scale
of 1 to 10, she experienced level “7” back pain
(Tr. 54). She coped with pain by lying down and switching
positions (Tr. 54). She had also been taking Percocet every
day for two years even though it made her “loopy”
(Tr. 55). Motrin 800 caused stomach upset (Tr. 55).
was unable to walk for more than half a block due to
shortness of breath (Tr. 55). She was limited by constant
back pain (Tr. 56). She could stand for up to 20 minutes
before requiring a position change (Tr. 56). She was unable
to sit for more than five minutes without a position change
(Tr. 57). She was unable to lift more than five pounds (Tr.
58). Back pain and lack of motivation resulted in the need to
lie down a total of 12 hours a day (Tr. 58-59). She performed
household chores with the help of her nine-year-old son (Tr.
59-60). She experienced shortness of breath while performing
laundry chores (Tr. 60). She engaged in the hobbies of
reading, writing poetry, and playing Uno with her son (Tr.
61). She used a nebulizer for the condition of asthma (Tr.
61). Plaintiff did not attend many of her son's school
activities because she no longer had a car (Tr. 62).
Records Related to Plaintiff's Treatment
1992 school records state that Plaintiff was eligible for
special education due to an emotional impairment (Tr. 219).
Plaintiff's academic weakness was identified as
“immaturity” (Tr. 219).
2011 University of Michigan Health System records created by
Jennifer Castillo, M.D. state that Plaintiff returned for
treatment after a six-month absence, requesting medication
for anxiety (Tr. 854). Dr. Castillo's records from the
following month note Plaintiff's report of headaches (Tr.
852). In May, 2011, Dr. Castillo prescribed Cymbalta for
headaches (Tr. 850-851). Plaintiff reported headaches the
following month (Tr. 848). Also in May, 2011, Plaintiff was
diagnosed with sleep apnea (Tr. 843).
October, 2011, Plaintiff reported that she stopped taking
Cymbalta because her anxiety was “not bad” (Tr.
268). The same month, she was prescribed Vicodin and Flexeril
for back pain (Tr. 279). She denied headaches and exhibited a
normal gait (Tr. 310-311). The following month, Plaintiff
sought emergency treatment for an allergic reaction of throat
swelling (Tr. 296, 298, 781). She was found capable of
returning to work on November 18, 2011 (Tr. 295). December,
2011 records show that Plaintiff continued to take Prednisone
(Tr. 359). She denied headaches, but reported anxiety and
continued back pain (Tr. 358). She exhibited a normal gait
January, 2012, Plaintiff was prescribed Vicodin (Tr. 331).
Later the same month, she sought emergency treatment for
headaches and abdominal pain (Tr. 946). Blood work was
unremarkable (Tr. 944). She was released after her blood
sugar levels were stabilized (Tr. 944). The following month,
Plaintiff denied current headaches (Tr. 321). At the end of
the same month, Plaintiff reported the current conditions of
anxiety, asthma, depression, back pain, and headaches (Tr.
316-317). In March, 2012, Plaintiff sought emergency
treatment for leg swelling (Tr. 415, 937-938, 999, 1001). She
denied other health concerns (Tr. 937). Plaintiff reported
that she had lost 47 pounds in the past year and now weighed
320 pounds with a goal of 225 (Tr. 937). Imaging studies from
the following month showed “clear” lungs (Tr.
929-930). April, 2012 records state that Plaintiff failed to
keep an appointment for an MRI of the spine (Tr. 993).
2012 records state that Plaintiff walked “a lot”
in her job as a nanny (Tr. 387). Imaging studies of the
abdomen showed a gallstone (Tr. 363, 380, 768, 984).
Plaintiff sought emergency treatment later the same month for
asthma (Tr. 495, 924). An undated form (created between
December, 2011 and May, 2012) states that Plaintiff
experienced 18 tender points consistent with a diagnosis of
fibromyalgia (Tr. 1022).
June, 2012, Plaintiff reported that asthma was worse at night
(Tr. 488). She denied current headaches (Tr. 488). Treating
notes state that she had an adverse effect from prednisone
(Tr. 487). She was diagnosed with pneumonia (Tr. 467, 698). A
chest x-ray was negative for active infiltration (Tr. 1054).
The following month, Ashraf Uzzaman, M.D. found
Plaintiff's asthma moderate to severe (Tr. 441-442). The
same month, Plaintiff denied headaches (Tr. 439). In August,
2012, Plaintiff denied current shortness of breath and
headaches (Tr. 514, 520, 528, 1051). She was re-prescribed
Klonopin (Tr. 510). She exhibited a normal gait and muscle
tone (Tr. 504).
September, 2012, Plaintiff was diagnosed with kidney stones
(Tr. 914, 606). She was prescribed Oxycodone (Tr. 595).
Treating records include a form stating that Plaintiff
experienced at least 11 of 18 tender points consistent with
fibromyalgia (Tr. 593). Imaging studies of the left foot were
negative for fractures (Tr. 981). She was referred for
psychiatric counseling (Tr. 554, 610, 1025). The same month,
intake records by Catholic Social Services note
Plaintiff's report of significant symptoms of depression
(Tr. 554). Plaintiff appeared fully oriented (Tr. 554). She
was assigned a GAF of 58 (Tr. 557). At an October, 2012 followup
psychiatric examination, she reported crying on a daily basis
(Tr. 560). The same month, Joseph B. Thompson, M.D. completed
a “medical needs” form, stating that Plaintiff
was unable to work for one year due to back pain, depression,
anxiety, and asthma (Tr. ...