Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pridemore v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

March 16, 2017

SCOTT A. PRIDEMORE, Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAMELA MEADE SARGENT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Background and Standard of Review

         Plaintiff, Scott A. Pridemore, (“Pridemore”), filed this action challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, (“Commissioner”), denying his claims for disability insurance benefits, (“DIB”), and supplemental security income, (“SSI”), under the Social Security Act, as amended, (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 423 and 1381 et seq. (West 2011 & West 2012). Jurisdiction of this court is pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). This case is before the undersigned magistrate judge upon transfer by consent of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). Neither party has requested oral argument; therefore, this case is ripe for decision.

         The court's review in this case is limited to determining if the factual findings of the Commissioner are supported by substantial evidence and were reached through application of the correct legal standards. See Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987). Substantial evidence has been defined as “evidence which a reasoning mind would accept as sufficient to support a particular conclusion. It consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.” Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966). “‘If there is evidence to justify a refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is “substantial evidence.”'” Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Laws, 368 F.2d at 642).

         The record shows that Pridemore protectively filed his applications for DIB and SSI[2] on May 24, 2006, alleging disability as of May 12, 2006, [3] due to back pain; arthritis; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, (“COPD”); nerve loss in the legs and arms; carpal tunnel syndrome; slight hearing loss; depression; and anxiety. (Record, (“R.”), at 118-20, 123-26, 141, 146, 181.) The claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. at 71-73, 78-80, 84-87, 89-90, 92-93, 95-96.) Pridemore then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge, (“ALJ”). (R. at 97-98, 637-38.) The ALJ held a hearing on February 2, 2009, and by decision dated April 23, 2009, the ALJ denied Pridemore's claims. (R. at 24-64, 596-604.) This denial was appealed, and the Appeals Council denied Pridemore's request for review. (R. at 606-09.) Pridemore then filed an action in this court seeking review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision.

         By Opinion and Order entered April 27, 2012, in Case No. 2:11cv00010, U.S. District Judge James P. Jones remanded Pridemore's claim to the Commissioner based on his finding that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ's finding that Pridemore did not suffer from a severe mental impairment. (R. at 610-32.) The Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for further consideration. (R. at 633-35.) On remand, a video hearing was held before an ALJ on August 22, 2014. (R. at 545-66.)

         By decision dated August 28, 2014, the ALJ denied Pridemore's claims. (R. at 521-36.) The ALJ found that Pridemore met the nondisability insured status requirements of the Act for DIB purposes through September 30, 2007. (R. at 523.) The ALJ found that Pridemore had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 12, 2006, the alleged onset date.[4] (R. at 523.) The ALJ found that the medical evidence established that Pridemore had severe impairments, namely lumbago and cervicalgia; obstructive sleep apnea; COPD; hypertension; mild carpal tunnel syndrome; depression; and anxiety, but he found that Pridemore did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. at 524.) The ALJ found that Pridemore had the residual functional capacity to perform simple, routine, repetitive, unskilled, light work[5] that did not require more than occasional climbing of ramps and stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; that did not require more than occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants or interactions with the public, co-workers and supervisors; and that did not expose him to hazards. (R. at 526.) The ALJ found that Pridemore was unable to perform his past relevant work. (R. at 534.) Based on Pridemore's age, education, work history and residual functional capacity and the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found that a significant number of other jobs existed in the national economy that Pridemore could perform, including jobs as an assembler, a mail clerk and a library shelving clerk. (R. at 534-35.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Pridemore was not under a disability as defined by the Act, and was not eligible for DIB or SSI benefits. (R. at 535.) See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g) 416.920(g) (2016).

         After the ALJ issued his decision, Pridemore pursued his administrative appeals, (R. at 513-16), but the Appeals Council denied his request for review. (R. at 506-08.) Pridemore then filed this action seeking review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision, which now stands as the Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481 (2016). This case is before this court on Pridemore's motion for summary judgment filed May 13, 2016, and the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment filed June 16, 2016.

