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Pearson v. Colvin

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

October 1, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant

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For Jeffrey Pearson, Plaintiff, Jonathan H. Walker, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mason Mason Walker & Hedrick PC, Newport News, VA; Anthony W Bartels, PRO HAC VICE, Bartels Law Firm, Jonesboro, AR.

For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Mark Anthony Exley, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney Office, Norfolk, VA.

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Plaintiff Jeffrey Pearson (" Pearson" or " plaintiff') brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § § 1383(c)(3) and 405(g) seeking judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (" Commissioner" ) denying his claim for a period of disability insurance benefits (" DIB" ), and supplemental security income (" SSI" ) under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. See (ECF Nos. 12, 14). The action was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends that the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed.


Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI on April 13, 2009. (R. 198-206). His application alleged disability since February 5, 2009 due to a variety of impairments, including back pain, shin splints, and carpal tunnel syndrome. (R. 204, 241). The Commissioner denied his application initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 35-41). Pearson made a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (" ALJ" ), which was held on October 6, 2010. The ALJ found Pearson not disabled and he appealed. On May 17, 2012, the claim was remanded for further review.

On August 16, 2012, a different ALJ conducted a second hearing and again found plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, and denied his claim for DIB and SSI. (R. 8-26). Pearson again requested review by the Appeals Council. This request for review was denied on January 8, 2014, (R. 1-5), thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 1383(c)(3) and 405(g), Pearson filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision on his denied claim. This case is now before the Court to resolve the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment.


Pearson was born in 1963 and was 45 years old at the time of the alleged onset of disability, and was therefore considered to be a younger individual pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1563(c) and 416.963(c). (R. 25). He has a high school education, spent two years in the Navy and has past work experience in food delivery, grounds maintenance and as a press operator. Plaintiff worked a variety of jobs full time until 2009, when he was laid off from his position as a press operator, making plastic parts. (R. 84-87, 241).

Pearson's voluminous medical record is comprised primarily of records from the Veterans Administration (VA) facilities where Pearson has been treated since July 2009. (R. 679). On that date he presented with complaints of acid reflux, multi-site joint pain and anxiety with disturbed sleep.[1] (R. 680-81). His treating physician,

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Dr. Ramona Ramrup, prescribed medication for acid reflux and ordered a CT scan and additional testing. (R. 681). The CT scan revealed degenerative changes of the lumbar spine. (R. 1343-44). An MRI of Pearson's right shoulder also showed degenerative changes at the acromioclavicular joint and other findings suggestive of rheumatoid arthritis. (R. 1344-45). Other testing, including x-rays of Pearson's hands ruled out rheumatoid arthritis. (R. 1343, 1337, 653).

Also in July 2009, Pearson was evaluated for his complaints of anxiety by psychiatrist, Carmen Espaillit-Serje, M.D. Pearson was described as tearful and sad with a depressed mood. Dr. Espaillit-Serje diagnosed major depressive disorder -- single episode, and bereavement. Pearson's longtime partner had recently died. (R. 656-57). Dr. Espaillit-Serje prescribed medication and individual psychotherapy which Pearson regularly attended, reporting steady progress. (R. 505, 518, 524, 542, 595-96). Although Pearson described an incident in the military where he was harassed for being homosexual, his doctors concluded he did not meet the criteria for PTSD. (R. 78-79, 523). Still, he had extensive treatment at the VA for his mental health issues, including regularly attending group therapy. (E.g., R. 1471, 1476, 1484, 1516, 1796, 1823-24, 1866, 1920).

In September 2010, Pearson underwent additional testing and treatment for orthopaedic complaints. He consulted with Dr. Gary Miller who concluded he had right shoulder synovitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. He underwent another MRI of his shoulder and scheduled surgery, but the surgery had not occurred prior to the 2012 hearing. (R. 1258-60; 52-53). Pearson did receive regular ...

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