United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
DOUGLAS E. MILLER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Kendall De Whitt-Matthews seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of Social Security's denial of her claim for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
Supplemental Social Security Income ("SSI").
Specifically, De Whitt-Matthews claims that the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") relied on Hawed
vocational expert testimony. This action was referred to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B) and (C),
and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
reviewing the parties' briefs and the administrative
record of the Agency's findings, this Report concludes
that the ALJ complied with the law and regulations governing
disability benefits under the Social Security Act.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated in detail 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 De
Whitt-Matthews's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
April 15, 2013, De Whitt-Matthews filed an application for
DIB. R. at 21. She alleged that she was disabled as of August
3, 2011, due to body-wide pain and soft tissue damage. R. at
242. The state agency denied her application initially and
again upon reconsideration. R. at 126-30, 133-37. De
Whitt-Matthews then requested an administrative hearing,
which was conducted March 3, 2016. R. at 37-70.
denied De Whitt-Matthews's claims for DIB and SSI,
finding she was not disabled during the period alleged. R. at
18-36. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for
review. R. at 1-7. De Whitt-Matthews then filed the Complaint
in the present action seeking review of the administrative
proceedings. Compl. (ECF No. 3).
Whitt-Matthews was born on February 28, 1966, and was 51 at
the time of the ALJ's decision. R. at 21, 80. She
completed high school, and has worked as a cleaner and
housekeeper. R, at 45. The parties have not disputed the
ALJ's findings regarding De Whitt-Matthews'
functional limitations. See Pl.'s Br. (ECF No. 13);
Def.'s Br. (ECF No. 15). Her medical history and her
testimony to the ALJ are therefore only briefly summarized
here. The testimony of the Vocational Expert ("VE")
and the ALJ's reliance on that testimony is at issue and
will be described in greater detail.
History of Treatment.
Whitt-Matthews was in good health before she was in a car
accident on August 3, 2011. In the accident, her vehicle was
rear-ended. She told her doctors that "[h]er left arm
flew out and she was thrown up from the seat." After the
accident, she had serious pain throughout her body. During
treatment with a pain management specialist in December of
that year, she complained of pain in the middle of her back
and her lower back, as well as in her neck, arms, and heels.
She also complained of numbness in the top of her head. She
complained of trouble sleeping. R. at 388. She underwent an
MRI examination which revealed cervical spinal straightening,
a loss of normal cervical lordosis, and mild thoracic and
cervical degenerative changes. R. at 412. Her treatment
records with the pain management specialist reflect ongoing
treatment for pain management throughout the next year. R. at
April 2015, De Whitt-Matthews' condition had generally
stabilized. She was able to walk normally and unaided, though
she did complain of pain on spinal flexion in her lower
thoracic and upper lumbar region. She had good range of
motion in her joints otherwise with only mild discomfort in
her shoulders. R. at 560. She was using prescribed pain
medication to manage her pain. Id. She was diagnosed
with chronic pain and with multi-level cervical and thoracic
degenerative disc disease and less-severe degenerative disc
disease in her lumbar spine. R. at 561.
early 2016, De Whitt-Matthews' treating pain management
specialist and chiropractor completed "Physical Medical
Source Statement" forms for her identifying significant
functional impairments due to her chronic pain. R. at 563-66,
Testimony Before the Administrative Law Judge.
Whitt-Matthews testified before the ALJ at her hearing. She
described her past work history as well has how the pain that
resulted from her injuries in the 2011 car accident has
affected her life. R. at 45-72. She testified she had severe
muscle spasms that kept her from moving her arms or grasping.
R. at 47. She also testified that her pain kept her from
sleeping. R. at 49-50. She told the ALJ she had difficulty
shopping because of the pain she was in while standing or
walking. See R. at 51-52. She also told him she had trouble
lifting objects much heavier than a gallon of milk. R. at 55.
She testified she does not exercise and does not carry on
social activities because of her pain. R. at 57.
also heard testimony from Edith Edwards, a vocational expert
("VE"), to assist him in determining whether there
were jobs in the national economy De Whitt-Matthews was
capable of performing. See R. at 72-81. He presented the VE
with the following hypothetical person: someone of De
Whitt-Matthews's age, education, and work background who,
among other limitations, 
[c]an lift/carry up to 10 pounds occasionally from waist to
chest level. Walk about two hours within an eight-hour
workday, but no longer than one block at a time on a flat
even surface. Can stand/walk four to six hours in an
eight-hour workday with a sit/stand option, changing position