United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
B. Saris, Chief United States District Judge.
AnnaMarie Guarente seeks judicial review of the decision by
the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) to
deny her claim for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits and Social Security Disability
Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits. Plaintiff argues
that: 1) the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
failed to properly weigh the opinion of her treating
ophthalmologist, and 2) the ALJ erroneously rejected the
opinion of her treating podiatrist. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court DENIES
Plaintiff's motion to reverse the decision of the
Commissioner. Docket No. 16. Defendant's motion to affirm
is ALLOWED. Docket No. 20.
time of the hearing before the ALJ on November 6, 2014,
Plaintiff was fifty-three years old. R. 23. The ALJ denied
Guarente's application for benefits on March 11. 2015. R.
29. Her request for reconsideration was denied on August 4,
2016. R. 1-4.
Work History and Education
has an Associate's degree. R. 41. At the time of the
hearing, she worked as a part-time kitchen helper at a school
five days a week from 10 A.M. to 1:15 P.M. This job required
her to stand for three hours cooking, preparing food, and
serving children. R. 41-42.
alleges disability beginning March 31, 2011 due to high
cholesterol, hypertension, neuropathy, retinopathy, diabetes,
depression, and anxiety. R. 18, 74-75.
March 23, 2011, Dr. Sunil Rao, a retina specialist, evaluated
Plaintiff for non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy in both
eyes. R. 323. Dr. Rao's follow-up observations in
December 2011, May 2012, and September 2012 indicated that
Plaintiff's visual acuity remained stable. R. 316, 320,
March 31, 2011, Plaintiff visited Dr. Meghan Sass for a
follow-up appointment concerning her diabetes mellitus type
II, which was diagnosed in 2006. R. 21, 308. Plaintiff
reported walking for exercise, but she complained of some
numbness and burning in her feet. R. 308. Dr. Sass observed
normal movement of the extremities, intact sensation and
motor function, as well as normal gait and station. R. 309.
At a June 2011 appointment, Dr. Sass also noted poor control
of Plaintiff's diabetes and indicated that treatment with
insulin was necessary. R. 304.
follow-up exam for cholesterol and hypertension on August 19,
2011, Dr. Lisa Bowie observed normal motor function, normal
gait and station, and intact sensation and motor function. R.
350. Plaintiff did not complain of fatigue and reported
walking for exercise. R. 350. The following month, Dr. Bowie
noticed a slight decrease in vibratory sensation in the
bottom of both feet but an overall normal gait and station,
full motion in the extremities, and intact nerves R. 346.
Plaintiff again did not complain of fatigue, muscle pain,
weakness, or paresthesia. R. 345. In November 2011, Plaintiff
reported that she walked daily, improved her diet, and felt
that her toe numbness improved. R. 299. Dr. Sass observed
normal movement of the extremities and normal reflexes. R.
300. She also noted improvements in Plaintiff's blood
sugar levels and saw no signs of significant neuropathy. R.
August 24, 2012, Dr. E. Kelly McLaughlin, Plaintiff's
treating podiatrist, noted discolored, thick, and painful
toenails; limited ambulation from foot pain; and limited
sensation. R 602-03. Plaintiff complained of toe pain, foot
pain, and presented with paresthesia. R. 602. Dr. McLaughlin
diagnosed Plaintiff with neuropathy and observed that her
overall sensation was not intact. R. 603.
November 2012 visit to Dr. Bowie for a routine follow-up. R.
332 Plaintiff noted that she walked for exercise and denied
fatigue. R.332-33. Dr. Bowie observed poor control of
Plaintiff's diabetes partly due to six weeks of
non-compliance with medication and an incorrect insulin
dosage. R. 334. In February 2013, Plaintiff complained to Dr.
Bowie that she had back pain radiating into her right leg. R.
536. She denied fatigue, weakness, and paresthesia. R. 537.
Dr. Bowie found full motion in the extremities, no issue with
nerve or motor function, and normal gait and function. R.
538. However, Dr. Bowie noted that both Plaintiff's feet
were hypersensitive to light touch. R. 538.
January 22, 2013, Plaintiff saw Dr. Magdalena Krzystolik for
her retinopathy. R. 492. Dr. Krzystolik followed up with
Plaintiff in March and July 2013. R. 491, 614. Plaintiff also
visited Dr. Krzystolik in January and May 2014. R. 610, 612.
Throughout this time Guarente had stable vision in both eyes
even though she had severe non-proliferative diabetic
retinopathy but there was no evidence of clinically
significant macular edema in either eye. R. 611.
February 2014, Dr. Bowie saw improvements in Plaintiff's
diabetes. R. 511. She also noted full motion in the
extremities, normal sensation and motor function, intact
nerves, as well as normal gait and station. R. 510. Plaintiff
did not complain of fatigue, pain, weakness, or paresthesia.
2014, Plaintiff complained to Dr. McLaughlin of lower
extremity paresthesia, burning, and hyperesthesia. R. 595.
Dr. McLaughlin concluded that Plaintiff had keratosis and a
pre-ulcer condition on her left big toe. R. 596. Dr.
McLaughlin also observed intact sensation in the lower
extremities. R. 596.
Treating Physicians' Opinions
Dr. Krzystolik's Medical Evaluation
October 2014, Dr. Krzystolik diagnosed Plaintiff with severe
non-proliferative diabetic neuropathy in both eyes, but said:
“at this time vision is good.” R. 649-50. Dr.
Krzystolik noted Plaintiff could complete visual activities
and had no exertional or postural limitations caused by her
problems. R. 650. According to Dr. Krzystolik, Plaintiff
could frequently stoop, crouch, climb ladders, and lift ten
pounds frequently and more weight as tolerable. R. 650. Dr.
Krzystolik does not address standing or walking.
Dr. McLaughlin's ...