United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
REVERSE AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM DECISION OF
Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge
an appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”). On July
25, 2017, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
issued a decision concluding that plaintiff Lisa Couch is not
disabled. The SSA Appeals Council declined review on March
16, 2018. Couch then filed an action with this Court.
seeks reversal of the Commissioner's decision on two
grounds. The Commissioner has moved to affirm the decision.
For the reasons stated below, the decision will be affirmed.
Couch is 38 years old. (A.R. 45). She is a high-school
graduate, having completed school in a special-education
program. (A.R. 46-57). She initially alleged that her
disability began June 1, 2007, but subsequently amended the
alleged onset date to September 21, 2015. (A.R. 49-50). She
has not worked since the onset date and has no relevant past
employment. (A.R. 29, 49).
time of the hearing, Couch lived in a rooming house and spent
her time watching television, playing on her phone, and
socializing with friends. (A.R. 62-63). She participated in
an arts and crafts class four to five times per week for
twenty to forty minutes at a time. (A.R. 62). She also
shopped for clothes, cooked simple meals, did laundry, and
shopped for groceries. (A.R. 63-64).
has reported a variety of medical issues, including
hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux disease, asthma,
hypothyroidism, restless leg syndrome, diabetes, and
pulmonary emboli, that are controlled with medication and
treatment. (A.R. 19-20). In addition, she had a bunion repair
on her right foot in April 2015. (A.R. 21). She also has a
history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
(“ADHD”), depressive disorder, and anxiety
disorder. (A.R. 24). She has taken Adderall to treat her ADHD
symptoms. (Id.). She reported that her depression
affected her every few days and that her anxiety affected her
daily and she experienced frequent panic attacks.
April 2016, Couch began treatment with Dr. Yousef
Abou-Allaban. (A.R. 702). He noted obesity, loud speech,
irritable affect, anger, rage, poor body image, and poor
impulse control. (A.R. 702-03). Dr. Abou-Allaban diagnosed
ADHD, combined presentation, at the initial visit. (A.R.
703). He continued to treat her through February 2017, and
her symptoms and diagnoses remained consistent throughout
treatment. (A.R. 688-704).
2016, Couch was treated on four occasions at the UMass
Memorial Medical Center for lower extremity pain. (A.R.
955-86). An x-ray on May 14, 2016, showed mild prepatellar
edema and a small joint effusion. (A.R. 960).
7, 2016, Dr. Nosheen Ishaque completed a medical source
statement concerning Couch's back pain and arthritis.
(A.R. 37-40). She concluded that Couch could stand or walk
for only two hours in an eight-hour workday; would have to
have her legs elevated; and could not lift twenty pounds,
twist, stoop, crouch, climb stairs, or climb ladders. (A.R.
37-39). In addition, Dr. Ishaque concluded that Couch would
be absent from work more than four days per month, would be
unable to do even “low stress” work, and would be
off-task at least 25 percent of the day. (A.R. 40). That
statement was not submitted to the ALJ but was submitted to
the Appeals Council. (A.R. 4).
Gilson, a nurse practitioner at UMass Memorial Medical
Center, began seeing Couch at the orthopedic clinic in July
2016. (A.R. 993). A musculoskeletal exam completed by Gilson
revealed weak inversion and eversion, tenderness, and reduced
plantar flexion. (Id.).
11, 2016, Dr. Abou-Allaban diagnosed generalized anxiety
disorder and panic disorder. (A.R. 700). He completed a
medical source statement concluding that Couch suffered from
mood disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and ADHD, and
had depressed mood and daily panic attacks that responded
only partially to treatment. (A.R. 517-21). He further
concluded that she was unable to carry out short and simple
instructions, maintain attention for two hours, maintain a
routine without supervision, work with others without
distraction, and perform consistently without unreasonably
frequent rest periods. (A.R. 519). In addition, he found that
she would be unable to maintain consistent attendance at work
and would be absent more than four days per month, and that
she would unable to deal with normal work stress. (A.R. 520).
August 19, 2016, Couch was seen at UMass Memorial for back
pain not responding to oxycodone. (A.R. 1278). An examination
revealed bilateral paraspinal lumbar tenderness. (A.R. 1282).
She presented again later that month with body aches and in
October 2016 for low-back pain. (A.R. 1343, 1579). In
February 2017, she was seen at UMass for anxiety and at St.
Vincent Hospital for pain, tenderness, and swelling in her
left ankle. (A.R. 1791).
filed a claim for disability benefits on September 21, 2015,
alleging disability beginning June 1, 2007. (A.R. 17,
172-80). The SSA denied her application on February 19, 2016.
(A.R. 73-113). On June 1, 2016, she requested a hearing,
which was held on April 6, 2017. (A.R. 128). At the hearing,
she amended her alleged onset date to ...