United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Robert S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge.
Tracy Diane Kidd (“Kidd”), proceeding pro
se, challenges 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. Kidd asserts that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred by
concluding that she did not have a physical impairment that
rendered her disabled under the Act. Specifically, Kidd
asserts that her condition following a T9 compression
fracture prevents her from engaging in substantial gainful
employment. I conclude that substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's decision in its entirety. Consequently, I
RECOMMEND GRANTING the Commissioner's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 17).
Court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
conclusion that Kidd 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.
remand is appropriate if the ALJ's analysis is so
deficient that it “frustrate[s] meaningful
review.” Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 636
(4th Cir. 2015) (noting that “remand is
necessary” because the court is “left to guess
[at] how the ALJ arrived at his conclusions”); see
also Monroe v. Colvin, 826 F.3d. 176, 189 (4th Cir.
2016) (emphasizing that the ALJ must “build an accurate
and logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion”
and holding that remand was appropriate when the ALJ failed
to make “specific findings” about whether the
claimant's limitations would cause him to experience his
claimed symptoms during work and if so, how often) (citation
omitted). In Mascio and Monroe, the court
remanded because the ALJ failed to adequately explain how he
arrived at conclusions regarding the claimant's RFC.
Monroe, 826 F.3d. at 189; Mascio, 780 F.3d
filed for SSI and DIB on November 15, 2012, claiming that her
disability began on January 1, 2008, R. 197-207, but
subsequently amending the onset date to August 15, 2011 at
her administrative hearing. R. 38. The Commissioner denied
the application at the initial and reconsideration levels of
administrative review. R. 83-99, 103-24. On June 9, 2015, ALJ
Brian B. Rippel held an administrative hearing to consider
Kidd's disability claim. R. 34-82. Kidd was represented
by an attorney at the hearing, which included testimony from
vocational expert Jeannie Deal. Id.
29, 2015, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing Kidd's
claim under the familiar five-step process and denying her
claim for benefits. R. 11-26. The ALJ found that Kidd
suffered from the severe impairment of status post T9
compression fracture. R. 14. The ALJ found that this
impairment did not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment. R. 14-15. The ALJ further found that Kidd
retained the RFC to perform light work and can frequently
climb ramps and stairs and occasionally balance, stoop, and
crouch. R. 15. However, the ALJ found that Kidd can never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and should have only
occasional exposure to workplace hazards, such as unprotected
heights and moving machinery. Id.
determined that Kidd could return to her past work as an
“inspector/hand packer, production line solder [sic],
small product assembler, electronics worker as actually and
generally performed, order picker as actually performed, and
inserting machine operator as generally performed.” R.
24. The vocational expert testified that Kidd could perform
other jobs that exist in the national economy such as laundry
folder, cashier II, and mail clerk. R. 74. Thus, the ALJ
concluded that Kidd was not disabled. R. 26. On June 29,
2016, the Appeals Council denied Kidd's request for
review. R. 1-4. This appeal followed.
suffered a T9 compression fracture when she was thrown from a
barrel being towed by a four-wheeler at a company picnic on
November 16, 2007. R. 336, 346. Kidd did not seek any medical
treatment for her back injury until January 2008.
Id. She was about eighteen weeks pregnant at that
time and did not receive X-rays at her initial visit.
sought no other treatment for her back until July 2008 when
she saw David S. Haga, M.D. R. 342. X-rays at that time
showed “[n]o fractures or subluxation.”
Id. Dr. Haga referred Kidd to orthopedist Sara
Ashley McCowen, M.D., who prescribed physical therapy and a
home exercise plan. R. 346-47. Kidd was not evaluated by a
doctor again until March 2010, when Dr. Haga ordered an MRI,
which showed a “subacute compression conformity”
of the T9 vertebra, and “[m]ild degenerative disc
disease . . . [with] no significant spinal stenosis or neural
foraminal narrowing.” R. 341. Kidd returned to Dr. Haga
in June 2010, who stated that the compression fracture in
Kidd's T9 vertabra “should be completely healed
now.” R. 330. Dr. Haga recommended that Kidd resume
physical therapy, but Kidd declined, stating that she was too
January 2011 to April 2012, Kidd saw Frank Garcia, M.D., four
times. See R. 325- 29. During each examination, she
had normal findings in her extremities and spine.
Id. Dr. Garcia prescribed medication for pain,
id., and reported that these medications gave her
“fair relief.” R. 328. Although Kidd continued to
complain of pain, Dr. McCowen described the T9 compression
fracture as “asymptomatic” in April 2012,
pointing out that Kidd could be experiencing residual muscle