         II. Facts

         Pridemore was born in 1976, (R. at 118, 123), which classifies him as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c). Pridemore obtained his general education development, (“GED”), diploma and has special training in diesel mechanics. (R. at 151, 551.) Pridemore testified that he was arrested in 2009 for distribution of prescription medication. (R. at 553-54.) He stated that he worked while incarcerated by picking up trash along the road. (R. at 555.) Pridemore stated that he received no treatment after he was incarcerated. (R. at 550, 557.)

         Asheley Wells, a vocational expert, also was present and testified at Pridemore's 2014 hearing. (R. at 561-65.) Wells was asked to consider a hypothetical individual of Pridemore's age, education and work history, who would be limited to simple, routine, repetitive, unskilled, light work that did not require him to work around hazardous machinery, unprotected heights or to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds; that did not require more than occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; and that did not require more than occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants or more than occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors and the public. (R. at 562.) Wells stated that the individual could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, including those of an assembler, a mail clerk, a packing line worker and a library shelving clerk. (R. at 562-63.) Wells stated that all competitive employment would be precluded if the individual would be off-task more than 10 percent of the time due to difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace. (R. at 564-65.)

         In rendering his decision, the ALJ reviewed records from Norton Community Hospital; Dr. Gurcharan Kanwal, M.D.; Dr. Mohammed A. Bhatti, M.D.; Dr. Kevin Blackwell, D.O.; Dr. Uzma Ehtesham, M.D.; Lonesome Pine Hospital; Dr. Shirish Shahane, M.D., a state agency physician; B. Wayne Lanthorn, Ph.D.; Dr. Frank M. Johnson, M.D., a state agency physician; Julie Jennings, Ph.D., a state agency psychologist; Howard S. Leizer, Ph.D., a state agency psychologist; Coeburn Hospital Clinic; Dr. Donald R. Williams, M.D., a state agency physician; Abingdon Orthopedic Associates, P.C.; Dr. Esther Adade, M.D.; Dr. Daryl Larke, M.D.; and Robert S. Spangler, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist.

         The record shows that Pridemore sought treatment from Dr. G. S. Kanwal, M.D., from February 2005 through June 2008 for various complaints such as chest pain; shortness of breath; back pain; anxiety; depression; COPD; nicotine abuse; a mood disorder; GERD; and tendonitis. (R. at 250-61, 383-98, 474-78.) In February 2005, Pridemore complained of chest pain; shortness of breath; anxiety; and depression. (R. at 252.) Dr. Kanwal diagnosed chronic back pain, anxiety and a mood disorder. (R. at 252.) In March 2005, Pridemore reported that he was less anxious since taking Abilify. (R. at 253.) In November 2005, Pridemore complained of back pain, anxiety and depression. (R. at 250-51.)

         On February 9, 2006, Pridemore reported that Abilify helped his symptoms of anxiety. (R. at 258.) That same day, Dr. Kanwal completed a medical assessment indicating that Pridemore could occasionally lift and carry items weighing up to 20 pounds and frequently lift and carry items weighing up to 10 pounds. (R. at 881-84.) He indicated that Pridemore could stand and/or walk less than two hours in an eight-hour workday. (R. at 881.) Dr. Kanwal indicated that Pridemore must periodically alternate between sitting and standing. (R. at 882.) He indicated that Pridemore's ability to push and pull was limited, as was his ability to reach. (R. at 882-83.) He indicated that Pridemore should never climb, balance, kneel, crouch, crawl or stoop. (R. at 882.)

