United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
KUNDANIKA N. DOSHI, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant
For Kundanika Doshi, Plaintiff: Beth R. Levenson, Epstein, Lipsey & Clifford, P.C, Hanover, MA.
For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant: Abraham R. George, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office - MA, Boston, MA.
For Social Security Administration, Interested Party: Thomas D. Ramsey, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Boston, MA.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG, DISTRICT JUDGE.
The plaintiff, Kundanika N. Doshi (" Doshi" ), brings this action under section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), against Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the " Commissioner" ). Doshi asks this Court to review the Commissioner's final decision denying her Social Security disability insurance (" SSDI" ) benefits. Mot. Reverse and Remand Decision Social Security Admin. (" Pl.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 14; Mem. Pl. Kundanika N. Doshi Supp. Mot. Reverse and Remand to Social Security Admin. (" Pl.'s Memorandum" ), ECF No. 15. Doshi argues that the Administrative Law Judge (the " hearing officer" ) committed errors of law when evaluating the evidence in the decision denying her SSDI benefits. Pl.'s Memorandum 6. Specifically, she claims that the hearing officer wrongly evaluated her credibility and posed an inappropriate hypothetical question to the vocational expert that suggested she could maneuver her hand properly in workplace settings under the Social Security regulations' definition of " handle." Id. at 10. Doshi requests that this Court reverse the hearing officer's decision and award her the SSDI benefits, or, in the alternative, remand the case for further proceedings. Id. at 12. The Commissioner requests that this Court affirm her decision and that Doshi's motion for reversal be denied. Def.'s Mot. Order Affirming Decision of Comm'r (" Def.'s Mot." ), ECF No. 16; Mem. Supp. Def.'s Motion Affirm Comm'r (" Def.'s Memorandum" ), ECF No. 17.
A. Procedural Posture
Doshi filed for SSDI benefits and Supplemental Security Income in October of 2010, stating that her disability period began June 1, 2007. Administrative Record (" Admin R." ) 16, ECF No. 11. She was denied on both applications on January 21, 2011 and again upon reconsideration on June 29, 2011. Id. After she made a timely request on August 16, 2011, she obtained a hearing, which was held in Boston on June 20, 2012. Id. at 16, 28 . The hearing officer denied Doshi's SSDI claims in his decision dated July 27, 2012. Id. at 28. When Doshi appealed that decision, the Appeals Council denied her request for review on December 11, 2013. Id. at 1. Doshi then filed a timely appeal to this Court.
At the time of the hearing on July 27, 2012, Doshi was 46 years old and the mother of three children ages 15, 11, and 4. Admin R. at 37. Her education stopped after reaching the ninth grade. Id. at 34. She worked as an assistant manager at a
McDonalds for fifteen years and as a food preparer at a Star Market for a year. Id. Doshi claimed that the reason that she left her last job was due to the fact that she could not work with unprofessional co-workers and due to her fall on a wet floor which resulted in a back injury. Id. at 478.
Doshi's daily routine usually starts with assisting her four-year-old son to prepare for pre-school. Id. at 42. Her eldest son and his godmother, who lives down the street from Doshi, sometimes help her with the four-year old. Id. at 38. Doshi testified that she can keep up with her four-year old son and that taking care of him is not a burden for her. Id. at 37-38. Doshi also exercises daily even though she cannot do arduous workouts. Id. at 168. Some of her regular tasks include grocery shopping, id. at 225, mopping, sweeping, and cleaning the bathroom and her children's room. Id. at 43. Additionally, she irons and cooks. Id. at 224. When she feels capable of accomplishing some chores, she cooks multiple meals in anticipation of not feeling capable of carrying out tasks in upcoming days. Id. at 43. During the days when she feels incapable of completing any of her tasks, she naps frequently due to fatigue. Id. at 42. Such days are unpredictable and Doshi does not know how she will feel on any particular day. Id. at 43. In any case, Doshi divides her daily tasks into small portions because she cannot accomplish too many in one day. Id. Doshi completed " Strive" job training in August 2010. Id. at 218.
1. Medical History
Doshi claims that she felt symptoms of multiple sclerosis after she gave birth, but not during any of her pregnancies. Id. at 38. The symptoms include tingling and numbness in her hands and feet. Id. In addition, Doshi gets dizzy when she walks. Id. at 52. Moreover, she lacks balance, which causes her to fall at times and sometimes break things. Id. at 41. She also has short-term memory loss and vision problems preventing her from doing much reading. Id. at 47.
a. Physical Disability
In August 2006, Doshi went to Carney Hospital because she felt tired, dizzy, and off balance. Id. at 259. She explained that her heart was racing from going up some stairs and she felt dizzy and lightheaded when standing up. Id. She stated that her fatigue and dizziness lasted over a three-day period. Id. at 257.
In May 2008, Doshi underwent a brain MRI after she complained about a series of headaches, optic neuropathy, and blurred vision. Id. at 269. The procedure discovered " three focal T2 hyperintensities in the subcortical and periventricular white matter of the left cerebral hemisphere, at least two demonstrating enhancement, suggestive of an active demyelinating process, either inflammatory, such as in multiple sclerosis or ADEM [acute disseminating encephalomyelitis], or ischemic, as in vasculitis." Id. At the same time, an MRI of the orbits, face, and neck showed " apparent, mild diffuse enhancement of the left optic nerve without and other associated abnormalities." Id. at 270.
Doshi went to the emergency room in February 2009 complaining about nausea, vomiting, weakness, body aches, and general malaise that lasted four days. Id. at 378. The neurological examination conducted at the time was normal. Id.
In September 2010, Dr. Brackett, Doshi's primary care physician, diagnosed her with anemia. Id. at 296-97. He prescribed ferrous sulfate and advised her to eat foods high in iron. Id. at 326.
In November 2010, Dr. Ellias conducted neurological test that revealed imbalance and hyperreflexia of the arms and legs.
Id. at 368. Dr. Ellias noted that Doshi " can walk 10-30 feet on narrow base but then may have to reach for a wall on closest side, can pivot turn 180 degrees without falling but at times may side stop as she is walking in a room." Id. Additionally, Dr. Ellias noted that push-pull testing was within normal limits, and that, overall, " at times [it] looks like a balance problem, at other times it does not." Id. Based on the tests he conducted, Dr. Ellias opined that Doshi would be able to drive without any potential safety issues. Id.
In December 2010, Doshi's brain MRI showed " [m]ultiple FLAIR hyperintense foci without abnormal enhancement." Id. at 406-07. The interpreting physician found that " [t]hese findings are nonspecific and suggestive of areas of edema/gliosis. These findings can be seen [as] demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis, chronic small vessel ischemic changes, migraines, vasculitis, among others." Id. at 407.
In March 2011, Dr. Brackett stated that he could not determine whether Doshi's dizziness related to her anemia. He described her anemia as " stable" at that time. Id. at 438.
In June 2011, Dr. Ellias detected hyperreflexia again after Doshi reported balance problems. Id. at 505. Based on Dr. Ellias' opinion, such findings were most consistent with multiple sclerosis. Id. In November 2011, he observed that Doshi's " walking, balance[,] reflexes and coordination are better than any previous visits," id. at 513, and further noted her ongoing ...