United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
TRISHA D. VIA, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Glen E. Conrad United States District Judge
has filed this action challenging the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiffs claim for
a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
under the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 416(i) and 423. Jurisdiction of this court is
pursuant to § 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). This court's review is limited to a determination
as to whether there is substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's conclusion that plaintiff . failed to meet
the requirements for entitlement to benefits under the Act.
If such substantial evidence exists, the final decision of
the Commissioner must be affirmed. Laws v.
Celebrezze. 368 F.2d 640 (4th Cir. 1966). 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.
plaintiff, Trisha D. Via, was born on May 12,1975, and
eventually completed her high school education. Mrs. Via also
completed one year in college. (TR 225). As found by the
vocational expert who testified at the administrative
hearing, plaintiff has worked as an insurance clerk, sock
pairer, and customer order clerk. (TR 87-88). Mrs. Via last
worked on a regular and sustained basis in 2005. On August
26,2015, plaintiff filed application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits. The record
suggests that multiple, earlier applications for such
benefits had proven unsuccessful. In filing her most recent
claim, plaintiff alleged that she became disabled for all
forms of substantial gainful employment on June 1, 2005, due
to psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, degenerative disc
disease, depression, and migraines. She now maintains that
she has remained disabled to the present time. The record
reveals that Mrs. Via met the insured status requirements of
the Act through the fourth quarter of 2010, but not
thereafter. See gen., 42 U.S.C. § 416(i) and
423(a). Consequently, plaintiff is entitled to disability
insurance benefits only if she has established that she
became disabled for all forms of substantial gainful
employment on or before December 31,2010. See 42 U.S.C.
Via's most recent application 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 August 10,2016,
the Law Judge also determined that plaintiff was not
Judge found that Mrs. Via suffered from several severe
impairments, including fibromyalgia, obesity, migraines, and
degenerative disc disease. (TR 20). Because of her physical
problems, the Law Judge held that plaintiff was disabled for
all of her past work roles. (TR 33). However, the Law Judge
ruled that Mrs. Via retained sufficient functional capacity
for a limited range of light work at all relevant times prior
to termination of insured status. The Law Judge assessed Mrs.
Via's residual functional capacity as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the
claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with exceptions.
The claimant could occasionally reach, handle, finger, and
feel with her right upper extremity. She had to avoid more
than occasional exposure to excessive noise and vibration.
(TR 23). Given such a residual functional capacity, and after
considering plaintiff s age, education, and prior work
experience, as well as testimony from a vocational expert,
the Law Judge ruled that Mrs. Via retained sufficient
functional capacity to perform several specific light work
roles existing in significant number in the national economy.
(TR 34-35). Accordingly, the Law Judge ultimately concluded
that plaintiff was not disabled, and that she is not entitled
to a period of disability or disability insurance benefits.
See 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(g). The Law Judge's opinion
was adopted as the final decision of the Commissioner by the
Social Security Administration's Appeals Council. Having
exhausted all available administrative remedies, Mrs. Via 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. § 423(d)(2). 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
review of the record in this case, the court is constrained
to conclude that the Commissioner's final decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Mrs. Via has a history of
migraine headaches, as well as fibromyalgia. She experiences
obesity. She also has a history of low back pain, which her
doctors have attributed to degenerative disease process. At
the administrative hearing, plaintiff testified that her pain
radiates into multiple extremities. Several diagnostic
studies completed prior to termination of insured status were
not overly remarkable. She underwent a hip replacement in
2014. More recently, a treating physician, Dr. Garry Bayliss,
has diagnosed psoriatic arthritis, though there is some
reason to believe that plaintiff has been suffering from the
symptoms of this condition for many years. In a note dated
May 2,2016, Dr. Bayliss opined that plaintiff has been
disabled due to psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia since
"the onset of these problems." (TR 1017).
Administrative Law Judge determined that Mrs. Via was not
disabled for lighter forms of work activity at any time prior
to the termination of insured status. The Law Judge tracked
plaintiffs extensive medical history, noting that several
diagnostic studies and clinical evaluations have proven
unremarkable. Indeed, several treating rheumatologists, both
before and after termination of insured status, have
attributed plaintiffs symptomatology to fibromyalgia, in the
absence of physical findings of severe musculoskeletal
abnormalities or defects.
denying plaintiffs claim, the Law Judge also relied on a
consultative physical evaluation performed by Dr. William
Humphries on September 21, 2012. Based on his review of Mrs.
Via's medical history, as well as his own clinical
findings, Dr. Humphries diagnosed obesity; fibromyalgia by
history with multiple myalgias and arthralgias; recurrent
headaches, probably migraine; diminished pulses in both lower
extremities of unknown etiology; and degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar spine. (TR 928). Dr. Humphries assessed
plaintiffs functional capacity as follows:
Based on objective findings of this evaluation, the examinee
will be limited to sitting 6 hours in an 8 hour day, to
standing and walking 6 hours in an 8 hour day, lifting 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. She is limited
to occasional climbing, kneeling, and crawling. There will be
no restriction regarding stooping or crouching. She should
avoid heights and hazards. There will be no fume restriction.
opinion, the Law Judge also relied on medical interrogatories
propounded to Dr. Leonard Rubin. Based on his record review,
Dr. Rubin opined that Mrs. Via could have performed lighter
forms of work ...