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Bailey v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

April 10, 2018

MICHELLE ANN BAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          Cheryl A. Eifert United States Magistrate Judge

         This action seeks a review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (hereinafter “Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433. The matter is assigned to the Honorable Robert C. Chambers, United States District Judge, and was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge by standing order for submission of proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Presently pending before the Court are the parties' cross motions for judgment on the pleadings as articulated in their briefs. (ECF Nos. 11, 14). The undersigned has fully considered the evidence and the arguments of counsel. For the following reasons, the undersigned respectfully RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's request for judgment on the pleadings be DENIED, the Commissioner's request for judgment on the pleadings be GRANTED, the Commissioner's decision be AFFIRMED, and that this case be DISMISSED and removed from the docket of the Court.

         I. Procedural History

         On June 28, 2013, Plaintiff, Michelle Ann Bailey (“Claimant”), completed an application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2000, due to arthritis in her left knee and Morton's neuroma and arthritis in both feet. (Tr. at 219-221, 258). The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Claimant's application initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. at 147, 155). Claimant filed a request for an administrative hearing, which was held on February 16, 2016, before the Honorable Robert B. Bowling, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. at 58-90). Claimant amended her alleged onset date to January 1, 2009 at the hearing. (Tr. at 65). By written decision dated March 2, 2016, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act. (Tr. at 42-57). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on December 20, 2016, when the Appeals Council denied Claimant's request for review. (Tr. 1-7).

         Claimant timely filed the present civil action seeking judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (ECF No. 1). The Commissioner filed an Answer and a Transcript of the Administrative Proceedings. (ECF Nos. 5, 6). Both parties filed memoranda in support of judgment on the pleadings. (ECF Nos. 11, 14). Consequently, the issues are fully briefed and ready for resolution.

         II. Claimant's Background

         Claimant was 55 years old on her alleged onset date and 61 years old on her date last insured. She completed high school and one year of college and communicates in English. (Tr. at 63, 257). In the past, Claimant worked as a courthouse marshal, law office address verifier, landscape gardener, plumber's helper, and a painter. (Tr. at 87).

         III. Summary of ALJ's Decision

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5), a claimant seeking disability benefits has the burden of proving a disability. See Blalock v. Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 774 (4th Cir. 1972). A disability is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable impairment which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A).

         The Social Security regulations establish a five-step sequential evaluation process for the adjudication of disability claims. If an individual is found “not disabled” at any step of the process, further inquiry is unnecessary and benefits are denied. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The first step in the sequence is determining whether a claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful employment. Id. § 404.1520(b). If the claimant is not, then the second step requires a determination of whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment. Id. § 404.1520(c). If severe impairment is present, the third inquiry is whether this impairment meets or equals any of the impairments listed in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the Administrative Regulations No. 4 (the “Listing”). Id. § 404.1520(d). If the impairment does, then the claimant is found disabled and awarded benefits.

         However, if the impairment does not meet or equal a listed impairment, the adjudicator must determine the claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which is the measure of the claimant's ability to engage in substantial gainful activity despite the limitations of his or her impairments. Id. § 404.1520(e). After making this determination, the fourth step is to ascertain whether the claimant's impairments prevent the performance of past relevant work. Id. § 404.1520(f). If the impairments do prevent the performance of past relevant work, then the claimant has established a prima facie case of disability, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to demonstrate, as the fifth and final step in the process, that the claimant is able to perform other forms of substantial gainful activity when considering the claimant's remaining physical and mental capacities, age, education, and prior work experiences. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(g); see also McLain v. Schweiker, 715 F.2d 866, 868-69 (4th Cir. 1983). The Commissioner must establish two things: (1) that the claimant, considering his or her age, education, skills, work experience, and physical shortcomings has the capacity to perform an alternative job, and (2) that this specific job exists in significant numbers in the national economy. McLamore v. Weinberger, 538 F.2d. 572, 574 (4th Cir. 1976).