         On June 26, 2006, Pridemore reported that he “stay[ed] panicky all the time.” (R. at 259.) Dr. Kanwal diagnosed panic attacks. (R. at 259.) On October 4, 2006, Dr. Kanwal admitted Pridemore to Lonesome Pine Hospital for shortness of breath with a productive cough. (R. at 317-25, 389.) He was diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia, COPD and lumbar disc disease. (R. at 317.) On December 4, 2006, x-rays of Pridemore's thoracic spine showed mild osteopenia, and the T11 and T12 discs had a very slight wedged appearance. (R. at 397.) On December 12, 2006, Dr. Kanwal told Pridemore that he would not prescribe more pain medication, stating that Pridemore would need to find a pain management doctor. (R. at 385.) On January 3, 2007, Pridemore complained of back pain and stated that he was unable to find a pain management physician. (R. at 384.) In February and March 2007, x-rays of Pridemore's lumbar spine were normal. (R. at 393-95.) An MRI of Pridemore's lumbar spine performed in March 2007 showed mild multilevel disc desiccation. (R. at 391-92.) On December 17, 2007, Dr. Kanwal reported that Pridemore had marked tenderness in his back with decreased range of motion. (R. at 477.) In January 2008, a pulmonary examination revealed occasional rhonchi. (R. at 476.) Pridemore had tenderness in his back with decreased range of motion. (R. at 476.)

         The record shows that Pridemore sought treatment from Dr. Mohammed A. Bhatti, M.D., a neurologist, from January 2004 through October 2006 for various complaints including back and neck pain, seizures and insomnia. (R. at 262-76, 294-300, 845-63.) On May 9, 2005, Pridemore reported one episode of passing out. (R. at 276.) He reported continued neck and back pain, but stated that he was much better with his then-current medication. (R. at 276.) On June 2, 2005, Pridemore reported that he was “doing alright.” (R. at 275.) Although his EEG was abnormal, Dr. Bhatti noted that Pridemore was doing well on medication. (R. at 275.) He diagnosed complex partial seizure. (R. at 275.) On July 1, 2005, Pridemore reported that his neck and back pain was reasonably controlled with medication. (R. at 274.) On August 1, 2005, Pridemore reported that he was “doing okay.” (R. at 273.) He stated that he had no further seizures. (R. at 273.) On September 1, 2005, Pridemore complained of back and knee pain after flipping a lawn mower on top of him. (R. at 272.) On December 15, 2005, Pridemore reported difficulty sleeping and back, leg and neck pain. (R. at 271.) He reported experiencing one seizure since his previous office visit. (R. at 271.)

         On January 11, 2006, Pridemore reported one episode of passing out. (R. at 268.) He was diagnosed with complex partial seizures. (R. at 268.) On February 13, 2006, Pridemore complained of back and knee pain. (R. at 268.) His neurological examination was non-focal and unchanged. (R. at 268.) Dr. Bhatti reported that Pridemore had degenerative joint disease of the cervical and thoracic spine and arthritis of the knee. (R. at 268.) He noted that Pridemore's complex partial seizures were in remission. (R. at 268.) On March 13, 2006, Pridemore reported that he had not experienced any seizures since his previous office visit. (R. at 269.) He continued to complain of neck and back pain. (R. at 269.) Dr. Bhatti diagnosed cervical radiculopathy and lumbar spine radiculopathy. (R. at 269.) On May 19, 2006, Pridemore complained of a lack of sleep and back pain. (R. at 267.) He reported no seizures. (R. at 267.) His neurological examination was non-focal and unchanged. (R. at 267.) Dr. Bhatti noted that Pridemore's sleep study showed mild sleep apnea; however, Pridemore refused treatment. (R. at 263-67.) Dr. Bhatti recommended referral to a psychiatrist, but Pridemore refused to see one. (R. at 267.) On July 21, 2006, [6] Pridemore reported that he fell when his knees “bulked in front of him, ” causing him to injure his hand and left knee. (R. at 295.) Dr. Bhatti recommended that Pridemore have his potassium and phosphate levels checked the next time he experienced an episode of his knees bulking under him. (R. at 295.) On August 21, 2006, Pridemore stated that he had not experienced further seizures. (R. at 294.) On September 7, 2006, x-rays of Pridemore's lumbar spine were normal. (R. at 308.) X-rays of Pridemore's chest also were normal and showed clear lungs with no gross bony abnormality. (R. at 309.) In October 2006, Pridemore saw Dr. Bhatti for complaints of neck and back pain. (R. at 845.) Pridemore reported that he had not had any seizures. (R. at 845.) Pridemore's neurology examination was non-focal and unchanged. (R. at 845.) Dr. Bhatti noted that a nerve conduction study suggested cervical radiculopathy, but that more imaging was recommended. (R. at 360, 845.) Dr. Bhatti also continued to treat Pridemore for complex partial seizures. (R. at 845.) X-rays of Pridemore's thoracic spine in December 2006 showed mild osteopenia and a very slight wedged appearance at ¶ 11 and T12, suggestive of possible past trauma. (R. at 397.)

