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Weaver v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

March 21, 2017


          Patricia T. Morris Magistrate Judge.


          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge.

         On January 20, 2017 Magistrate Judge Patricia T. Morris authored a Report and Recommendation addressing Plaintiff Elizabeth Diane Weaver's motion for summary judgment and Defendant commissioner of social security's motion for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 10, 11. In the report and recommendation, Judge Morris recommends denying Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 12. On February 2, 2017 Plaintiff timely filed objections. ECF No. 13.

         Pursuant to a de novo review of the record, Plaintiff Weaver's objections will be overruled and the report and recommendation will be adopted. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment will be denied, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and Plaintiff's claims will be dismissed with prejudice.


         Because the magistrate judge's report did not include a general summary of the facts, a summary is provided here. Plaintiff Elizabeth Weaver was born on April 5, 1970, and resides in Flint, Michigan. See Pg. ID 86. She has a driver's license, but can no longer drive due to medication. Id. Plaintiff graduated from high school, and is a certified medical assistant in phlebotomy. Id. Plaintiff previously worked as a cashier from February of 1985 to November of 2008. See Pg. ID 116. She began working as a medical assistant in December of 2003, but was terminated in March of 2011. Id. She was unable to obtain substitute employment following her termination, and alleges that she became disabled on July 21, 2011. See Pg. Id. 87, 190, 197.


         Plaintiff suffers from a variety of ailments. She regularly treated with Doctor Gary Roome, M.D. at the Burton Medical Clinic in Saginaw, Michigan. See Pg. Id. 317. Plaintiff also repeatedly visited the Taylor Psychological Clinic for complaints of depression and anxiety. See Pg. ID 304-14. From 2012 to 2013, Plaintiff also regularly visited the Genesys Regional Medical Clinic in Burton, Michigan, for issues ranging from hypothyroidism, depression, asthma, bug bites, and vaginal discharge. See Pg. ID 291-303.

         On May 5, 2012 Plaintiff visited Dr. Roome at the Burton Clinic after allegedly dropping a chair on her right shoulder. Pg Id. 322. Plaintiff reported a sharp, intermittent pain in her right shoulder. Id. An examination of her right elbow conducted at the McLaren Regional Medical Center on May 14, 2012 identified no acute fracture, dislocation, or joint effusion. See Pg. ID 325. Two days later, on May 16, 2012 Plaintiff visited the Burton Medical Clinic and reported a variety of issues including ear issues and chronic soreness in her right arm and chest. Pg. Id. 327. Plaintiff also reported that she had injured her right side on May 13, 2012 when she was “horsing around' with a friend. Id. Plaintiff therefore requested refills of medication and an increase to her Xanax prescription. Id. An inspection of her shoulder and elbow revealed that Plaintiff was not in acute distress. Id.

         Plaintiff returned to the Burton clinic on May 31, 2012 and reported that she was no longer in any pain. See Pg. ID 331. While Plaintiff reported a cough and sore throat, Dr. Hamaker noted that Plaintiff used marijuana, and suggested that she cease smoking. Pg. ID 331-33. In a visit on July 13, 2012 Plaintiff reported that she had chronic pain in her feet, but left without being seen by Dr. Roome. See Pg. ID 337-38.

         During an appointment at the Taylor Clinic on November 6, 2012, Plaintiff reported a number of traumatic events in her past, and noted that she did not like people. See Pg. ID 309. The treating therapist noted that Plaintiff spent her free time watching television, using the computer, and completing cross word puzzles. See Pg. ID 310. He found her to be alert and cooperative, with appropriate appearance and a normal stream of thought. See Pg. ID 311. He noted that Plaintiff had an anxious reaction and reported some auditory hallucinations. Id. Plaintiff was diagnosed with general anxiety. Pg. ID 312. On December 2, 2012 Plaintiff visited the Genesys Clinic and saw Doctor Madonna Hanna, M.D, regarding her depression. Doctor Hanna noted that Plaintiff had normal orientation to person, place and time, but discussed a variety of problems, jumping from one issue to another. Pg. ID 292. Doctor Hamma directed Plaintiff to continue taking her medication and to take vitamin D, and directed her to follow up with a psychologist. Id.

         On March 14, 2013 Plaintiff visited the Genesys Regional Medical Clinic for her asthma. See Pg. ID 300. Dr. Hamma found that Plaintiff's asthma was triggered by cold weather and upper respiratory tract infection. Id. She noted Plaintiff's symptoms of stable coughing and shortness of breath during exertion, but noted that Plaintiff did not report any chest tightness. Id. A physical examination of Plaintiff did not reveal any signs of respiratory distress, wheezing, or labored breathing. See Pg. ID 301. Overall, Dr. Hamma assed Plaintiff as having mild persistent asthma, and found that Plaintiff's asthma was well controlled by her medication. See Pg. ID 272-73.

         On April 17, 2013 Plaintiff underwent a mental status examination at the Taylor Clinic, which revealed that Plaintiff was attired appropriately with unremarkable expression and posture. See Pg. ID 307. Plaintiff was found to be alert, with normal memory, orientation, thought progression, language, and perception. Id. She was found to have good insight and judgment. Id. On April 26, 2013 Plaintiff visited Dr. Roome at the Burton Clinic complaining of fatigue, but denying insomnia, impaired concentration, or suicidal ideation. See Pg. ID 341. She was reported to be alert and cooperative, with a normal mood and attention span, and she denied experiencing any chronic pain. See Pg. ID 340-42.

