United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
Glen E. Conrad, Chief United States District Judge
has filed this action challenging the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiffs claim for
supplemental security income benefits under the Social
Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et se£.
Jurisdiction of this court is pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1383(c)(3), which incorporates § 205(g) of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). As reflected by the
memoranda and argument submitted by the parties, the issues
before this court are whether the Commissioner's final
decision is supported by substantial evidence, and if it is
not, whether plaintiff has met the burden of proof as
prescribed by and pursuant to the Act. Stated briefly,
substantial evidence has been defined as such relevant
evidence, considering the record as a whole, as might be
found adequate to support a conclusion by a reasonable mind.
Richardson v. Perales. 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
plaintiff, Robin Collins, was born on March 28, 1992, and
eventually completed her high school education. Ms. Collins
also completed additional training as a nurse's
assistant. She has been employed as a nurse's assistant,
restaurant worker, and bus girl. She last worked on a regular
and sustained basis in 2012. On July 16, 2012, plaintiff
filed an application for supplemental security income
benefits. Ms. Collins alleged that she became disabled for
all forms of substantial gainful employment on April 1, 2012,
due to juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. (TR 211). She now
maintains that she has remained disabled to the present time.
Collins' claim was denied upon initial consideration and
reconsideration. She then requested and received a de
novo hearing and review before an Administrative Law
Judge. In an opinion dated January 16, 2015, the Law Judge
also determined that plaintiff is not disabled. The Law Judge
found that Ms. Collins suffers from osteoarthrosis, (TR 25).
Because of this condition, the Law Judge ruled that plaintiff
is disabled for her past relevant work activity. (TR 31).
However, the Law Judge determined that Ms. Collins retains
sufficient functional capacity for a limited range of light
work activity. (TR 27). The Law Judge assessed Ms.
Collins' residual functional capacity as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 416.967(b) except she can stand and/or walk for four
hours in an eight-hour workday; can sit for four hours in an
eight-hour workday; can occasionally push/pull with her left
arm and leg; can occasionally climb ramps and stairs; can
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can occasionally
balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl; can frequently stoop;
should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and heat,
vibrations, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor ventilation;
and should avoid hazards, including machinery and heights.
(TR 27). Given such a residual functional capacity, and after
considering plaintiffs age, education, and prior work
experience, as well as testimony from a vocational expert,
the Law Judge found that Ms. Collins retains sufficient
functional capacity to perform several specific light work
roles existing in significant number in the national economy.
(TR 32-33). Accordingly, the Law Judge ultimately concluded
that Ms. Collins is not disabled, and that she is not
entitled to a period of disability or supplemental security
income benefits. (TR 33). See gen., 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(g). The Law Judge's opinion was
adopted as the final decision of the Commissioner by the
Social Security Administration's Appeals Council. (TR
1-4). Having exhausted all available administrative remedies,
Ms. Collins has now appealed to this court.
plaintiff may be disabled for certain forms of employment,
the crucial factual determination is whether plaintiff was
disabled for all forms of substantial gainful employment.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a). There are four
elements of proof which must be considered in making such an
analysis. These elements are summarized as follows: (1)
objective medical facts and clinical findings; (2) the
opinions and conclusions of treating physicians; (3)
subjective evidence of physical manifestations of
impairments, as described through a claimant's testimony;
and (4) the claimant's education, vocational history,
residual skills, and age. Vitek v. Finch, 438 F.2d
1157, 1159-60 (4th Cir. 1971); Underwood v.
Ribicoff. 298 F.2d 850, 851 (4th Cir. 1962).
review of the record in this case, the court is unable to
conclude that the Commissioner's final decision is
supported by substantial evidence. While the Law Judge
characterized plaintiffs severe impairment as osteoarthrosis,
there is no question but that Ms. Collins suffers from
juvenile onset rheumatoid arthritis with hidradenitis
suppurativa. She also experiences depression and
anxiety. In concluding that plaintiff retains
sufficient physical capacity for a limited range of light
work activity, the Law Judge relied primarily on reports from
nonexamining state agency physicians, and a disability
evaluation from a physical therapist and occupational
therapist. However, the medical record includes reports from
three medical specialists who actually examined Ms. Collins,
including Dr. Om Samantray, Dr. William C. Andrews, and Dr.
Gregory Pudhorodsky. All three specialists determined that
plaintiff is severely impaired, and unable to engage in
regular work activity on a sustained basis. Given the
administrative regulations, as well as the governing caselaw,
the court is unable to conclude that the Law Judge's
reliance on nonexamining medical sources, and the non-medical
sources, is supported by substantial evidence. Based on the
reports from the three medical specialists who actually
examined Ms. Collins, the court is constrained to conclude
that plaintiff has met the burden of proof in establishing
that she is totally disabled for all forms of substantial
Samantray examined Ms. Collins on June 29, 2013, at the
behest of the state disability agency. Dr. Samantray reported
that plaintiff carries a history of juvenile rheumatoid
arthritis associated with left hip pain for many years, and
that she has been taking steroids for treatment of her
condition. (TR 416). Dr. Samantray listed his impression and
functional assessment as follows:
1. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis resolving and hip
degeneration, left-sided with pain association in the lumbar
region, and also right wrist pain. Patient's prognosis
likely weakness secondary to pain on the left side.
Credibility is good.
The number of hours the claimant can stand in an eight-hour
workday is less than two hours. The number of hours the
claimant can walk in an eight-hour workday is about two
hours. The number of hours the claimant can sit is about 2