United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
LATISHA M. KING, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
D. Davis United States Magistrate Judge.
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions
for summary judgment (Dkt. Nos. 16, 18). Pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), Latisha M. King ("Plaintiff) seeks
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"
or "Defendant") denying her claim for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act
("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. For
the reasons stated below, the Court finds that
Defendant's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, and that there is no evidence warranting remand.
Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and DENIES Plaintiffs Motion for Summary
filed an application for disability insurance benefits on
March 7, 2011, alleging disability since January 1, 2001, due
to ventricular septal defect, uterine fibroid, aortic
stenosis, bicuspid valve, enlarged heart, dizzy spells,
palpitations, endometriosis, migraine headaches, and anxiety.
(Administrative Record ("R.") 175, 179.) Plaintiff
last met the insured status requirements of the Act
("date last insured") on September 30, 2007.
(Id. at 165.) Plaintiffs initial claim was denied on
August 10, 2011, and again upon reconsideration on January
20, 2012. (Id. at 90, 102.) Plaintiff requested a
hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") on September 20, 2012. (Id. at 7.)
ALJ Thomas Mercer Ray conducted a hearing on June 18, 2013.
10, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff
was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Id.
at 12-14.) On October 7, 2014, the Appeals Council for the
Office of Disability and Adjudication denied Plaintiffs
request for review of the ALJ's decision, rendering the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner for
purposes of review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
(Id. at 1-4.) Having exhausted her administrative
remedies, Plaintiff filed the instant suit challenging the
ALJ's decision on December 5, 2014. (Dkt. No. 1.)
Plaintiff and Defendant filed cross-motions for summary
judgment on May 2, 2016, and June 1, 2016, respectively, and
this matter is ripe for disposition. (Dkt. Nos. 16, 18.)
RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND
was born on February 9, 1976 and was 24 years old at her
alleged onset date, January 1, 2001. (R. 162.) She has a high
school education, one year of college, and a phlebotomy
career studies certificate. (Id. 180.) She has
previously worked as an administrative assistant, a call
center clerk, and a phlebotomist. (Id. at 181.) She
was laid off from her most recent full-time position in
August 2001, when the telecommunications firm which employed
her went bankrupt. (Id. at 211, 213.) From 2001 to
2010, she worked infrequently at a video store that she and
her then-husband owned. (Id. at 213-15.) In a
function report dated June 6, 2011, Plaintiff reported that
she cared for her son, niece, and nephew but that she
suffered pain when doing so and that other family members
helped her. (Id. at 204.) Plaintiff reported that
she also took care of her sister prior to her sister's
death from cancer in 2010. (Id. at 202-03.)
Plaintiff reported significant pain when caring for herself
but stated that she prepared meals, cleaned, did laundry, and
shopped for food and other household goods. (Id. at
204-06.) Plaintiff also reported that she took part in social
activities and took her son to engage in social activities.
(Id. at 207-08.) Plaintiff reported that her
impairments affected her ability to squat, bend, stand, walk,
sit, kneel, climb stairs, complete physical tasks, and
concentrate. (Id. at 208.)
child, Plaintiff was diagnosed with congenital heart disease.
(R. 793.) At age six, she had surgery to repair a patent
ductus arteriosus. (Id.) She was followed by
pediatric cardiology throughout her childhood. (Id.)
Plaintiffs first visit to a cardiologist during the relevant
period was a May 2001 appointment with Carey Marder, MD. (R.
767.) Plaintiff complained of heart palpitations and
displayed a soft grade heart murmur, and Dr. Marder ordered
heart monitoring for thirty days. (Id. at 767-69.)
January 2003, Plaintiff saw Pradeep Nayak, MD, and reported
heart palpitations "from time to time."
(Id. at 764-66.) An echocardiogram suggested that
Plaintiff suffered from mild aortic stenosis, but the test
was not conclusive. (Id.) Dr. Nayak ordered
additional tests, and, after reviewing them, recommended
regular follow-up visits. (Id. at 760.) At
Plaintiffs next appointment, in July 2003, she was eight
weeks pregnant and reported no symptoms other than nausea.
(Id. at 761.) In October 2003, Plaintiff visited Dr.
Nayak and reported fast heartbeats and mild sweating on
exertion but no dizzy spells. (Id. at 756.) Dr.
Nayak found that Plaintiffs cardiovascular functioning was
normal except for her heart murmur and reported that
Plaintiff suffered from mild to moderate aortic
insufficiency. (Id. at 758.) Dr. Nayak did not note
any problems with Plaintiffs back or extremities in any of
these appointments. (See Id. at 758-66.)