         When a claimant alleges a mental impairment, the SSA “must follow a special technique at every level in the administrative review, ” including the review performed by the ALJ. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a. First, the ALJ evaluates the claimant's pertinent signs, symptoms, and laboratory results to determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable mental impairment. Id. § 404.1520a(b). If such impairment exists, the ALJ documents his findings. Second, the ALJ rates and documents the degree of functional limitation resulting from the impairment according to criteria specified in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a(c). Third, after rating the degree of functional limitation from the claimant's impairment(s), the ALJ determines the severity of the limitation. A rating of “none” or “mild” in the first three functional areas (activities of daily living, social functioning, and concentration, persistence or pace) and “none” in the fourth (episodes of decompensation) will result in a finding that the impairment is not severe unless the evidence indicates that there is more than minimal limitation in the claimant's ability to do basic work activities. Id. § 404.1520a(d)(1). Fourth, if the claimant's impairment is deemed severe, the ALJ compares the medical findings about the severe impairment and the rating and degree and functional limitation to the criteria of the appropriate listed mental disorder to determine if the severe impairment meets or is equal to a listed mental disorder. Id. § 404.1520a(d)(2). Finally, if the ALJ finds that the claimant has a severe mental impairment, which neither meets nor equals a listed mental disorder, the ALJ assesses the claimant's residual function. Id. § 404.1520a(d)(3).

         Here, the ALJ determined as a preliminary matter that Claimant met the insured status for disability insurance benefits through September 30, 2014. (Tr. at 44, Finding No. 1). At the first step of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ confirmed that Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 1, 2009, her alleged onset date, through her date last insured. (Id., Finding No. 2). At the second step of the evaluation, the ALJ found that Claimant had the following severe impairments: “osteoarthritis; disorders of muscle, ligament, and fascia; fibromyalgia; hepatitis; and obesity.” (Id., Finding No. 3). The ALJ also considered Claimant's anxiety and depression, but determined that these impairments were non-severe. (Tr. at 45-46). Under the third inquiry, the ALJ found that Claimant did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any of the impairments contained in the Listing. (Tr. at 46, Finding No. 4). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Claimant possessed:

[T]he residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the claimant can stand and walk for only six hours total in an eight hour workday; claimant can sit for only six hours total in an eight hour workday; claimant can occasionally climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds; claimant can only occasionally climb ramps and stairs; claimant can only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, and should avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as the use of moving machinery and to unprotected heights.

(Tr. at 46-51, Finding No. 5).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ found that Claimant could perform her past relevant work as a law office address verifier. (Tr. at 51-52, Finding No. 6). Therefore, the ALJ found that Claimant was not disabled and was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. at 52, Finding No. 7).

         IV. Claimant's Challenge to the Commissioner's Decision

         Claimant raises numerous challenges to the Commissioner's decision. First, Claimant argues that the ALJ erred in placing great weight on the opinions of the non-examining state agency physicians and no weight on the opinions of the consultative examiner and Claimant's treating physicians. (ECF No. 11 at 13-16). Second, Claimant argues that the ALJ did not fulfill his duty to evaluate whether Claimant's combinations of impairments rendered her disabled. (Id. at 16-17). In her third assignment of error, Claimant contends that the ALJ's conclusions regarding her activities of daily living are not supported by the record. (Id. at 17-18). Next, in her fourth challenge to the Commissioner's decision, Claimant argues that the ALJ should have found that she was unable to maintain full-time employment given the volume of medical appointments that she had in 2013 and 2014 and the vocational expert's testimony that someone with Claimant's RFC that had to miss two or more days a month for doctor's visits could not maintain full-time employment. (Id. at 18). Finally, Claimant's fifth assignment of error is that the Appeals Council ignored Claimant's supplemental evidence, which Claimant argues called the ALJ's decision into question and necessitated remand. (Id. at 19-20).

         In response to Claimant's challenges, the Commissioner first points out that Claimant worked during and after the period at issue in this case; although Claimant's work as a landscape gardener did not constitute substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner notes that the work was considered to be at the heavy exertional level by the vocational expert and involved planting bushes and flowers, digging holes, using machinery and equipment, and lifting items weighing as much as 50 pounds, such as bags of mulch. (ECF No. 14 at 1). Moreover, the Commissioner contends that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision that Claimant was capable of performing her past relevant work at the light exertional level, as well as the ALJ's analysis of the opinion evidence. Further, the Commissioner states that the ALJ considered Claimant's impairments in combination throughout the sequential evaluation, as well as her statements regarding her activities of daily living, social functioning, and concentration; the hypothetical posed to the vocational expert included all limitations supported by the record; and the evidence submitted for the first time to the Appeals Council would not change the outcome of the case. (Id. at 16-30).