         For nodular thyroid issues, Plaintiff made bi-annual visits to Endocrinologist Hemant T. Thawani, M.D. Dr. Thawani's reports indicate that thyroid biopsies returned benign and that Plaintiff did not have positive thyroid autoantibodies. See Pg. ID 284-88. She was prescribed medication to alleviate her symptoms. Id. Plaintiff was repeatedly encouraged to remain adherent to her treatment regime, pg. ID 287-88, and Plaintiff acknowledged to various providers that she did not take her medication regularly. See, e.g., Pg. ID 291.


         Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on March 11, 2013. Plaintiff alleges severe impairments arising out of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, hyperthyroidism, chronic asthma, bilateral foot pain, impairments of the neck, back, shoulder and arm, decreased grip strength, decreased range of motion, and a sleep disorder. See Pg. ID 274-75.


         After Plaintiff filed her application, on July 8, 2013 Psychologist Mathew P. Dickson prepared a psychological report after visiting with Plaintiff. Plaintiff reported that while she did not have contact with friends, she did have contact with family members. Pg. ID 348. She reported that she liked to stay at home, but was capable of basic household chores, such as basic cooking, self-care, hygiene, and occasional visits to the store. Id. Doctor Dickson noted that Plaintiff was well groomed, neatly dressed, and with spontaneous and organized stream of thought. Id. While she reported that she sometimes hallucinated while on medication, Doctor Dickson did not find these descriptions conclusive of a psychotic disorder. Pg. ID 349. Doctor Dickson concluded that Plaintiff's “mental abilities to understand, attend to, remember, and carry out instructions related to work-related behaviors are mildly impaired.” See Pg. ID 350. He further found that her abilities “to respond appropriately to co-workers and supervision and to adapt to change and stress in the workplace are moderately impaired.” Id. He determined that her GAF score was 55.


         On July 17, 2013 Doctor Michael Geoghegan, D.O., conducted a consultative physical examination of Plaintiff. Pg. ID 353. Dr. Geoghegan noted that, while Plaintiff alleged that she had been asthmatic for around a decade, she had not required any emergency room visits or hospitalizations in the past 12 months. He reported that she suffered from a chronic dry cough, that environmental allergens exacerbated her breathing problems, and that her symptoms worsened during summer, but that she managed her symptoms with Ventolin. In conducting his physical examination, Dr. Geoghegan determined that Plaintiff's lungs were clear, and that her claims of shortness of breath were not substantiated by the physical examination. Id. He concluded that she should continue to use her medication and follow up with her primary doctor on a regular basis. See Pg. ID 357.

         Dr. Geoghegan further noted that Plaintiff suffered from hypothyroidism, for which she took Synthroid 75 mg daily. See Pg. ID 353. He reported that thyroid biopsies returned benign, and concluded that she should continue to follow up with her doctor and have semiannual thyroid function tests. See Pg. ID 357.

         With regard to Plaintiff's claims of physical pain, Dr. Geoghegan determined that Plaintiff's gate was normal, her range of motion for all joints checked in full, her straight leg raising test was negative, her grip strength was intact, and there was full fist bilaterally. Plaintiff was able to “pick up a coin, button a button, and open a door with both hands. The patient had no difficulty getting on and off the examination table, no difficulty heel and toe walking, no difficulty squatting, and no difficulty hopping.” Pg. ID 354. He concluded that Plaintiff was able “to use her upper extremities for lifting, pulling, pushing, or carrying. No restrictions were noted with regard to her grip strength in either hand.” Id.


         Plaintiff's initial applications were denied on August 6, 2013. Along with the denial, Plaintiff was provided with disability determination explanations that included findings by state agency consultants Lenoard C. Balunas, Ph.D., B.D. Choi, M.D., and Nancy Sarti. After the initial denial Plaintiff submitted a series of supplemental medical records. See Pg. ID 104.


         Plaintiff's supplemental physical treatment records mostly related to her claims of right shoulder and arm pain. See Pg. ID 485. On July 18, 2013 Plaintiff visited the Burton Medical Clinic and complained of level 10, sharp, constant stomach pain that had lasted for two weeks. See Pg. ID 538. Plaintiff was prescribed Zantac. See Pg. ID 540. Plaintiff again visited the clinic on August 3, 2013 and reported that she was not in any pain. See Pg. ID 534. On August 29, 2013 Plaintiff visited the clinic and complained of sharp, constant, Level 10 pain all over her body. See Pg. ID 530. She then informed Dr. Roone that she had anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue. Dr. Roone prescribed her Hydroxyzine Pamoate. See Pg. ID 533. Plaintiff then visited the emergency room on September 3, 2013 for neck pain. See Pg. ID 542. An exam revealed prevertebral soft tissue, epiglottis, and aryepiglottic folds within normal limits, with minor degenerative changes noted. Id. On September 5, 2013, Plaintiff visited the Burton Medical Clinic and complained of lower back pain, but reported that she did not experience any chronic pain. See Pg. ID 526. Dr. Roome prescribed Plaintiff Indomethacin and Tramadol. See Pg. ID 529.

         During a visit to the Urban Health and Wellness Center on October 10, 2013, Plaintiff stated that she had experienced intermittent neck and right arm pain for around four years, and that the symptoms were getting worse. See Pg. ID 498. The treating physician determined that Plaintiff had impaired muscle endurance, muscle strength, posture, joint mobility, and range of motion. See Pg. ID 500-01. He noted that these issues were associated “with connective tissue dysfunction, ” but determined that the prognosis was good. He also determined that Plaintiff had positive spurlings, slump bilaterally, and decreased right grip strength. Plaintiff was ...

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