United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
DOUGLAS E. MILLER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jennifer Lynn Yarrington seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner")'s denial of her claim for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental Social Security income ("SSI").
Specifically, Yarrington claims that the Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ"), when determining her residual
functional capacity ("RFC"), improperly weighed the
opinions of Yarrington's treating physician and two state
consultative experts and also erred in assessing
Yarrington's credibility. Yarrington claims correcting
these alleged errors could result in her being found disabled
and therefore seeks remand of her claim.
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
Civil Procedure. For the 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. 12) and DENYING Yarrington's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) and Motion for Remand
(ECF No. 10).
filed applications for supplemental security income
("SSI") and disability insurance benefits
("DIB") in September 2012. R. at 256. She alleged a
disability onset date of April 27, 2012. Id. The
agency denied her application. R. at 155. It also denied her
application on reconsideration. R. at 167. The
Commissioner's administrative law judge held a hearing
for Yarrington's claims on July 2, 2015. R. at 69-90. He
held a supplemental hearing on January 21, 2016. R. at 38-49.
In an opinion dated February 10, 2016, the ALJ found
Yarrington was not disabled during the period of alleged
disability and denied her claims for benefits. R. at 20-31.
The Appeals Council denied Yarrington's request for
review on February 7, 2017. R. at 1.
timely filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) seeking review of the
agency's decisions. She then moved for summary judgment
(ECF No. 9) and remand (ECF No. 10). The Commissioner filed
its cross Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12), and the
matter is ripe to resolve.
was born December 11, 1982. R. at 271. She was only 29 years
old on her alleged disability onset date. See R. at 256. She
completed high school. R. at 75. She had previous work as a
restaurant cashier and retail sales associate. R. at 85.
relevant portions of Yarrington's medical history are
summarized here, as are the portions of the administrative
proceedings below relevant to her arguments in this court.
History of Treatment and Evaluation for Migraines.
January 31, 2012, Yarrington sought treatment at Tidewater
Physicians Multispecialty Group ("Tidewater") for
constant migraines over the previous week. R. at 355. She was
prescribed Tramadol for pain and advised that other
medications she was taking might have "flared" her
headaches. R. at 357. On May 4, 2012, she sought treatment at
an emergency room for a migraine, complaining she had
"sharp, severe" pain in her head and sensitivity to
light and sound. R. at 422. She also complained of nausea and
vomiting. Id. She was prescribed Fioricet and, by
the time she was discharged, reported no pain. R. at 421,
426. During treatment in July of that year for asthma
unrelated to her migraines, she reported no headache. R. at
sought emergency room treatment for her migraines twice more
in October 2012. R. at 508, 531. On the second occasion, she
was prescribed Percocet for her pain. R. at 531. On October
29, 2012, Yarrington underwent a CT scan, which revealed no
abnormalities. R. at 548. At Tidewater on November 12, 2012,
she reported that the medications she was taking for the
migraines were relieving her symptoms. R. at 686.
April 16, 2013, Yarrington went to the emergency room again
for migraine headaches and vomiting. R. at 898. She was
prescribed Vicodin and discharged. R. at 902. In August 2013,
she sought treatment from Tidewater for severe migraine
symptoms that were not being relieved by her medication or
other treatment. R. at 706. The Tidewater doctor diagnosed
her with "Common migraine with intractable migraine, so
stated." R. at 708. She was prescribed Percocet and
September 5, 2013, she saw Dr. Albert Francis for her
migraines. She told him her medication was offering no
relief. She complained of consistent pain over the past
several days. The doctor also noted that she had not seen a
neurologist as she had been directed to do in October 2012.
R. at 821. She was continued on Fioricet and directed to
follow up as needed. R. at 820.
returned to the emergency room on September 10 and October
22, 2013, complaining of migraine symptoms. R. at 966, 1106.
