United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MARNIE R. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Patti B. Saris, Chief United States District Judge.
Marnie R. Harris brings this pro se action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of a final decision denying
her application for Supplemental Security Income benefits
(“SSI”). Plaintiff suffers from cervical
degenerative disc disease, obesity, diabetes, bilateral knee
osteoarthritis, hammertoe deformities, and right shoulder
tendinopathy with a partial rotator cuff tear. She contends
that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) did not
properly consider her pain in assessing her ability to work.
reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES Plaintiff's motion to
reverse (Docket No. 20) and ALLOWS
the Commissioner's motion to affirm (Docket No. 22).
following facts are taken from the administrative record.
Plaintiff is a 55-year-old woman. She completed four years of
college and, in the fifteen years preceding her application,
worked as a secretary, saleswoman, liaison, and tax preparer.
She stopped working in 2011.
examination of Plaintiff on July 24, 2013 showed that she
suffered from obesity, back and foot pain, and diabetes but
had full overhead reach, good range of motion of the neck,
and the ability to grasp. She has taken Flexeril for many
years for her pain.
underwent physical therapy to address her upper back pain at
Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital in 2014. The
physical therapy improved the strength of her neck muscles.
By the last session on August 6, 2014, Plaintiff reported
that she could clean laundry, cook, drive, and sleep and that
she did not feel functionally limited by her neck pain.
December 2, 2014, Plaintiff went to the emergency room
because of shoulder pain. After performing a clinical exam
and x-rays, the attending physician diagnosed Plaintiff with
a rotator cuff injury. She recommended that Plaintiff rest,
take ibuprofen as needed, apply ice, and avoid physical
later, Dr. Edward Phillips, a physiatrist, examined Plaintiff
for muscles spasms in her upper back. He noted several
additional health problems, including lower back pain and
pain in her right foot caused by two hammertoes. Despite her
pain, Plaintiff could grasp, had full range of motion of her
neck, and had full overhead reach. Dr. Phillips and Plaintiff
discussed doing more physical therapy, getting a steroid
injection for her right shoulder, and taking either
Diclofenac or Aleve.
October 5, 2015, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. David Cahan, a
state medical consultant. She told Dr. Cahan that, while her
pain prevented her from walking more than two blocks and
climbing more than one flight of stairs, she could sit
adequately, do light cleaning, and stand for only a few
minutes as long as she leaned to her left side. She
complained about muscle spasms and pain at the base of her
left neck and in her shoulders but noted that her pain that
was less severe than it had been in the past. Dr. Cahan
determined that Plaintiff had good range of motion of the
neck despite some muscle tightness and that she could
“ambulate slowly with a modest limp” and
without an assistive device. He also noted that her right
shoulder's posterior rotation was marginally limited and
that she could not squat.
same day, Plaintiff saw Dr. Susan Hata, her primary care
physician (“PCP”). Dr. Hata noted that Plaintiff
suffered from obesity, diabetes, lower back pain, and foot
pain. Plaintiff's neck was “supple, ” and her
lymph nodes did not suffer from lymphadenopathy. Dr. Hata
examined Plaintiff again on January 15, 2016 and noted that
she moved all extremities well and had no pain associated
with external and internal rotations of the right shoulder or
joints. Dr. Hata instructed Plaintiff to take baby aspirin
March 8, 2016, imaging of Plaintiff's right shoulder
showed extensive tendinopathy of the rotator cuff, as well as
partial tearing and severe degenerative changes at the
acromioclavicular joint. An x-ray of Plaintiff's right
shoulder two months later showed mild degenerative changes of
the acromioclavicular joint and a well-maintained
8, 2016, Plaintiff saw Dr. Joseph Hanak, a physiatrist, for
complaints relating to neck, knee, and shoulder pain. Dr.
Hanak noted that she was “cavalier, ” put forth
minimal effort when he performed manual muscle testing, and
was not complying with her medication regimen. Plaintiff also
had “decreased abduction of the right shoulder due to
discomfort, but when coached had full range of motion.”
Dr. Hanak rated her right-side external rotation weakness as
“slight” and a “5-/5” and her other
upper body muscles as “5/5.” Two weeks later,
Plaintiff underwent radiological examinations that revealed
degenerative changes and small joint effusions in her knees
and a normal alignment of her cervical spine with multilevel
December 5, 2016, Dr. Kevin Riemer, a podiatrist, examined
Plaintiff's feet. Plaintiff reported mild pain but
appeared well and in no acute distress. Dr. Riemer rated her
muscle strength as 5/5. They discussed the possibility of
hammertoe surgery, which Plaintiff declined.
January 10, 2017, Dr. Nancy Shadick, a rheumatologist,
examined Plaintiff for pain in her left knee due to her
osteoarthritis. Plaintiff also complained about her ankles
and stated that physical therapy had not helped her.
Plaintiff denied fatigue or lower back, chest, or abdominal
pain. After examining Plaintiff, Dr. Shadick determined that
Plaintiff was a “well-nourished adult in no apparent
distress.” Dr. Shadick did not identify any deformity,
swelling, tenderness, or limited range of motion in the
shoulders, wrists, hands, fingers, and knees.
Dr. Hata's Disability Opinion
Hata completed two forms with her opinion on Plaintiff's
disability. In the first report, Dr. Hata stated that she
believed Plaintiff's pain did not prevent her from
working. Plaintiff made an appointment with Dr. Hata to
discuss this opinion; during the appointment, Plaintiff was
tearful, stated she had no income, and described her ongoing
neck pain, back pain, spasms, and bilateral knee pain. Dr.