         V. Relevant Evidence

         While the undersigned has reviewed all evidence of record, only the notations most relevant to the disputed issues are summarized below:

         A. Treatment Records

         1. Treatment prior to alleged onset of disability

         On February 29, 2008, Claimant presented for an initial physical therapy evaluation with John Oxley, D.P.T., at Huntington Physical Therapy, Inc., upon a referral from her primary care provider for treatment of bilateral plantar fasciitis, which began approximately one year earlier. (Tr. at 361). Claimant stated that her symptoms were worse on the left and aggravated by standing all day while working as a court marshal. (Id.). She reported taking Naproxen from her primary physician. (Id.). On examination, Claimant's overall range of motion was normal; her great toe flexion was normal, but extension was limited to approximately 30 degrees bilaterally. (Id.). Claimant also had decreased rear foot motion and tenderness. (Id.). Claimant was taught home stretching and modality exercises and was scheduled to receive physical therapy twice per week for four weeks to improve her range of motion and decrease her pain and tenderness. (Id.).

         Claimant had five physical therapy sessions in March 2008. (Tr. at 362-70). On March 17, 2008, Claimant stated that she continued to feel better and she did not have tenderness in her feet. (Tr. at 368). However, on March 25, 2008, Claimant was “really hurting” because she stood the prior day “cleaning out the garage.” (Tr. at 370). She had tenderness and her gait was affected. (Id.). Claimant was scheduled to see a podiatrist. (Id.).

         On April 7, 2008, Claimant saw podiatrist Kevin D. Brown, D.P.M, at Scott Orthopedic Center, complaining of bilateral foot pain and occasional swelling after being on her feet all day. (Tr. at 424). She stated that the pain changed her gait, and she was beginning to have pain in her knees and legs. (Id.). Claimant was assessed with hallux rigidus and plantar fasciitis. (Id.). Dr. Brown recommended continuing therapy and wearing orthotics for four more weeks. (Tr. at 425). Claimant was given a splint to alternate wearing on each foot at night. (Id.).

         On April 28, 2008, Claimant followed up with Dr. Brown. (Tr. at 422). She had been wearing the splint prescribed by Dr. Oxley at night, but had the same complaints. (Id.). Claimant elected to go forward with a right big toe implant arthroplasty. (Tr. at 423). Thus, on May 6, 2008, Claimant had implant arthroplasty on her first metatarsophalangeal joint (“MJP”) on her right foot. (Tr. at 430-432). Claimant saw Dr. Brown on May 14, 2008 following surgery and was doing “very well.” (Tr. at 420).

         On May 29, 2008, Claimant was still having some pain and swelling, but admitted that she “may have been overdoing it.” (Tr. at 418). Dr. Brown recommended that Claimant decrease her activity and he referred her for physical therapy. (Id.). Claimant was also prescribed Voltaren, a topical gel. (Id.).

         On July 28, 2008, Claimant reported doing “extremely well” following her right toe surgery. (Tr. at 416). She could return to activities as tolerated and Dr. Brown planned to refer her to an orthopedist for a right knee evaluation. He considered a possible repair Claimant's left big toe in the winter. (Id.).

         2. Treatment after alleged onset of disability

         Claimant saw family medicine physician, Friday Simpson, M.D., monthly from January 2009 through August 2013. (Tr. at 458-577). On January 13, 2009, Claimant's weight was 229 pounds and she was having “more hot flashes” and “needed something to sleep.” (Tr. at 577). She also had chronic back, leg, and foot pain; fatigue; and frequent headaches. (Id.). The following month, on February 10, 2009, Claimant told Dr. Simpson that she was having a hard time at work, complaining that her employer was giving shifts to the young, inexperienced employees and she had less hours. (Tr. at 575). She weighed 236 pounds, stating that she gained weight from “stress eating.” (Id.). Claimant still had chronic back and leg pain and hot flashes, and she ambulated with mild difficulty. (Tr. at 575-76). She had normal range of motion in her back, good flexion at the waist, and no tenderness to palpation. (Id.). Her neurological and extremity examinations were normal. (Id.). Dr. Simpson diagnosed Claimant with back and joint pain, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, symptoms of menopause, hyperlipidemia, plantar fasciitis, leg and foot pain, and obesity. (Id.). He prescribed Lortab for pain, Mobic for inflammation, Ambien for insomnia, and Premarin for hot flashes. (Id.).

