United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
ALICIA M. REYES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. Ballou, United States Magistrate Judge
Alicia M. Reyes filed this action challenging the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) finding her 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. Reyes alleges that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred by failing to properly (1)
determine her RFC, including evaluating the consultative
examiner's opinion, Reyes's ability to handle and
finger objects, and conduct a function by function analysis;
and (2) evaluate her credibility. I conclude that substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's decision in all
respects. Accordingly, I RECOMMEND DENYING
Reyes's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 14) and
GRANTING the Commissioner's Motion for
Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 16).
court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
conclusion that Reyes 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 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 2, 2012, claiming her
disability began on June 13, 2012 due to tremors, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”), asthma,
sleep apnea, and nerve damage. R. 53, 335, 342, 365, 368. The
state agency denied Reyes's applications at the initial
and reconsideration levels of administrative review. R.
150-62, 163-75, 179-94, 195-210. On June 26, 2014, ALJ
Jeffrey Schueller held a hearing to consider Reyes's
claims for DIB and SSI. R. 108-38. At this hearing, Reyes
requested a consultative evaluation and, following the
evaluation, a supplemental hearing took place on December 4,
2014. R. 70-99. Reyes was represented by counsel at both the
June and December hearings, which included testimony from
vocational experts Asheley Wells and Mark Hileman,
January 30, 2015, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing
Reyes's claims under the familiar five-step
process and denying her claim for benefits. R.
53-63. The ALJ found that Reyes was insured at the time of
the alleged disability onset and that she suffered from the
severe impairments of de Quervain's disease, essential
tremor, COPD/asthma, obesity, GERD, sciatica, and plantar
fasciitis. R. 55. The ALJ determined that these
impairments, either individually or in combination, did not
meet or equal a listed impairment. R. 60. The ALJ concluded
that Reyes retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a limited range of light work.
R. 60. Specifically, the ALJ found that Reyes can frequently
balance, push/pull, stoop, kneel, crouch, and handle objects,
can occasionally crawl, climb ramps and stairs, and finger
objects, but can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds,
and should avoid concentrated exposure to cold, heat,
wetness, humidity, vibrations, odors, fumes, irritating
particulates, chemicals, and hazards. Id. The ALJ
determined that Reyes was unable to perform her past relevant
work as a telephone representative, front desk clerk, and
sales clerk, but that she could perform other jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy, such as
usher, gate guard, and furniture clerk. R. 61-62. Reyes
appealed the ALJ's decision and the Appeals Council
denied her request for review on May 27, 2016. R. 1-4.
Relevant Medical History
August 2012, Reyes saw Joseph M. Ferrara, M.D. at Roanoke
Neurology for evaluation of a tremor, which Reyes reported
began sometime in early childhood. R. 481. Dr. Ferrara noted
that the tremor is most pronounced in Reyes's hands, with
the left hand more affected than the right hand, and at times
involves her head. R. 482. Dr. Ferrara advised that Reyes
undergo an occupational therapy assessment to explore
adaptive measures to allow her to perform her activities of
daily living with less difficulty, as well as possible
vocational rehabilitation. R. 484. Reyes had follow up
appointments with Dr. Ferrara in October 2012 and February,
May, and November 2013, and November 2014, where Dr. Ferrara
noted that Reyes left hand tremor was persistent during
activities, but absent during rest, was aggravated by
strenuous activity, hunger, fatigue, and her prescribed
medication for obstructive pulmonary disease (Albuterol), and
was not responding to the pharmaceutical drugs prescribed. R.
482, 956, 962, 975, 983, 1555.
September 2012, Reyes saw Amy Conforti, OTR, for occupational
therapy, on referral from Drs. Ferrara and Robert E. Cassidy,
M.D., and Ms. Conforti recommended custom
orthotics. R. 862, 864. Reyes returned for two
follow-up visits in September and October, 2012; however, she
failed to show for her scheduled appointment on October 12.
saw her family doctor Catherine Rea, M.D. in April 2014,
complaining of worsening back pain and leg numbness. R. 1407.
An x-ray of her lumbar spine in June 2014 was normal. R.
1618. On July 14, 2014, Reyes saw Richard Weiss, M.D., M.B.A.
for an evaluation of her back pain. R. 1422. On examination,
she had lumbar tenderness, no swelling, normal muscle
strength, negative straight leg raise, normal gate, and
decreased reflexes and sensation. R. 1426- 27. Dr. Weiss
diagnosed Reyes with mild spondylosis deformans of the lumbar
spine, and referred her to physical therapy. R. 1427-28. In
August 2014, Reyes presented for a physical therapy
evaluation. R. 1447. However, Reyes was discharged from
physical therapy when she failed to attend any of her
subsequent scheduled appointments. R 1454-55.
saw Laura B. Cieraszynski, D.O. in September 2012,
complaining of worsening anxiety following the birth of her
child two months previously. R. 835. The record indicates
that Reyes “reports no help at home, leading to an
inability to get away or relax.” Id. In
February 2014, Reyes underwent a psychiatric evaluation at
Advanced Telepsychiatry, Inc., and was assessed with panic
disorder and panic attacks. R. 1326. At a follow-up visit In
March 2014, ...