February 2004 appointment with Robert Shore, MD, Plaintiff
reported increased palpitations and some chest discomfort.
(Id. at 753-54.) Dr. Shore ordered a Holter monitor,
which showed no sustained tachyarrhythmia. (Id. at
750.) At Plaintiffs follow-up two weeks later, Plaintiff
reported no significant chest pain and no dizziness.
(Id.) In March 2004, Plaintiff delivered a healthy
child, and she followed up with Dr. Shore in May 2004.
(Id. at 746.) She reported having no chest pain, no
palpitations, and no heart failure symptoms. (Id. at
747.) Dr. Shore never noted any issue with Plaintiffs back or
extremities. (Id. at 747-54.)
early 2006, Plaintiff received a preliminary diagnosis of
subaortic membrane from Dr. Nayak. (Id. at 895.) At
that time, Plaintiffs only symptoms were heart palpitations
and lightheadedness, which improved with increased sodium
consumption. (Id.) Dr. Nayak recommended a cardiac
catheterization to confirm the diagnosis. (Id. at
896.) The catheterization showed that Plaintiff had a
bicuspid aortic valve, not a subaortic membrane.
(Id. at 880.) In April 2006, Dr. Nayak noted that
Plaintiff continued to be asymptomatic, recommended that
Plaintiff resume regular aerobic exercise, and informed
Plaintiff that her risk for pregnancy was slightly higher
than average but acceptable. (Id. at 880-81.)
March 2007, Dr. Nayak reported that Plaintiff was "doing
very well" and was "quite active without
difficulties, " though she reported "occasional
brief palpitations." (Id. at 874.) In October
2007, the month after Plaintiffs date last insured, Plaintiff
followed up with Dr. Nayak upon returning from a trip to
Cambodia. (Id. at 725.) Plaintiff reported
palpitations and occasional sweating and dizziness.
(Id.) Dr. Nayak recommended additional testing,
(Id. at 727), which revealed nothing of concern.
(See Id. at 264, 872.) Also in October 2007, Dr.
Nayak opined that Plaintiff could travel safely overseas to
spend an extended amount of time in Cambodia. (Id.)
continued to see Dr. Nayak after she returned from Cambodia
in 2009. (Id. at 870-90.) From 2009 through 2011,
Plaintiff reported her usual palpitations and occasional
lightheadedness. (Id. at 866, 861, 856, 850.) Dr.
Nayak also noted that Plaintiff was under a great deal of
stress due to her 2009 separation from her husband and the
2010 death of her sister. (Id. at 866, 856.) In
September 2010, Plaintiff reported that she had been feeling
very well, (Id. at 856), and in April 2011, Dr.
Nayak reported that Plaintiff was doing well physically but
was under a lot of stress personally. (Id. at 850.)
Dr. Nayak's notes from Plaintiffs April 2011 appointment
also state that Plaintiff denied having a history of back
also received treatment from gynecologist Karen R. Maser, MD,
during the relevant period. (See Id. at 584-684.)
Dr. Maser noted that Plaintiff suffered from dysmenorrhea,
menorrhagia, and uterine fibroids. (Id. at 593.)
However, it does not appear that Dr. Maser ever diagnosed
Plaintiff with endometriosis. (See Id. at 584-684.)
Dr. Maser referred Plaintiff to Salman Mufti, MD, for
treatment of her uterine fibroids. (Id. at 316.) At
her October 2009 appointment with Dr. Mufti, Plaintiff
reported that she had no history of back pain or
endometriosis. (Id. at 314.) It does not appear that
Plaintiff ever received treatment for the uterine fibroids,
possibly due to concerns about fertility. (See Id.
September 14, 2012, Dr. Nayak completed a Clinical Assessment
of Pain form and a Physical Capacities Evaluation form
regarding Plaintiffs impairments. (R. 1397-39.) Dr. Nayak
opined that Plaintiffs pain was present to such an extent as
to be distracting to adequate performance of daily activities
or work and that physical activity would greatly increase
pain to such a degree as to cause distraction from or total
abandonment of tasks. (Id. at 1397.) Dr. Nayak
opined that the side effects of Plaintiff s prescribed
medications would cause some limitations on Plaintiffs
ability to perform work but not to such a degree as to create
serious problems. (Id.) Dr.
further opined that Plaintiff could lift or carry twenty
pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; could sit,
stand, or walk for a total of five hours in an eight hour
workday; could rarely bend or stoop; and could occasionally
push, pull, and climb stairs. (Id. at 1398.) Dr.
Nayak opined that Plaintiff would miss more than four days of
work per month due to her impairments. (Id.) As the
basis for the restrictions, he listed severe back problems,
frequent knee pain, and gynecological disorders.