         On October 17, 2005, Robert S. Spangler, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist, evaluated Pridemore at the request of Pridemore's attorney. (R. at 870-74.) Pridemore demonstrated good concentration and was appropriately persistent on tasks. (R. at 870.) Spangler reported that Pridemore was alert and oriented; he had adequate recall of remote and recent events; his affect was full range; his mood was euthymic; and he was cooperative, compliant and forthcoming. (R. at 872.) Spangler reported that Pridemore's social skills were adequate and that he had the judgment necessary to handle his own financial affairs. (R. at 873.) The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition, (“WAIS-III”), test was administered, and Pridemore obtained a verbal IQ score of 91, a performance IQ score of 95 and a full-scale IQ score of 93. (R. at 873.) Spangler diagnosed nicotine dependence and borderline personality disorder. (R. at 873-74.) Spangler assessed Pridemore's then-current Global Assessment of Functioning, (“GAF”), [7] score at 75.[8] (R. at 874.)

         Spangler completed a mental assessment, indicating that Pridemore had an unlimited ability to follow work rules and to understand, remember and carry out simple job instructions. (R. at 877-79.) He indicated that Pridemore had a limited, but satisfactory, ability to interact with supervisors; to deal with work stresses; to function independently; to maintain attention/concentration; and to understand, remember and carry out detailed instructions. (R. at 877-78.) Spangler indicated that Pridemore had a limited, but satisfactory, ability to a seriously limited, but not precluded, ability to maintain personal appearance and to behave in an emotionally stable manner. (R. at 878.) He indicated that Pridemore had a seriously limited, but not precluded, ability to relate to co-workers; to deal with the public; to use judgment; to understand, remember and carry out complex instructions; to relate predictably in social situations; and to demonstrate reliability. (R. at 877-78.) Spangler stated that these limitations were a result of Pridemore's personality disorder and his complaints of chronic fatigue. (R. at 877-78.)

         Pridemore saw Dr. Uzma Ehtesham, M.D., a psychiatrist, on June 28, 2006, upon Dr. Bhatti's referral. (R. at 305-06.) He reported paranoia; anger; irritability; panic attacks; and becoming violent at times. (R. at 305.) Pridemore was alert and oriented, and Dr. Ehtesham found his mood to be sad with a restricted affect. (R. at 305.) Dr. Ehtesham further found that Pridemore had paranoid ideations and decreased memory and concentration. (R. at 306.) She diagnosed major depressive disorder with the need to rule out bipolar disorder. (R. at 306.) She assessed Pridemore's then-current GAF score at 60.[9] (R. at 306.) Pridemore returned to Dr. Ehtesham on July 13, 2006, reporting increased grouchiness and depression, as well as worsened mood swings and anxiety. (R. at 304.) Mental status examination was unremarkable. (R. at 304.) On August 7, 2006, Pridemore again reported that his depression and anger were worse, and he was having a lot of problems with panic. (R. at 303.) His mood was fair with a congruent affect. (R. at 303.)

         On August 16, 2006, Dr. Ehtesham completed a mental assessment, indicating that Pridemore was markedly[10] limited in his abilities to understand, remember and carry out short, simple instructions; to understand and remember detailed instructions; and to interact appropriately with the public and supervisors. (R. at 837-39.) Dr. Ehtesham further opined that Pridemore was extremely[11]limited in his abilities to carry out detailed instructions; to make judgments on simple work-related decisions; to interact appropriately with co-workers; ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.