United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS REGARDING
DENIAL OF SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
Sorokin United States District Judge
Prescott brought this action pursuant to section 205(g) of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)(3),
challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”)
denying her claim for Social Security Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits. The matter is presently before
this Court on the Prescott's Motion to Reverse, Doc. No.
16, and the Defendant's Motion to Affirm the
Commissioner's Decision, Doc. No. 22.
issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred in rendering his assessment of
Prescott's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) by improperly weighing the opinions of
the medical professionals and whether the ALJ committed
reversible error by relying on the testimony of a vocational
expert whose opinion was, according to Prescott, based upon
an improperly formulated RFC, while ignoring a contrary
opinion from a second vocational expert.
reasons detailed below, this Court DENIES Prescott's
Motion to Reverse, Doc. No. 16, and ALLOWS the
Defendant's Motion to Affirm, Doc. No. 22. .
Prescott, who is currently 45 years old (born October 8,
1970), submitted applications for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits (Title II), as well
supplemental security income (Title XVI) on July 20, 2012. R.
at 165-66. Ms. Prescott's claims were denied
initially on December 13, 2012, and upon reconsideration on
April 2, 2013. R. at 14. Following her timely written
request, a hearing was held before ALJ Sean Teehan on January
28, 2014. R. at 37-114. A supplemental hearing was held on
April 30, 2014.
30, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying Prescott's
claims. R. at 14-30. On July 27, 2015, the Appeals Council
denied Prescott's request for further review. R. at 1-6.
Prescott has exhausted her administrative remedies and now
seeks judicial review by this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
was 37 years old on her alleged onset date. R. at 294.
Prescott alleged disability due to diabetes, back injury,
dysrhythmia, post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), anxiety disorder, arthritis,
depression, asthma, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and
migraines. R. at 342. Prescott had past relevant employment
as a photo lab supervisor at CVS Pharmacy. R. at 350. Since
as early as 2008, and at all relevant times, Prescott was
seen by her treating physician, Dr. Margaret-Mary Williams,
for issues related to Type II diabetes and conditions related
to her diabetes, including neuropathy in the upper and lower
limbs. She was also seen for complaints relating to asthma,
back pain, blurred vision, migraines, joint pain, trouble
walking, and numbness in her hands and feet.
testified that on a typical day, she rises at 9:30 am and has
coffee and cereal and then usually plays on the computer,
checks her email, watches television, putters around the
house, and makes her bed. R. at 66-67. She stated that she
goes to church services and bible study once per week. R. at
68. She also goes to the grocery store once or twice per
week, cooks dinner for her family and does the dishes
afterwards, and washes her own laundry. R. at 72. She
testified that she keeps the kitchen clean and vacuums on the
weekends. R. at 73.
medical evidence is set forth in the Commissioner's
memorandum, Doc. No. 23, the recitation of which Prescott
does not dispute.
11, 2008, Prescott visited Dr. Williams for blood pressure
and diabetes care. R. at 500. A general examination was
normal. R. at 501. The doctor characterized Prescott's
diabetes as “uncontrolled” and recommended diet,
exercise, and weight loss. Id. Prescott's blood
pressure and cholesterol labs were acceptable and her asthma
was stable. R. 502.
October 8, 2008, Prescott visited Dr. Williams for a check of
blood pressure and diabetes. R. at 494. She told the doctor
that she was doing okay and was looking for work.
Id. Her general exam was normal and her diabetes
continued to be uncontrolled. Id. Her cholesterol
and blood pressure levels were acceptable. R. at 496.
January 1, 2009, Prescott visited Dr. Williams; her diabetes
remained uncontrolled, and the doctor stressed the importance
of trying to get back on a better diet. R. at 492. On May 19,
2009, Prescott visited Dr. Williams for a blood pressure and
diabetes check. R. at 488. She stated that she was still
looking for a job and recently had two interviews for
administrative positions. Id. A general exam was
normal. R. at 489. The doctor added a new diabetes medication
and increased medication for blood pressure. Id.
November 23, 2009, Prescott visited Dr. Williams for
treatment of diabetes. R. at 486-87. Prescott's asthma
was clinically stable and her general exam was normal.
March 6, 2010, Dr. Williams noted that Prescott's
diabetes was not under good control. R. at 483. She
encouraged Prescott to work on diet, exercise, and weight
loss. Id. On June 16, 2010, Prescott visited Dr.
