United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge.
Amy J. (“Amy”), proceeding pro se, filed
this action challenging the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
finding her not disabled and therefore ineligible for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under the
Social Security Act (“Act”). 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-433. I conclude that substantial evidence
supports the Commissioner's decision in all respects.
Accordingly, I RECOMMEND GRANTING the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 20).
court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
conclusion that Amy 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 DIB on January 9, 2014, claiming that her
disability began on December 14, 2013. R. 232-35. Amy's
date last insured was December 30, 2017. R. 23. The state
agency denied Amy's applications at the initial and
reconsideration levels of administrative review. R. 104-31.
On April 28, 2016, ALJ Jeffrey J. Schueler held an
administrative hearing to consider Amy's claim for DIB.
R. 50-89. Amy was represented by counsel at the hearing,
which included testimony from Amy, her attorney, and
vocational expert Mark Hileman. Id.
19, 2016, the ALJ entered his decision analyzing Amy's
claims under the familiar five-step process and denying her
claim for benefits. R. 23-42. The ALJ found that Amy suffered
from the severe impairments of multiple sclerosis
(“MS”), seizure disorder, obesity, and headaches.
R. 25. The ALJ determined that these impairments, either
individually or in combination, did not meet or medically
equal a listed impairment. R. 28. The ALJ concluded that Amy
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform a range of light work. R. 21. Specifically, the
ALJ found that Amy can: (1) never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; (2) occasionally balance; (3) frequently stoop,
kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs; and (4)
only work jobs that do not require her to drive commercially
or be exposed to vibration, operational control of moving
machinery, unprotected heights, and hazardous machinery. R.
determined that Amy was not capable of performing her past
relevant work as a hospital cleaner, but could perform her
past relevant work as a cashier. R. 40-41. Additionally, the
ALJ found that Amy could perform jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy, such as marker,
garment folder/packager, addressing clerk, and printed
circuit board touch up screener. R. 41. Thus, the ALJ
concluded that Amy was not disabled. R. 42.
appealed the ALJ's decision, and the Appeals Council
denied her request for review. R. 1-4. This appeal followed.
a history of MS and seizures. Amy was diagnosed with MS at
age 21. R. 953. Amy explained that her conditions require her
to sit or lay down four or five times per day and she cannot
shower or bathe daily. R. 316. Amy stated that she has
headaches and constant pain in her neck, back, and legs. R.
341. In her function report, Amy explained that she prepares
simple meals, works with her husband to complete chores,
spends time talking with friends and family, and has
difficulty lifting, squatting, bending, standing, reaching,
walking, sitting, climbing stairs, using her hands,
remembering things, and completing tasks. R. 307-13. At the
administrative hearing, Amy testified that she infrequently
has large seizures, but has small seizures “once or
twice a week.” R. 65-66. Amy explained that her MS is
in remission, but still causes her to be unable to sit,
stand, or control her bowels. R. 67. Amy stated that she can
stand for 15 minutes, walk for five minutes, and sit for 20
to 30 minutes. R. 69-71. Amy explained that she has problems
lifting items. R. 71.
Evidence Prior to the Relevant Period
the relevant period, Amy told her primary care physician,
David Cummings, M.D., on February 24, 2009 that her MS was
under control due to her medications. R. 437. Amy reported
frequent headaches that occur almost daily. Id. Dr.
Cummings reported that Amy's MS and lab studies were
stable, continued her on Elavil for her headaches, and
started a trial of Depakote. Id. Amy followed up
with Dr. Cummings on May 1, 2009, reporting that she stopped
taking her MS medication as she was attempting to become
pregnant. R. 793. Dr. Cummings noted that Amy continued to
take a diet pill, “which is somewhat incongruent since
she is trying to get pregnant at the same time.”
Id. Dr. Cummings noted that Amy's MS was
“quite stable.” Id.
Evidence during the Relevant Period
admitted to the emergency room on December 16, 2013 for a
seizure. R. 489. Robert E. Salters, M.D., reported that Amy
was alert and oriented, but had no memory of the event.
Id. Dr. Salters explained that Amy had no prior
seizure history, and attributed the seizure to an upcoming
surgery which required Amy to fast. Id. Dr. Salters
explained that a CT scan showed no “no definite
evidence of acute complication for the reported seizure
episode.” R. 493. Amy underwent surgery to remove an
ovarian cyst the next day, and she tolerated the surgery
well. R. 653. Robert L. Slackman, M.D., advised Amy that a
temporal lobe lesion could have caused her recent seizure,
and that she should follow up with her neurologist.
Id. On December 30, 2013, Amy's neurologist,
Clement A. Elechi, M.D, explained that her recent seizure
could be the result of medication withdrawal or a medication
that would lower her seizure threshold. R. 777. Dr. Elechi
concluded that Amy could not work due to seizures.
January 9, 2014, Dr. Cummings recommended that Amy seek
disability for her chronic headaches, MS, and seizures. R.
435. Physical, neurological, cardiac, and ...