United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
S. Ballou United States Magistrate Judge.
William M. (“William”) filed this action
challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”) determining that he 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, William alleges that (1) the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”): (1) erred in
giving little weight to the opinion of his treating
psychologist; (2) improperly discounted his credibility; (3)
improperly relied on his daily activities in rendering a
credibility determination; and (4) erred in giving little
weight to the hypothetical questions posed by his attorney at
the administrative hearing. I find that substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's opinion in its entirety. Accordingly,
I RECOMMEND DENYING William's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. 12) and GRANTING the
Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 14).
Court limits its review to a determination of whether
substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's
conclusion that William failed to demonstrate that he 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).
protectively filed for DIB on January 11, 2013, claiming that
his disability began on March 21, 2012. R. 181-82. The
Commissioner denied the application at the initial and
reconsideration levels of administrative review. R. 79, 99.
On May 19, 2015, ALJ Geraldine H. Page held an administrative
hearing to consider William's disability claim. R. 31-58.
William was represented by an attorney at the hearing, which
included testimony from William and vocational expert John
February 10, 2016, the ALJ entered her decision analyzing
William's claim under the familiar five-step process,
denying William's claim for disability. R. 8-22. The ALJ
found that William suffered from the severe impairments of
obesity, vertigo/dizziness, cervical pain, hernia with
inguinal neuralgia, depressive and dependent personality, and
anxiety disorders. R. 10. The ALJ found that these
impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment. R. 11-13. The ALJ further found that William
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform light work, except William can: (1) lift and carry
10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally; (2) stand,
walk, and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3)
occasionally balance, kneel, stoop, crouch, crawl, and climb
ramps and stairs; (4) frequently reach overhead; (5) never be
exposed to hazardous machinery; (6) only be moderately
exposed to vibrating surfaces, unprotected heights, or
climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; (7) understand,
remember, and execute simple instructions in repetitive,
unskilled work; (8) work jobs that involve occasional
interaction with the general public, coworkers, and
supervisors; and (9) respond appropriately to supervision,
coworkers, and usual work situations. R. 13. The ALJ
determined that William cannot perform his past relevant work
as a flagger, road roller operator, warehouse material
handler, and welder helper. R. 20. However, the ALJ
determined that William can work jobs that exist in
substantial numbers in the national economy, such as
assembler, packer, and inspector/tester/sorter. R. 20-21.
Thus, the ALJ concluded that William was not disabled. R. 21.
appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, but
his request for review was denied. R. 1-3. This appeal
argues that (1) the ALJ erred in giving little weight to the
opinion of his treating psychologist; (2) improperly
discounted his credibility; (3) improperly relied on his
daily activities in rendering a credibility determination;
and (4) erred in giving little weight to the hypothetical
questions posed by his attorney at the administrative
underwent a laparoscopic left inguinal hernia repair in July
2011. R. 303. Michael D. Goodrich, M.D., performed a
“left ilioinguinal and left iliohypogastric nerve
block” for continued pain on March 6, 2012. R. 323.
returned to Dr. Goodrich on September, 182012. R. 315.
William reported decreased pain after the March 2012
injection which lasted for two to three weeks before slowly
returning to normal. Id. William “denie[d] any
qualitative changes to his symptomatology with the exception
of back pain.” Id. William received a second
nerve block injection. R. 317.
January 21, 2013, William saw Tajal Raju, M.D., for
management of his groin pain secondary to inguinal neuralgia
that has been persistent since his surgery. R. 431. William
reported sharp pain in his left groin that is most severe
when sitting. Id. Dr. Raju explained that William
was alert and oriented with normal mood and affect. R. 433.
Physical examination in January, February, April, and June
2013 revealed “[n]o signs of depression, ”
appropriate mood and affect, normal gait, no acute distress,
normal range of motion in the spine, normal sensation, and
normal strength. R. 434, 440, 444, 448.
saw Stacy C. Moore, FNP, on June 10, 2013 for dizziness and
shaking in his hands. R. 635. Ms. Moore diagnosed depression,
anxiety, panic attacks, and possible positional vertigo. R.
2, 2013, Dr. Raju diagnosed “a severe exacerbation of
inguinal neuralgia.” R. 565. Dr. Raju noted that
William was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in December
2012. Id. Physical examination showed no signs of
depression, no acute distress, and appropriate mood and
affect. R. 567.
Raju explained on August 2, 2013 that “swimming in the
pool really helped [William's] pain.” R. 571.
Physical examination showed no signs of depression, no acute
distress, and appropriate mood and affect. R. 572.
saw neurologist Jill B. Cramer, M.D., on August 19, 2013 for
dizziness, gait problems, and tremors. R. 602. Physical
examination showed diminished sensation in the right arm and
left leg, slight tremor bilaterally, and some sway while
walking, but otherwise showed normal findings such as full
strength and intact coordination. R. 603-04. A mental status
examination showed alertness, orientation, cooperative
attitude, normal remote and recent memory, normal attention
and concentration, normal language, and normal fund of
knowledge. R. 604. Dr. Cramer diagnosed mild tremors
bilaterally, vertigo, memory loss, gait disturbance, and
scalp lesion. Id. A brain MRI on August 30, 2013 was
normal. R. 620.
August 20, 2013, William returned to Dr. Goodrich, who
explained that William had seen a “60-70% pain
reduction with [nerve block] injections and medical
management” and that “[h]e had been able to
perform his regular activities of daily living with greater
ease following the injections.” R. 985. Dr. Goodrich
implemented a “[l]eft spinal cord stimulator trial for
chronic and unremittent left groin pain.” Id.
On August 27, 2013, William reported that his activity level
improved significantly without pain. R. 984. William
“was able to ride in a vehicle for several hours, which
he had not been able to do previously. He has been able to
perform his regular activities of daily living with much
greater improvement.” Id. Because of
William's “remarkably good experience with the
trial, ” he elected to proceed with a permanent spinal
cord stimulator placement. Id.
September 11, 2013, William saw Yongyue Chen, M.D. for a
psychiatric evaluation. R. 640. Dr. Chen noted a history of
depression not alleviated by anti-depressants, and that
William is more irritable, has a low tolerance for noise, and
experiences stress due to financial and familial problems.
Id. Dr. Chen conducted a mental status examination,
No psychomotor agitation or retardation. The speech is of
normal rate, tone and volume. The gait is WNL. Mood is
“ok”. Affect is congruent. The perception is
without auditory or visual hallucination. The thinking
process is linear, logic [sic] and goal directed. The
thinking associations are tight. There is no obsessive,
paranoic or delusional thinking content. There is no suicidal
or homicidal thought. The patient is alert and oriented to
time, place and person. The ...