         From March through July 2009, there were no significant changes in Claimant's complaints, examinations, or treatment plan with Dr. Simpson, except that Claimant lost weight. In May 2009, Claimant noted that she quit her job at the courthouse and was working odd jobs. (Tr. at 563-74). By July, Claimant weighed 210 pounds; however, she gained three pounds back by the following month. (Tr. at 561, 563-64). Claimant also reported to Dr. Simpson during her August 14, 2009 visit that she was very depressed and cried easily about not having a job. (Tr. at 561). On September 10, 2009, Claimant told Dr. Simpson that she was working again and was happy about it. (Tr. at 559). She still had the same physical complaints, but largely normal results on physical examination. (Tr. at 559-60). Claimant was diagnosed with anxiety; thus, Valium was added to her medication regimen. (Tr. at 560).

         At her next visit on October 9, 2009, Claimant told Dr. Simpson that she was still depressed about the way that she lost her job. (Tr. at 557). She was not working steadily, but was “helping out friends on occasion.” (Id.). Her weight was 216 pounds. Claimant was continued on Lortab, Valium, Ambien, Mobic, and Premarin. (Tr. at 558). There were no changes at Claimant's subsequent monthly visit on November 12, 2009, except that Claimant had gained three pounds. (Tr. at 555-56).

         On January 12, 2010, Claimant returned to Dr. Simpson's office. Claimant still had depression from the loss of her job, stating that it humiliated her and made her fell worthless. (Tr. at 551). Her weight was 226 pounds, and she was assessed with depression. (Tr. at 551-52). Dr. Simpson asked Claimant if he could refer her to a psychologist. (Tr. at 552). Otherwise, there were no changes. (Tr. at 551-52). At Claimant's following visit with Dr. Simpson on February 9, 2010, she was “doing better, ” but had depression and anxiety attacks over the loss of her job that she loved. (Tr. at 549). Her weight was 228 pounds. (Id.). She was unable to find a psychologist that would take her as a new patient. (Tr. at 550). Otherwise, there were again no changes to Claimant's assessed conditions or treatment. (Tr. at 549-50).

         There were likewise no significant changes in Claimant's visits with Dr. Simpson in March 2010 through May 2011 other than that Claimant continued to lose weight. (Tr. at 516-48). On June 10, 2010, Claimant stated that she just returned from vacation and had a good time. (Tr. at 541-42). Later that month, on June 24, 2010, Claimant had right flank pain, noting that she had been “laying tile” at a friend's house and overworked herself, bending over and hammering for an extended period of time. (Tr. at 539-40). Dr. Simpson prescribed Flexeril in addition to Claimant's regular medications: Lortab, Ambien, Premarin, Valium, Mobic, Vitamin D, and allergy medications. (Tr. at 540). In August 2010, Claimant mentioned that she was very “hurt” over the lack of relationship with her mother; however, in September 2010, Dr. Simpson noted that Claimant was doing well except that she was tired from working all holiday weekend. (Tr. at 532-35). In November 2010, Claimant was still doing better, but continued to be depressed and have panic attacks over her “work situation.” (Tr. at 528-29). Claimant noted in January 2011 that she was feeling well and had nice holidays with her family; she went to Iowa to visit her daughter. (Tr. at 524-25, 640). In April 2011, Claimant stated that she was “so depressed” over losing her job. (Tr. at 518-19). In May 2011, Claimant started Fioricet for migraines. (Tr. at 514-15). She was diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, migraines, fatigue, lumbar back, leg, and joint pain, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and allergies. (Tr. at 515). She was still taking Lortab, Mobic, Ambien, Premarin, Vitamin D, and Valium. (Id.). She weighed 197 pounds. (Tr. at 514).

