United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. BALLOU UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lew M. (“Lew”) 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 disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act
(“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433.
Specifically, Lew alleges that the ALJ: (1) failed to give
controlling weight to the opinion of Lew's treating
physician; and (2) improperly discounted Lew's
credibility. Further, Lew submitted additional evidence to
the Appeals Council that she argues justifies remand. I
conclude that substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's decision on all grounds. Accordingly, I
RECOMMEND DENYING Lew's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. 15), and GRANTING the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 19).
Court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
conclusion that Lew 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 on July 19, 2013, claiming that her disability
began on January 15, 2012. R. 215-17. The Commissioner denied
Lew's application at the initial and reconsideration
levels of administrative review. R. 138, 149. On November 17,
2015, ALJ R. Neely Owen held a hearing to consider Lew's
disability claim. R. 101-31. Lew was represented by an
attorney at the hearing, which included testimony from Lew
and vocational expert Andrew Beale. Id.
January 21, 2016, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing
Lew's claim under the familiar five-step process,
denied Lew's claim for benefits. R. 65-77. The ALJ found
that Lew suffered from the severe impairments of degenerative
disc disease and radiculopathy. R. 67. The ALJ found that Lew
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform light work, except that she can: (1) frequently
climb ramps and stairs; and (2) occasionally stoop, kneel,
crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. R. 69. The
ALJ determined that Lew could return to her past relevant
work as a bench assembler. R. 75. Nevertheless, the ALJ
concluded that Lew could work at other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy such as ticketer,
cleaner, and clerical worker. R. 76. Thus, the ALJ found Lew
not disabled. R. 77.
appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council and
submitted additional evidence. R. 10-25, 29-59, 85-100, 214.
On July 25, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Lew's
request for review. R. 1-6. This appeal followed.
challenges the ALJ's decision on two grounds, claiming
that the ALJ: (1) failed to give controlling weight to the
opinion of her treating physician; and (2) improperly
discounted her credibility. Lew also alleges that the Appeals
Council's decision declining to consider additional
evidence warrants remand.
claims that the ALJ erred when he accorded less weight to her
treating physician, Dr. Todd Delhi. The ALJ explained that
the opinion of Lew's treating physician “is not
supported by the longitudinal record with its limited
physical findings and generally routine and conservative
treatment, including his own treatment notes.” R. 75.
October 27, 2014, Dr. Dehli provided the opinion that Lew can
lift and carry five pounds, stand and walk for less than two
hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit for two hours in an
eight-hour workday. R. 376-77. Dr. Dehli stated that Lew can
never climb, balance, kneel, crouch, crawl, or stoop. R. 377.
Dr. Dehli explained that Lew is limited in pushing and
pulling with the upper extremities, and experiences numbness,
pain, and weakness in the right upper and lower extremities.
Id. Dr. Dehli stated that Lew is limited with
reaching and feeling on the right, can only handle things
occasionally, and is limited with hazards. R. 378-79. Dr.
Dehli explained that Lew would be absent from work more than
three times a month. R. 379. The ALJ gave little weight to
Dr. Delhi's opinion. R. 75.
first documented report of lower back pain in the record
occurred on May 9, 2012, when Lew saw Todd Dehli, M.D. R.
331. Lew explained that her lower back pain is exacerbated by
prolonged sitting and standing. Id. Dr. Dehli
prescribed pain medication. R. 332.
October 1, 2012, Lew complained of pain in her lower back and
right lower extremities to Jocelyn Idema, D.O. R. 323. Dr.
Idema recommended an epidural steroid injection at ...