United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge
Tracy Owen Miles (“Miles”) filed this action
challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) finding him not
disabled and therefore ineligible for supplemental security
income (“SSI”), and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under the Social Security Act
(“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433,
1381-1383f. Miles alleges that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred by (1) finding that his spine
disorder did not meet a Listing; (2) failing to give adequate
weight to the opinion of Chris Lentz, PA-C; and (3)
improperly evaluating his pain and credibility. I conclude
that substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
decision in all respects. Accordingly, I DENY Miles's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 14) and GRANT the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No.
court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
conclusion that Miles failed to demonstrate that he was
disabled under the Act. Mastro v. Apfel, 270 F.3d 171,
176 (4th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence is such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion; it consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance.” Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996) (internal citations and alterations
omitted). The final decision of the Commissioner will be
affirmed where substantial evidence supports the decision.
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
filed for SSI and DIB on August 29, 2011, claiming that his
disability began on October 7, 2010, due to stiff back and
neck, extreme pain, numb hands and fingers, arthritis,
tinnitus, migraines, short term memory loss, difficulty
swallowing, and left knee weakness. R. 252, 254, 272.
Miles's date last insured was December 31,
2015. Thus, he must show that his disability
began on or before December 31, 2015 and existed for twelve
continuous months to receive DIB. 42 U.S.C. §§
423(a)(1)(A), (c)(1)(B), (d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.101(a), 404.131(a). The state agency denied Miles's
applications at the initial and reconsideration levels of
administrative review. R. 81-92, 93-104, 107-119, 121-133. On
January 13, 2014, ALJ Joseph T. Scruton held a hearing to
consider Miles's claims for DIB and SSI. R. 40-80. Miles
had non-attorney representatives at the hearing, which
included testimony from vocational expert Asheley
March 7, 2014, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing
Miles's claims under the familiar five-step
process and denying his claim for benefits. R.
27-38. The ALJ found that Miles was insured at the time of
the alleged disability onset and that he suffered from the
severe impairments of lumber and cervical spine degenerative
disc disease, history of inguinal hernia, situational
anxiety/depression, and possible carpal tunnel syndrome. R.
29. The ALJ determined that these impairments, either
individually or in combination did not meet or medically
equal a listed impairment. R. 30. The ALJ concluded that
Miles retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a limited range of light
work. R. 31. Specifically, the ALJ found that
Miles can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, balance,
kneel, crawl, stoop, and crouch, can never climb ladders or
scaffolds, must avoid unprotected heights and workplace
hazards, and cannot engage in repetitive foot controls.
Id. Further, Miles can occasionally reach overhead
and frequently reach in other directions and handle and
finger. Id. Miles is limited to short, simple,
non-detailed instructions throughout an eight-hour day, and
is able to interact appropriately with supervisors and others
and respond to routine work changes. Id.
determined that Miles was not capable of performing his past
relevant work as an electrician. R. 35. However, the ALJ
found that Miles could perform jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy, such as cashier, cafeteria
attendant, and assembler. R. 37. Thus, the ALJ concluded that
Miles was not disabled. R. 37. Miles appealed the ALJ's
decision and the Appeals Council denied his request for
review on August 18, 2015. R. 1-4.
alleges that the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to find that his
spine disorder met or equaled Listing 1.02 and 1.04; (2)
failing to give adequate weight to the opinion of PA Lentz;
and (3) improperly evaluating his pain and credibility.
noted by the ALJ, Miles has received treatment for back and
neck pain since his alleged onset date in October 2010,
including trigger point injections, acupuncture, and
prescription pain medication. R. 33. An MRI of his cervical
spine in December 2013 showed spondylosis and disc disease,
most pronounced at ¶ 5/C6 level, with some interval disc
ossification. R. 502. An MRI of his lumbar spine on the same
date showed mild spondylosis with disc bulges on T12/L1 and
L4/L5 with mild to moderate biforaminal narrowing, as well as
slight progression of the anterior listhesis at ¶ 4/L5.
primary care provider, PA Lentz, of the Department of
Veterans Affairs Medical Center, provided a letter dated
August 17, 2011 (“August 2011 Letter”). R. 296.
The letter stated that Miles suffered increased back and neck
pain following a motor vehicle collision in July 2004 and
that he provides Miles with monthly trigger point injections.
It further stated that “Mr. Miles has tried to maintain
jobs but has not been able to due to his chronic pain. In my
opinion he can no longer maintain gainful employment, and is
totally/permanently disabled.” Id. PA Lentz
also completed a Physical Limitations Assessment on January
25, 2012, indicating that Miles could perform light work, but
that his medical condition caused significant pain resulting
in interruption of activities and concentration, would
require unpredictable and/or lengthy periods of rest during
the day, and he would miss more than two days of work a
month. R. 403.
agency physician William Humphries, M.D. performed a
consultative examination on December 23, 2011. R. 396-400. On
examination, Dr. Humphries found Miles's range of motion
in his neck and back mildly reduced and his joint range of
motion in his upper and lower extremities generally within
normal limits. R. 398. Dr. Humphries diagnosed him with
posttraumatic strain of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar
spine with possible degenerative joint disease, recurrent
headaches, mild degenerative joint disease of the left knee,
and hypertension. R. 399. In his functional assessment, Dr.
Humphries indicated that Miles was limited to sitting and
standing/walking for six hours in an eight-hour workday,
lifting 25 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently,
unlimited stooping and crouching, but only occasional
climbing, no kneeling or crawling, and no repetitive left
foot controls. R. 399.
agency physicians Joseph Duckwall, M.D., and Shirish Shahane,
M.D., following a records review in January and May, 2012,
also both indicated that Miles could perform a range of light
work. R. 88-90, 100-02, 115-16, 129-30.
Listing 1.04 and 1.02
argues that the ALJ should have found that he met the
requirements of Listing 1.02 and 1.04. R. 30. The
Commissioner argues that the medical evidence fails to ...