United States District Court, District of Columbia
S. CHUTKAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Angalia Moore, appearing pro se, challenges the
denial of her application for disability insurance benefits.
Defendant has moved for judgment of affirmance (ECF No. 14),
and Plaintiff has moved for judgment of reversal (ECF No.
17). For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion
will be GRANTED and Plaintiff's motion will be DENIED.
January 2, 2013, Plaintiff, approaching her 55th
birthday, applied for disability benefits, alleging that she
was unable to work because of disabling conditions that began
on April 10, 2012 (onset date). (Admin. Record
(“AR”) 191, ECF No. 7). Plaintiff listed her
disabling conditions as depression, asthma, liver disease and
thyroid. (See AR 276). Her claim was denied
initially on March 22, 2013, and upon reconsideration on June
6, 2013. Plaintiff was granted a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held
on March 4, 2015. Plaintiff, appearing with a non-attorney
representative (AR 150), testified at the hearing, as did an
impartial vocational expert, Dr. James Michael Ryan.
(See AR 18-28, June 9, 2015 ALJ Dec., ECF No. 7-2;
AR 47-80, Tr. of Oral Hrg.). The ALJ found:
1. Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through March 30, 2017.
2. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since April 10, 2012, the alleged onset date. 20 CFR 404.1571
3. Plaintiff has the following severe impairments:
“probable” confusional migraine, asthma, and
obesity. 20 CFR 404.1520(c).
4. Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. 20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526.
5. Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform
6. Plaintiff is capable of performing past relevant work as a
tax preparer, accounts receivable clerk, and an office
manager[, ] [which] does not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by the claimant's
residual functional capacity. 20 CFR 404.1565.
7. Plaintiff has not been under a disability, as defined in
the Social Security Act, from April 10, 2012, through the
date of this decision (on June 9, 2015). 20 CFR 404.1520(f).
(AR 20, 22, 27). In a letter dated December 31, 2015, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
found that Plaintiff's physical impairments “have
caused more than minimal limitation in [Plaintiff's]
ability to work” but found “very little objective
evidence to support [Plaintiff's] allegations of
disabling impairments.” (AR 20). The ALJ also
considered Plaintiff's reports and testimony that she had
experienced seizures and “seizure-like activity,
” and had a speech impediment, but found no
“clinical and/or diagnostic evidence of a seizure
disorder or epilepsy” and thus no “medically
determinable impairment.” (Id.). Similarly,
the ALJ did not “consider” Plaintiff's
alleged speech impediment to be a medically determinable
impairment partly because of “the lack of a formal
diagnosis, ” but also because of Plaintiff's
“inconsistent statements” and testimony about its
appearance and duration. (AR 21).
acknowledged that “[t]he record documents a mental
health impairment variously diagnosed” but found no
“evidence of mental health concerns or treatment other
than the diagnosis of ‘major depression, in remission,
'” which “was made [in March 2011] at a
court-mandated psychiatric evaluation.” (AR 21). The
ALJ determined from the 2011 medical report that Plaintiff
had then “endorsed a history of depression, with crying
spells and suicidal thoughts[, ]” received therapy
between 2008 and 2010, was prescribed medicine “in the
past, ” but “had not taken any medication in two
years.” (Id.). The ALJ added that
Plaintiff's “mental status evaluation was
considered “the four broad functional areas set out in
the disability regulations for evaluating mental disorders,
” encompassing “activities of daily living,
social functioning, concentration, persistence or pace, and
episodes of decompensation, of extended duration” but
found that the record contained “no [documented]
limitations” on Plaintiff's daily living, social
functioning and concentration. (AR 22). The ALJ also found
that Plaintiff had “experienced no episodes of
decompensation . . . of extended duration, ” and
attributed Plaintiff's self-described mental limitations
“solely . . . to her physical impairments.” The
ALJ concluded: “Because the claimant's medically
determinable mental impairments cause no limitation in ...