United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For DEBORAH JEAN MITCHELL JENKINS, Plaintiff: Michael D.J. Eisenberg, LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL D.J. EISENBERG, Washington, DC.
For CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant: Christian Vainieri, LEAD ATTORNEY, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Office of the General Counsel, Baltimore, MD.
DEBORAH A. ROBINSON, United States Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Debra Mitchell-Jenkins brings this action against the Defendant, Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commission of Social Security, seeking to vacate and remand the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) denying Plaintiff's claims for Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ). This action was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for full case management and, thereafter, the parties consented to proceed for all purposes. The determinations at issue are (1) whether the ALJ properly weighed various medical opinions, including the opinion of the Plaintiff's treating physician; (2) whether the ALJ afforded the proper weight to Plaintiff's subjective symptoms; (3) whether the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's psychological issues; and (4) whether the ALJ adopted the appropriate vocational expert testimony. Pending for determination by the court are Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment of Reversal (Document No. 10) and Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance (Document No. 11). Upon consideration of the parties' motions, the memoranda in support thereof and in opposition thereto, and the administrative record, the court will grant Plaintiff's motion in part, deny Defendant's motion, and remand the matter for further proceedings.
Plaintiff is a 55-year-old woman with an extensive medical history, including several surgeries relating to abdominal hernias; arthritis in her knees; diverticulitis; and depression. Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment of Reversal at 2--11. In 2004, Plaintiff applied for SSI with a date disabled of June 18, 1998 due to depression and stomach problems. Id. at 12. On October 7, 2004, the Social Security Administration (" SSA" ) denied Plaintiff's claim. Id. On December 8, 2004, Plaintiff requested reconsideration of
SSA's denial. Id. On November 5, 2005, SSA denied Plaintiff's request for reconsideration. Id. On January 6, 2006, Plaintiff requested a hearing by an ALJ, which took place on December 7, 2006. Id. at 13 . On April 4, 2007, ALJ Eugene Bond determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. Id. On June 25, 2007, Plaintiff requested review of ALJ Bond's determination by the Appeals Council. Id. On August 24, 2009, the Appeals Council remanded the case to ALJ Bond, who, on August 24, 2010, again denied Plaintiff's SSI claim. Id. at 13--14. On October 27, 2010, Plaintiff requested a second review of the ALJ's decision, and on July 21, 2012, the Appeals Council remanded the case to a new ALJ, Thomas Mercer Ray, for a new hearing, and the development of a new administrative record. Id. at 14.
On December 13, 2012, ALJ Ray held a new hearing, and, on January 14, 2013, denied Plaintiff's SSI claims. Id. at 15--16. ALJ Ray determined that Plaintiff's statements concerning her subjective symptoms were not fully credible and that Plaintiff did not meet the criteria to be classified as disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Id. at 16. In March, 2013, Plaintiff requested review of ALJ Ray's decision by the Appeals Council, but on July 24, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request. Id. at 17. The SSA Appeals Council's denial of Plaintiff's request for review constitutes a final agency action subject to judicial review. Complaint (Document No.1) at 1.
Plaintiff filed this action on September 27, 2013 seeking to vacate ALJ Ray's decision and to remand this matter for reconsideration. Complaint (Document No. 1) at 3. Plaintiff is also seeking costs and attorney's fees. Id. at 4. On April 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment of Reversal. (Document No. 10). In response to Plaintiff's Complaint and Motion for Judgment of Reversal, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment of Affirmance (Document No. 11) on June 6, 2014. Plaintiff filed a Reply in Support of Her Motion for Reversal and Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Affirmance (Document No. 14) on June 20, 2014. Defendant also filed a Reply in Further Support of Motion for Judgment of Affirmance (Document No. 15) on July 3, 2014.
CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
In filing the Motion for Judgment of Reversal, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's decision denying her claim for SSI beginning April 28, 2004 was " arbitrary, capricious, contrary to substantial evidence and reached through incorrect application of the correct legal standard." Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment of Reversal (Document No. 10) at 1. Plaintiff supports her contention with four main arguments.
First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to properly weigh the various medical opinions, and, more specifically that the ALJ (1) failed to adequately consider the medical records of Doctors Massoglia, McCullough, Steinweg and the records of examining psychologist Dr. Kern, id. at 28; (2) failed to give sufficient weight to the medical opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Douglas, id. at 29--30; and (3) gave excessive deference to certain opinions in conflict with the substantial evidence presented in the record as a whole, id. at 30. According to Plaintiff, the ALJ inappropriately afforded weight ...