United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. BALLOU UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Kathy Yvette Brown (“Brown”) filed this action
challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) determining that she
was not disabled and therefore not eligible for supplemental
security income (“SSI”) and disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act
(“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433,
1381-1383f. Specifically, Brown alleges that the ALJ failed
to properly assess her impairments on a function-by-function
basis, and failed to provide sufficient reasons for the
credibility analysis. I conclude that substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's decision as a whole. Accordingly, I
RECOMMEND DENYING Brown's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 13), and GRANTING
the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Dkt. No.
Court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
conclusion that Brown failed to demonstrate that she 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 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. 1990).
filed for DIB and SSI on August 7, 2012, claiming that her
disability began on June 1, 2012. Administrative Record,
hereinafter “R.” 22. The Commissioner denied the
applications at the initial and reconsideration levels of
administrative review. R. 78-119. On June 20, 2014, ALJ
Robert Habermann held a hearing to consider Brown's
disability claim. R. 35-77. Brown was represented by an
attorney at the hearing, which included testimony from Brown
and vocational expert Gerald Wells. Id.
October 8, 2014, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing
Brown's claim under the familiar five-step process,
denying Brown's claim for benefits. R. 22-30. The ALJ
found that Brown suffered from the severe impairments of
hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and history of chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”). R. 25.
The ALJ found that these impairments did not meet or
medically equal a listed impairment. Id. The ALJ
further found that Brown had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work, except that she
can lift and/or carry [twenty pounds] occasionally and frequently;
can sit, stand and walk for six hours in an eight-hour
workday; can occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch and crawl; and she is limited to unskilled work.
Id. The ALJ determined that Brown is capable of
performing her past relevant work as a housekeeper, and thus
she is not disabled. R. 29-30.
requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision and on July 27, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Brown's request for review. R. 1-5. This appeal followed.
and Opinion Evidence
treatment history is fairly conservative. Before the relevant
period,  in July and November of 2011, Brown
visited New Horizons Healthcare and was assessed with
diabetes mellitus type 2 uncontrolled, hypertension, COPD,
GERD, hyperlipidemia, depression, and anxiety. R. 319, 320,
322-23. She received similar assessments in March 2012 and
July 2012. R. 311-12, 316. At the July 2012 appointment, no
changes were made to Brown's medications and her physical
examination was unremarkable except for a blood test
suggesting elevated blood sugar (high “HbA1C”).
next received treatment in October 2012 when she went to
Roanoke Memorial Hospital after suffering a fall. R. 352-70.
Robert Salters, M.D., noted that Brown reported a history of
loss of consciousness and falls since January 2012. R. 352.
Brown denied concern with this issue, seeking instead
treatment for her left wrist and elbow pain. Id.
X-rays of Brown's left elbow and wrist were unremarkable,
showing no fracture or acute process. R. 357. The examining
physician found that Brown had tachycardia, and suffered a
syncopal episode when she fell. She had tenderness, but
normal range of motion, no edema, and a normal gait. R. 354.
Brown was diagnosed with abrasions and prescribed Motrin. R.
357-58. A few days later, at a follow-up appointment at
Horizon Behavioral Health, Brown was again positive for
depression and anxiety and assessed with diabetes mellitus
type 2 uncontrolled, hypertension, COPD, GERD, and
hyperlipidemia. R. 340-41. Brown received the same assessment
on January 17, 2013. R. 338. At this January visit, Brown did
not have any new complaints about physical symptoms and a
physical examination was unremarkable. R. 337-39.
January 22, 2013, Brown reported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital
complaining of moderate intermittent chest pain. R. 371. The
pain was worse when lying down, but better when sitting.
Id. Brown reported that the episodes of pain last
only a few seconds and occur six-to-seven times per day.
Id. As Brown's chest X-rays showed no acute
abnormality, she was assessed with atypical chest pain and
prescribed medication for heartburn. R. 374-77, 475. About
four months later, in May 2013, Brown reported to New
Horizons Healthcare for a follow-up appointment for her
diabetes. R. 396. She complained of digestive issues and was
assessed with COPD, hypertension, diabetes mellitus type 2 -
uncontrolled, irritable bowel syndrome, and callus. R. 397.
Brown received medication for her irritable bowel syndrome.
later, on June 27, 2013, Brown went to the emergency
department at Roanoke Memorial Hospital complaining of
moderate left-sided chest pain and numbness in her left arm.
R. 415. Examination revealed that Brown was not in distress
and she was assessed with chest pain and dehydration. R. 419.
Brown received Motrin and intravenous fluids. Id.
Two months later, Brown reported again to the emergency
department, this time complaining of abdominal pain. R. 438.
Brown was positive for nausea, abdominal tenderness and pain,