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Reavis v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

February 10, 2014

TRACIE REAVIS, pro se Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION (Overruling Objection to and Adopting Report and Recommendation)

HENRY E. HUDSON, District Judge.

This is an action challenging the Social Security Administration ("SSA")'s denial of disability ("DIB") benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") payments to Tracie Reavis ("Plaintiff'), who proceeds pro se. The matter is presently before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R" (ECF No. 19).) of the Honorable David J. Novak, United States Magistrate Judge ("Magistrate Judge") concerning the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment[1] and Plaintiffs objections thereto. The Court will dispense with oral argument because it would not materially aid the decisional process.

For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's objection will be overruled and the R&R will be adopted. Accordingly, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted; Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment will be denied; and the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

I. Background

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI on July 28, 2009, alleging disability under the Social Security Act[2] (the "Act") due to multitude of ailments, including degenerative disc disease, arthritis, a pinched nerve, bursitis in her hip, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, sleep apnea, thyroid disease, and depression with an alleged onset date of May 20, 2007. (R. at 74-75, 84-85, 214, 220, 266.) Disability Determination Services ("DDS") initially denied Plaintiffs application for benefits on November 24, 2009, and again on reconsideration on June 30, 2010. (R. at 82, 92, 110-11, 126-27, 133-35, 140-42, 150-63).

Following Plaintiff's request, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALP) conducted a hearing and determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (R. at 16-29.) Though Plaintiff had severe impairments, none met or equaled listing level severity, specifically for § 1.04[3] and § 12.04[4]. (R. at 18-21.) The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the All's decision the final decision of the Commissioner, subject only to judicial review by this Court. (R. at 1-4).

On December 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court, contesting the Commissioner's decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).[5] Plaintiff challenges both the ALJ's finding that her impairments were not severe enough to meet the listings' criteria and the ALJ's assignment of weight to the evidence. (Compl. at 7, ECF No. 3.) The Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 11) were referred to the Magistrate Judge for R&R. After a detailed analysis, the Magistrate Judge recommended the final decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. (R&R at 39.)

Plaintiff has now filed an objection to the R&R. In her objection, Plaintiff again disagrees with the Commissioner's finding that she does not meet the requirements for a disability. (Response to R&R, ECF No. 20.) Describing her condition and interactions with her doctors, she asks the court to consider facts from her physicians instead of medical opinions. (Response to R&R.)

B. Medical History

Plaintiff is a high school graduate who has previously worked as an insurance agent, a corrections officer, and as a manager at a fast food restaurant and a retail store. (R. at 267.) She last worked in May of 2007. (R. at 19, 40, 267.)

Plaintiff has sought treatment from several doctors since 2007 with a wide variety of complaints, including back, shoulder, hip, knee, and neck pain. (R. at 395-96, 387, 400, 394, 654, 671, 607, 447-52, 445, 570, 433, 865, 891.) These doctors compiled copious records relating to their observations, opinions, and treatments. (R. at 388-98, 400, 405, 442, 448, 451, 463, 469, 580, 639, 656, 735, 744, 750, 832, 891.) In addition to her own doctors, a state agency physician, Dr. James Darden, opined on Plaintiff's ability to complete various work related tasks on October 24, 2009. (R. at 80.)

Concerned about her mental state, Plaintiff began treatment with psychologist Dr. J. Michael Griffin in 2004. (R. at 415, 682-83, 685, 689.) Through the course of many visits, Dr. Griffin compiled a record of his observations and opinions. (R. at 410-11, 680-692, 708). Additionally, the doctors treating Plaintiffs various physical ailments recorded her mental state in their notes. (R. at 388, 433, 436, 439, 442, 445, 448, 451, 739, 741.) On October 1, 2009 and again on June 3, 2010, Dr. Griffin completed Mental Status Evaluation Forms for the Virginia Disability Determination Services. (R. at 701-06, 816-20.)

On November 23, 2009, a state agency psychologist, Dr. Leslie Montgomery, opined that Plaintiff did not meet the requirements of listing § 12.04. (R. at 78-79.) Another state agency psychologist, Dr. Linda Doughtery, ...

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