         On May 11, 2011, Claimant saw Dr. Brown and was given trigger point injections in the Morton's neuroma sites of both feet. (Tr. at 414). The following month, on June 21, 2011, Claimant saw Dr. Simpson for her monthly appointment. She noted that she had been trying to do yard work, but chronic back and leg pain kept her “from doing much.” (Tr. at 512). Claimant was no longer assessed with migraines and her prescription for Fioricet was not renewed. (Tr. at 513).

         On July 11, 2011, Claimant advised Dr. Brown that she did not feel much different after the previous injections. (Tr. at 412). She was again given steroid and lidocaine injections in both feet. (Id.). She saw Dr. Simpson the following week. Claimant requested Chantix to help her stop smoking. She reported that she had been doing yard work, but it took her longer and she “hurt more” when finished. (Tr. at 510). At her next two monthly visits with Dr. Simpson, Claimant requested another prednisone pack in August 2011 because it helped her feet, and stated on September 15, 2011 that she was doing well except that she was very tired from doing yard work for a friend and her feet were hurting. (Tr. at 507). Claimant weighed 194 pounds. (Tr. at 507, 509).

         On September 21, 2011, Claimant told Dr. Brown that she was still having a lot of foot pain and the injections did not help at all. (Tr. at 410). The plan was for Claimant to have a bilateral Morton's neuroma excision. (Id.). Claimant saw Dr. Simpson on October 11, 2011, still complaining of chronic back and leg pain, neuropathy in her feet from long hours of standing on concrete, and fatigue. (Tr. at 504).

         On November 1, 2011, Claimant saw Dr. Brown, again stating that she was still having a lot of foot pain and the injections did not help at all. (Tr. at 382). She reported a burning sensation in the balls of her feet and constant swelling that was worse in the evening. (Id.). Her physical examination was normal. (Id.). Claimant was diagnosed with bilateral Morton's neuroma, which Claimant elected to have excised surgically the same day. (Tr. at 382-84, 433). On November 14, 2011, Claimant saw Dr. Brown for post-surgery follow up. She was full weight bearing, but limping on her right side. (Tr. at 408). Her wound was healing well and her sutures were removed. (Id.). Claimant saw Dr. Simpson the next day, noting that she was in pain, as she was wearing shoes for the first time after surgery. (Tr. at 502). Claimant began gaining back the weight that she had lost, weighing 198 pounds at this visit. (Id.). Claimant related to Dr. Simpson at her next monthly visit on December 9, 2011 that she had not recovered as she wanted to after surgery and she was “upset with her foot pain.” (Tr. at 500-01). Her diagnosed conditions were night sweats; hyperlipidemia; restless leg syndrome and feet pain from recent surgery; lumbar back, leg, and joint pain; migraine headaches; anxiety; fatigue, insomnia, and depression; and allergies. (Tr. at 501). Claimant was advised to hold off on taking Ambien and try Doxepin or Mirapex at bedtime and was prescribed Esgic in addition to her usual medications of Lortab, Valium, Mobic, Chantix, Premarin, Vitamin D, Claritin, and Retin A cream. (Id.).

         Later that month, on December 28, 2011, Claimant saw Dr. Brown and was doing “pretty well, ” but still had some pain in the balls of her feet, which was worse on the right. (Tr. at 406). She limped slightly on the right side, but had no obvious instability. Claimant had a full range of motion, and only minimal swelling. (Id.). Claimant was noted to be “doing well” and was instructed to continue working on her range of motion daily. (Id.). Claimant's monthly appointments with Dr. Simpson in January through June 2012 did not note significant changes, although Claimant continued to gain weight. (Tr. at 486-99). Claimant stated in February that she had recovered since surgery and indicated in April that she still tried to work despite her pain. (Tr. at 492, 496). By June 29, 2012, Claimant weighed 219 pounds. (Tr. at 486). Her diagnosed conditions included fatigue; hyperlipidemia; leg, lumbar back, and joint pain/arthralgia; anxiety, depression, and insomnia; migraine headaches; restless leg syndrome and feet pain; and allergies. (Tr. at 487). She used Lortab for pain, Valium for anxiety, Esgic, Doxepin for sleep, Aleve for inflammation, Simvastatin and Lovaza for hyperlipidemia, Premarin for hot flashes, Vitamin D, Claritin, and Retin A cream. (Id.).

