United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
DOUGLAS E. MILLER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ronald Edward Williams seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security
(''Commissioner")'s denial of his claim for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Specifically,
Williams claims that the Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ")'s determination of residual functional
capacity ("RFC") failed to account for his need for
a walker, and that the ALJ relied on testimony from the
vocational expert (" VE") that did not accommodate
action was referred to the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and (C), and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of
reasons stated below, this report recommends that the court
AFFIRM the final decision of the Commissioner by GRANTING the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14)
and DENYING Williams' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF
No. 12) .
28, 2012, Williams filed an application for DIB and SSI. R.
at 107-08, 210. He alleged that he was disabled as of
February 1, 2009. R. at 210. He alleged his disability was
due to sleep apnea, left shoulder injury, diabetes, high
blood pressure, and arthritis. R. at 257. The state agency
denied his application initially. R. at 147. It did so again
upon reconsideration. R. at 158. Williams then requested an
administrative hearing from the Social Security
Administration. R. at 173-74. An ALJ conducted a hearing on
October 14, 2015. R. at 33. Williams was represented by an
attorney. R. at 32, 209. At the hearing, Williams amended his
claimed disability onset date to June 22, 2012. R. at 44,
November 3, 2015, the ALJ denied Williams' claims for DIB
and SSI. R. at 26. The ALJ found Williams was not disabled
between June 22, 2012, and November 3, 2015. R. at 15, 26.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on November 16, 2016. R. at 1. Williams filed the present
action seeking review of the administrative proceedings below
on January 18, 2017.
was born in 1968. See R. at 24. He completed the
ninth grade and participated in special education classes. R.
at 258. Before stopping work, he was employed as a laborer
and a janitor. Id.
relevant portions of Williams' medical history are
summarized here, as are the portions of the administrative
proceedings below that are relevant to his arguments in this
History of Medical Treatment and Evaluation.
to his proposed disability onset date, Williams experienced a
number of other impairments, including non-insulin dependent
diabetes, hypertension, blurry vision, obesity, degenerative
joint disease of the left hip, sleep apnea, and an injury to
his left shoulder. R. at 346, 521, 671, 675, 704. After a
previous proceeding before one of the Social Security
Administration's ALJs on February 12, 2012, Williams was
found to have a defined period of disability lasting from
February 1, 2009, to March 1, 2010. R. at 15, 83-84. This
disability was related to the following impairments: diabetes
mellitus, peripheral neuropathy, degenerative joint disease
of the left shoulder. R. at 77. He subsequently returned to
work. R. at 248. At the 2012 hearing, the ALJ concluded from
Williams' return to work that he was no longer disabled
at that point, and that Williams' disability benefits be
stopped after March 2, 2010. R. at 83.
2011, from March to December, Williams worked as a janitor.
R. at 248. From December 2011 to June 2012, he worked as a
general laborer. R. at 248. Williams stopped working on June
22, 2012, after reportedly having a heat stroke and being
laid off by his employer. R. at 257. The heat stroke he
claims led to his termination occurred on June 15, 2012. R.
at 468. On June 17, 2012, he sought emergency room treatment
for chest pain, pain in his left calf, shortness of breath,
left arm numbness, and pain radiating from his left face.
Id. The evaluating physicians found his condition
"unremarkable" and assigned him to chest pain
observation protocols. R. at 466. He was ultimately diagnosed
with "acute precordial pain, cardiac unlikely, probably
musculoskeletal." R. at 467. He was discharged with a
prescription for ibuprofen. R. at 466-67. On February 12,
2013, Williams again sought emergency room treatment for
chest pain, and again received an unremarkable evaluation. R.
March 12, 2013, Dr. Chris Bovinet, a consulting physician on
behalf of the Agency, examined Williams in connection with
his social security disability claim. R. at 368. Williams
denied difficulty with personal care and most light
housework, though he did claim difficulty with laundry and
yardwork. R. at 370. He had no difficulty getting on and off
the examination table. R. at 3 71. Regarding Williams'
extremities, Dr. Bovinet noted, There is no clubbing,
cyanosis or edema. There is no focal atrophy nor contractures
There is bilateral joint line tenderness to palpation to
medial and lateral joint spaces anteriorly. There is no
instability with varus and valgus stress testing at 0 and 3 0
degrees. Negative anterior and posterior drawer. No.
erythema, warmth or effusions noted. There is minimal
crepitus noted with active range of motion in the
patellofemoral joint space and right greater than left knees.
R. at 372. Additionally, his range of motion was normal in
all joints tested. R. at 372. 3755. He had a strong, balanced
gait. R. at 372. He had 5 of 5 strength in his lower
extremities including hip flexion, hip extension, abduction,
knee flexion, and knee extension. R. at 373. Dr. Bovinet also
noted Williams exhibited "good dorsiflexion and plantar
flexion and great toe extension." Id. His
reflexes in his knees and ankles was 2, symmetrical and
intact. Id. Williams refused to squat during the
examination, saying he could not recover from a squatting
position. Id. He also refused to hop, saying he was
unable to do so. Id. Dr. Bovinet noted Williams had
''[n]egative straight leg raise bilaterally. No.
significant tenderness to palpation in the paravertebral
muscles of the cervical or thoracolumbar spine."
Bovinet's diagnosis of Williams was that he had
(1) Left upper extremity numbness without any weakness
(3) Bilateral knee pain with possible osteoarthritis
(4) Obstructive sleep apnea
(5) Diabetes mellitus
(6) Hypertension which is well controlled
Bovinet also assessed Williams' functional capacity.
Williams had "some mild limitations" from his left
arm numbness and bilateral knee pain. Id.
Notwithstanding those limitations, he could still stand six
hours out of an eight-hour work day. Id. He could
walk for two hours out of an eight-hour work day.
Id. He could carry 50 pounds occasionally or 25
pounds frequently. Id. He could lift 100 pounds
occasionally or 50 pounds frequently. Id. Dr.
Bovinet said Williams "should be able to bend, stoop,
crouch, and squat occasionally and limited by his bilateral
knee pain [sic] although this is not fully evaluated today as
[Williams] refused to do squatting, but otherwise had no
limitations during the examination." R. at 374. The
doctor concluded by saying, "Claimant does not require
nor utilize any assistive device for ambulation whether it be
long distances, short distances, or uneven terrain."
16, 2013, Williams was treated for what he described as
"hurting all over." R. at 695. On his
musculoskeletal examination, the treating physician described
his gait as antalgic and noted he favored his left. R. at
696. His posture was normal. Id. His right hip was
painful with all motion, while his left hip was normal.
Id. He was tender on the right at the bursa.
underwent a number of treatments during the spring and summer
of 2013 for vision and balance problems. See R. at
646 (floaters in right eye on May 20), 438 (dizziness on May
27), 4 02 (loss of vision in right eye June 20-27) .
in the hospital for his vision loss in June 2013, Williams
underwent a lumbar puncture to help his doctors evaluate his
optic neuritis. See R. at 428. This test resulted in
some radicular pain in his lower right leg. See R.
at 402. He also underwent an MRI scan, which showed partial
lumbarization of the LI vertebral body, mild central canal
stenosis at ¶ 5-S1, and multilevel degenerative changes.
R. at ...