On her September visit she was discharged after her headache
had resolved. The attending physician noted no atypical
features. He recommended symptomatic treatment and the
scheduled follow up with a neurologist. R. at 969. In the
records from her October treatment, Yarrington told her
provider she comes to the emergency room when her migraine
symptoms became severe and that "got it under control
enough so she can be treated at home with her
medications." R. at 1106.
also treated for headaches, as well as back pain and other
issues with the chiropractor, Dr. Lawrence Svihla. R. at
1005-08. His letter dated October 8, 2013, summarized the
history of her treatment from 2004 to 2013. Dr. Svihla
concluded that she was "not disabled for her neck or
back issues," suggesting she may need periodic
chiropractic care as her symptoms required. R. at 1007. In an
"Impairment Questionnaire" dated February 6, 2014,
Dr. Svihla recorded his opinion that Yarrington's
symptoms would not increase in a competitive work environment
and would not render her incapable of tolerating moderate
work stress. R. at 1095-97. He felt Yarrington was a
malingerer. R. at 1096. He wrote, "I do not believe this
patient is disabled. Working would be beneficial to this
patient." R. at 1097.
was no documentation in the record before the ALJ that
Yarrington received treatment for her migraines after October
History of Mental Health Treatment and Evaluation.
November 21, 2011, Yarrington reported to her physician at
Tidewater that her anxiety was making it "somewhat
difficult to meet home, work, or social obligations" and
that "[t]he symptoms are aggravated by conflict or
stress at home or work," namely her mother's severe
illness. R. at 363. Nonetheless, her doctor reported,
"No unusual anxiety or evidence of depression." R.
April 17, 2012, Yarrington sought treatment for depression at
Hampton Mental Health Associates ("HMHA") after the
death of her mother. R. at 570-71. Yarrington reported she
could clean and do laundry and that she had been dating
recently. See R. at 570. She reported working as a sales
associate with plans to secure a second job to change her
living arrangements. R. at 571. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Linda
Sabonya, recorded her status as having a depressed and
anxious mood but logical, goal-directed, relevant and
sequential thought processes. R. at 572. Dr. Sabonya noted
Yarrington demonstrated appropriate, attentive, cooperative,
and relaxed behavior but also noted Yarrington's anxiety
range as "Panic." Id. The psychiatrist
prescribed Lamictal, but this resulted in no reported
improvement. R. at 571, 573.
September 17, 2012, Yarrington reported increased activity,
including photography and dating. R. at 574. On November 5,
2012, she reported feeling more anxious because she felt she
and a boyfriend were about to separate. ]± In
March 2013, the psychiatrist observed Yarrington had
decreased dysphoria and anxiety. R. at 579. In May of that
year, Yarrington told the psychiatrist her medication regimen
was more effective and that she was promoting her photography
business. Id. In September 2013, Yarrington reported
problems with her boyfriend, including threatening and
demeaning language. See R. at 817. In January 2014, Dr.
Sabonya reported Yarrington was responding well to
medication. R. at 1033.
was consistently noted to have normal attention, normal
judgment; intact memory; logical thought processes; and no
delusions, hallucinations, obsessions, compulsions, or
thoughts of harming herself or others. See, e.g.. R.
at 572 (April 2012), 1034 (January 2014), 1031 (April 2014),
1030 (June 2014), 1028 (November 2014), R. at 1065 (April
2015), R. at 1179 (December 2015). She was also consistently
diagnosed with only "mild/moderate" or
"moderate" anxiety and depression. See,
e.g., R. at 1033 (January 2014), 1031 (April 2014), 1029
was evaluated for disability by her treating psychiatrist,
Dr. Linda Sabonya, on May 7, 2015, and again on November 16,
2015. Dr. Sabonya assessed the impact of Yarrington's
mental health using the "Mental Impairment
Questionnaire" created by Yarrington's attorneys.
See R. at 1059-64, 1173-77. Both times, Dr. Sabonya checked
boxes to opine that Yarrington's mental health condition
would interfere with her ability to work one third of an
eight-hour day if she were assigned to tasks concerning
one-to-two step instructions. R. at 1062, 1175. She also
opined that Yarrington's mental health condition would
prevent her entirely from completing an eight-hour day if she
were assigned to tasks requiring adherence to detailed
instructions. R. at 1062, 1175. Dr. Sabonya also noted her
opinion that Yarrington would have to miss work more than
three times per month due to her impairments or treatment. R.
at 1063, 1177. Dr. Sabonya noted, "She has a chronic
illness that will have acute ...