         On July 12, 2012, Claimant followed up with Dr. Brown and was continued on Relafen. (Tr. at 404). He planned to schedule a MRI if Claimant showed no improvement. (Id.). The following month, on August 22, 2012, Claimant reported to Dr. Brown that she had no improvement and felt worse than before her surgery. (Tr. at 402). Claimant was continued on Relafen and given a steroid injection in her right foot. (Id.). Claimant saw Dr. Simpson two days later. She weighed 222 pounds. (Tr. at 482). Claimant's complaints focused on her emotions over losing her job; she noted that she had filed a lawsuit over it. (Tr. at 480-81). Claimant's diagnosed conditions and medications remained the same, except that she was additionally prescribed Neurontin. (Tr. at 481). Claimant's complaints, diagnosed conditions, and treatment remained the same over her next two monthly visits with Dr. Simpson. (Tr. at 476-79). She remained emotional over the lawsuit and was working odd jobs. (Id.).

         On November 14, 2012, Claimant saw Dr. Brown, stating that she was not any better following surgery and had “mind blowing pain” and swelling in the evening after being on her feet all day. (Tr. at 400). Dr. Brown's diagnoses were plantar fasciitis, hallux rigidus, Morton's neuroma, and capsulitis. (Id.). Claimant was continued on Relafen for her plantar fasciitis and elected to proceed with revision surgery that would probably occur in January. (Id.). Claimant saw Dr. Simpson on the same date in November and also followed up in December 2012 and January 2013. (Tr. at 472-77). There were no significant changes, but Claimant noted in December that she had settled the lawsuit and felt that she was “ripped off by the city.” (Id.).

         On January 31, 2013, Claimant saw Dr. Brown. (Tr. at 374). Her gait was normal and she showed no instability, had full range of motion, no obvious deformities or swelling, normal reflexes, and normal muscle strength. (Id.). Dr. Brown diagnosed Claimant with capsulitis and hammer toe in her right second toe. (Tr. at 374-75). Claimant wished to proceed with surgery. (Id.). Claimant saw Dr. Simpson on February 6, 2013 and was in a better mood since her lawsuit settled; however, she stated that she continued to have hot flashes, even on estrogen. (Tr. at 470). Claimant weighed 224 pounds. (Tr. at 471). Her assessed conditions and treatment plan remained the same. (Id.).

         On February 26, 2013, Claimant underwent surgery to correct her second MPJ chronic capsulitis with dislocation and hammertoe on the second toe of her right foot. (Tr. at 372). She reported to Dr. Simpson on March 6, 2013 that she was doing better following surgery. (Tr. at 468). Claimant still complained of having pain “all the time” and still reported emotional problems over how she was treated in losing her job. (Id.). She weighed 228 pounds and her assessed conditions and treatment were unchanged. (Tr. at 469). On March 13, 2013, Claimant followed up with Dr. Brown following her right foot surgery. (Tr. at 396). She was doing well, and her sutures were removed. (Id.).

         Claimant saw Dr. Simpson on April 12, 2013 with no significant changes. (Tr. at 466-67). She also saw Dr. Brown again on May 8, 2013. X-rays showed that her foot was healing. (Tr. at 394). Dr. Brown continued Claimant on Relafen and prescribed a a topical compound cream. (Tr. at 395). Shortly thereafter, on May 14, 2013, Claimant saw Dr. Simpson and was “having a terrible time” because her dog of many years died. (Tr. at 464). Her weight was 230 pounds and no changes were made to her assessed conditions or treatment. (Tr. at 465).

         On June 11, 2013, Claimant saw orthopedist, Jack R. Steel, M.D., for bilateral knee pain that Claimant stated began six months to one year earlier and was progressively getting worse. (Tr. at 392). Claimant's x-rays showed moderate medial joint space narrowing and patello-femoral degenerative joint disease in her left knee, but only mild patello-femoral degenerative changes and minimal medial joint space narrowing in her right knee. (Tr. at 393). Dr. Steel diagnosed Claimant with chondromalacia patella and osteoarthritis. (Id.). He explained that the increased discomfort came from deconditioning due to the previous limitations of her feet. (Id.). Claimant was referred to physical therapy. (Id.). On the same date, Claimant presented for her monthly visit with Dr. Simpson. She stated that her joints were “killing” her, noting that she had been helping put in a new kitchen and it was taking too long; Claimant stated ...


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