United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ORDER REVERSING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER (Docket No. 19) AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER (Docket No. 25)
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN, District Judge.
This is an action for judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA") (the "Commissioner") denying Lynn Hartigan's ("Plaintiff") application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Plaintiff filed a motion seeking an order reversing the decision of the Commissioner (Docket No. 19), and the Commissioner filed a cross-motion seeking an order affirming the decision of the Commissioner (Docket No. 25). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is denied, and the Commissioner's motion is granted.
Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on October 29, 2009 claiming she had been disabled since July 1, 2003, the alleged onset date ("AOD"). (R. 91, 164-70, 231). Plaintiff's claim was denied in December 2009, and again upon reconsideration in June 2010. (R. 106-108, 113-15). In August 2010, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. 116-17). An ALJ held a hearing on November 2, 2011. (R. 30-60). On December 16, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 10-29). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 21, 2012, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-5).
Personal and Employment History
Plaintiff was born on February 28, 1972, making her 31 years old on her AOD and 36 years old as of December 31, 2008, her date last insured. (R. 164). She is a high school graduate and has completed some college. (R. 33). Plaintiff previously worked as a daycare teacher at a preschool. (R. 34, 175).
In February 2009, Plaintiff saw her primary care physician, Dr. Nandini Chitre, for a complete physical examination. (R. 405). Dr. Chitre noted that she was seeing Plaintiff for the first time after a long absence, as her last physical examination was in 2001. (R. 405). Plaintiff complained to Dr. Chitre of right hand numbness and parethesias. (R. 405). Dr. Chitre's impression was carpal tunnel syndrome of the right hand, for which Plaintiff was given a wrist brace. (R. 405).
Plaintiff saw Dr. Chitre again in March 2009, complaining of pain, tingling, and numbness in her right hand that often woke her from sleep. (R. 460). Plaintiff told Dr. Chitre that this had been going on for some time, but was getting worse and that she wanted it to be checked out. (R. 460).
In April 2009, an EMG of Plaintiff's right hand was conducted. (R. 436). The EMG was compatible with severe carpal tunnel in the right hand. (R. 436).
In November 2009, Plaintiff submitted a Function Report to the SSA in connection with her DIB application. (R. 182-190). Plaintiff described her daily routine as waking up, getting her children up and feeding them, driving them to the bus and picking them up, preparing dinner, getting her children ready for bed, and watching television. (R. 182). She stated that her husband did the laundry and others things she could not do. (R. 183). She said she had no problem with personal care. (R. 183). Plaintiff stated that she had daily pain that affected her sleep and that she could not sit or stand for more than a half hour at a time. (R. 183). Plaintiff stated that she cooked meals and cleaned a little, but that yard work was too difficult. (R. 184-85). She stated that she was able to drive, went out a few times a day, shopped for food, and that she visited her sister-in-law a couple of times per week. (R. 185-86).
On December 7, 2009, Shankar Narayan, an SSA medical consultant, completed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") Assessment through Plaintiff's date last insured. (R. 248-255). The consultant found that Plaintiff could lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, could stand and/or walk at least 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, and could sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 249). The consultant further found Plaintiff could occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, and should avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as machinery and heights. (R. 250, 252).
In January 2010, Plaintiff saw Dr. Shashidhara Nanjundaswamy for a neurology consult for left leg and hand numbness. (R. 503-506). Dr. Nanjundaswamy noted that Plaintiff was involved in a sledding accident at the age of 5 which resulted in a curtain rod penetrating her skull and causing traumatic brain injury, and since has lost use of her left arm and leg to a considerable degree. (R. 503). Dr. Nanjundaswamy further noted that Plaintiff had recently experienced left leg splints and stress fractures. (R. 503). Dr. Nanjundaswamy stated that Plaintiff has little functional use of her left upper extremity. (R. 505). Dr. Nanjundaswamy also stated that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel in April 2009 and that despite surgery Plaintiff had significant wasting and weakness of the right hand median innervated muscle, causing her to have limited use of ...