United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
WILLIAM G. YOUNG DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action by Pamela J. Woodie ("Woodie") appealing
the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (the "Commissioner") determining that she
is not disabled and therefore not entitled to Social Security
disability benefits. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
December 9, 2011, Woodie filed a Title II application for
disability insurance benefits, alleging that her disability
began on November 22, 2011. Administrative R. ("Admin.
R.") 90- 91, ECF No. 9. The claim was denied on April 18,
2012, and upon reconsideration, was denied again on September
28, 2012. Id. at 90, 105. Woodie then filed a
written request for a hearing, which was held on October 22,
2013, before an Administrative Law Judge (the "hearing
officer"). Id. at 17, 36.
hearing officer denied Woodie’s claim for benefits, in
a written decision issued on November 27, 2013. Id.
at 28-29. On January 7, 2014, Woodie filed a request to have
the hearing officer’s decision reviewed by the Appeals
Council. Id. at 13. At that time, Woodie
supplemented her medical record with additional medical
information from treating physicians. See id. at 2,
13. The hearing officer’s decision was upheld by the
Appeals Council on February 18, 2015. Id. at 1-3.
April 22, 2015, Woodie filed a complaint seeking this
Court’s review of the Commissioner’s decision
pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Compl., ECF No. 1. The Commissioner
filed the Administrative Record on July 13, 2015. Admin. R.
In the following months, both parties filed motions --
Woodie, to reverse; the Commissioner, to affirm -- and
accompanying memoranda. See Pl.’s Mot. Reverse
Decision Comm’r, ECF No. 13; Pl.’s Mem. Supp.
Mot. Reverse Decision Comm’r ("Pl.’s
Mem."), ECF No. 14; Mot. Order Affirming Decision
Comm’r, ECF No. 18; Mem. Law Supp. Def.’s Mot.
Affirm Comm’r. Decision ("Def.’s
Mem."), ECF No. 19; Pl.’s Reply Def.’s Mot.
Affirm Decision Comm’r ("Pl.’s Reply"),
ECF No. 20.
Woodie challenges only the hearing officer’s step-five
determination, see Pl.’s Mem. 9, this section
recounts only the background facts, as provided by
Woodie’s testimony, and a brief overview of
Woodie’s medical records. As the testimony of the
vocational expert ("VE") who was called in this
case is directly relevant to Woodie’s claims, it is
discussed infra Part IV.
was born on July 28, 1966. Admin. R. 41. On August 21, 2009,
Woodie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis
("MS"). Id. at 465. She has also been
diagnosed with Lyme disease, which has made symptoms of MS,
such as fatigue, especially difficult to manage. Id.
Woodie uses a cane to help her walk and balance. Id.
at 51. She has issues with anxiety, migraine headaches, and
sleeplessness. Id. Woodie described having
difficulties when lifting or gripping objects: "I
can’t lift a gallon of milk . . . [i]f I lift the keys
up and stuff they will fall out of my hands at times."
Id. at 63.
to November 21, 2011, when Woodie stopped working, she had
been employed as an auto parts deliverer, secretary,
receptionist, and cashier. Id. at 27, 200. She lives
with her two daughters, who are in middle school and high
school. Id. at 57, 65. They are generally
responsible for completing household chores and preparing
meals. Id. at 58-59. Woodie performs only a minimal
amount of driving, and has "somebody that takes me to
all my appointments[.]" Id. at 60. Her time is
generally spent on her computer, watching television, or
reading a magazine, but her activities vary depending on her
symptoms. Id. at 61.
Medical Records and Opinions
submitted medical reports and treatment records dating back
to January 2009, when she first began complaining of
headaches. Admin. R. 309-525. The Social Security
Administration ("SSA") obtained Woodie’s
physical and mental Residual Functioning Capacity
("RFC") assessments from the Massachusetts
Disability Determination Services office. Id. at 90,
medical records describe Woodie’s headaches, which
initially were thought to be "migraine headaches with
aura and tension-type headaches, " id. at 301.
Subsequent testing revealed the presence of three brain
lesions. Id. at 270-271. After being diagnosed with
MS, Woodie began treatment for mood and anxiety disorders,
which were interpreted as psychological consequence of her MS
diagnosis. Id. at 593. In July 2012, after
experiencing severe aching, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms,
Woodie took a blood test, which confirmed that Woodie had
contracted Lyme Disease. Id. at 557, 564-566.
The Hearing ...