Williams, who noted a normal general exam. R. at 480. The
doctor increased Prescott's dose of diabetes medication
and encouraged Prescott to get back on track with diet and
September 2, 2010, Prescott visited Dr. Williams and stated
that her ongoing back problems were the main source of her
disability. R. at 476. She also reported weakness and
numbness of the hands. Id. Upon examination, her
back was normal and straight, with some tenderness to
palpation. R. at 477. She had a slightly decreased range of
motion of the spine, with mild pain. Id. The doctor
told Prescott to consider physical therapy. R. at 478.
September 30, 2010, Prescott underwent EMG testing with Dr.
Ackil. R. at 644-45. The doctor found evidence of moderate
motor sensory neuropathy in the upper and lower limbs, mild
bilateral radiculopathy, and mild carpal tunnel syndrome. R.
October 27, 2010, Prescott visited Dr. Williams for a routine
medical exam. R. at 472-74. Her spine was normal with no
tenderness, she had no swelling in the extremities, her hands
and feet were normal, she had 5/5 strength in all
extremities, and her gait was normal. R. at 474. An EMG
revealed upper and lower neuropathy, and Prescott started on
December 3, 2010, Prescott visited Dr. Williams and stated
that her leg pain had lessened since starting Gabapentin. R.
at 469. She had no swelling in the extremities and her gait
was normal. R. at 470. Dr. Williams expressed concerns about
Prescott's weight and said that if her diabetes did not
come under better control, she would need a specialist. R. at
March 7, 2011, Prescott visited Dr. Williams and complained
of sharp chest pain and heartburn. R. at 466. Dr. Williams
increased her diabetes medications and discussed seeing an
endocrinologist for more in-depth care. R. at 468. Dr.
Williams diagnosed hyperlipidemia and indicated that if
Prescott continued to gain weight, she may need a second
cholesterol medication. Id.
April 5, 2011, Prescott visited Dr. Howard Fogel at the
Diabetes Center of New England for an initial evaluation. R.
at 426-27. She complained of occasional blurred vision, but
Dr. Fogel noted that she was negative for retinopathy upon
exam. R. at 426. He indicated that she was positive for
symptoms of neuropathy, with complaints of numbness in the
feet, although she displayed intact pulses, sensation, and
motor function in both feet. Id. Her glucose panel
and liver studies were normal. Id. Dr. Fogel
recommended appropriate meal plans, exercise, weight loss,
and a change in medication. Id.
16, 2011, an x-ray of Prescott's spine revealed
questionable spinal stenosis at ¶ 4/L5, mild-to-moderate
degenerative disc disease (more prominent than prior study),
and no acute bony findings. R. 7at 01.
December 20, 2011, Prescott visited Dr. Williams and
complained of joint pain in the right knee, hip, and hands.
R. at 457. She had no edema, redness, or swelling of the
extremities and displayed a good range of motion and a normal
gait. Id. As to diabetes, the doctor urged her to
work harder on diet and weight loss efforts; as to joint
pain, the doctor recommended Tylenol, rest, and heat. R. at
20, 2011, Prescott visited Dr. Williams and complained of
acute pain in the lower rib cage. R. at 463. Upon exam,
Prescott had tenderness over the ribcage. no swelling in the
extremities. and a normal gait. R. at 464. The doctor
characterized Prescott's diabetes as
“uncontrolled” and emphasized the importance of
taking her medications, checking blood sugar frequently, and
working on diet and exercise. R. at 465.
March 5, 2012, Prescott visited Dr. Williams for ongoing back
and musculoskeletal issues. R. at 453. She also complained of
joint pain in her hands and fingers, knee pain, trouble
walking, numbness in the hands and feet, and headaches
related to stress. R. at 453. Upon exam, Prescott had no
actively or acutely inflamed joints. Id. The doctor
noted that Prescott's diabetes did not seem well
controlled and emphasized the importance of getting on track
with diet and weight loss. Id.
August 31, 2012, Prescott visited Dr. Fogel for diabetes
care, complaining of numbness in her feet. R. at 668. The
doctor described her diabetes control as “fair”
October 25, 2012, Prescott visited Dr. Williams to have
disability forms filled out. R. at 726. She complained of
chronic back pain; numbness in her legs; the inability to
lift; chronic numbness in the hands and feet; and problems
balancing. Id. Upon examination, her gait was within
normal limits, but slowed due to complaints of pain. R. at
728. Dr. Williams noted that diabetic neuropathy was likely
starting to affect her gait. Id. Her back was
normal, with no spinal tenderness, although she displayed
tenderness to palpitation over the paraspinous muscle groups
and decreased range of motion of the spine due to pain.
Id. A neurological exam ...