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Malone v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

March 18, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


STACI G. CORNELIUS, Magistrate Judge.

The plaintiff, Loretta M. Malone, appeals from the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Ms. Malone timely pursued and exhausted her administrative remedies, and the decision of the Commissioner is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). After consideration of the record and for the reasons stated below, the court is of the opinion that this action is due to be AFFIRMED.


Ms. Malone initially filed an application for benefits on September 19, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of April 10, 2010 (R. 58, 117), [1] due to glaucoma which has resulted in a complete loss of vision in her left eye. (R. 44, 157).[2] After the Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied her application, she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held June 19, 2012. (R. 34). After the hearing, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments listed in or medically equivalent to one listed in the Listings of Impairments. (R. 27); see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). The ALJ further found plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, limited only by no climbing of ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, no workplace hazards such as moving machinery or unprotected heights, and no jobs which require "far visual definition." (R. 27). The ALJ determined plaintiff could not return to her past relevant work but could perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (R. 29). In light of these findings, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for a period of disability and DIB on August 9, 2012. (R. 30).

The decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner on August 8, 2013, when the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision. (R. 1). Plaintiff then filed an appeal in this court on October 14, 2013, seeking reversal or remand of the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. 1; Doc. 10 at 10). On April 10, 2014, the parties consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 11).

A. Plaintiff's Medical Records

Plaintiff is followed for vision problems by an optometrist, Dr. Ann Chastain. (R. 200-201). In October 2011, Dr. Chastain recorded that plaintiff was legally blind in her left eye with corrected vision of 20/20 in her right eye. (R. 200). However, Dr. Chastain also noted plaintiff was losing vision in her right eye. (R. 201).

Dr. Dwight Luckett and Dr. Christopher Cole with Central Health Care-Athens are plaintiff's treating physicians. Their records reflect that plaintiff is followed for high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, and insomnia. (R. 207-226). Beginning in November 2011, the diagnoses of diabetes was added. (R. 227-232, 234-235). On July 24, 2012, Dr. Cole wrote a letter "To Whom It May Concern" stating plaintiff:

has a diagnosis of blindness in her left eye and low vision in her right eye. It is my medical opinion, she would be limited to fulltime employment at the sedentary level due to her medical condition.

(R. 239).

B. Plaintiff's Testimony

On the date of her hearing, plaintiff was fifty-six years old, having been born June 7, 1956. (R. 38). She completed the twelfth grade but did not receive a high school diploma. (R. 39). Plaintiff had a valid driver's license but drove "very little" due to her eyesight. (R. 39). Although plaintiff left her previous job because the company went out of business, prior to that she had limitations because of her eyesight. (R. 41, 43). Due to glaucoma, she first had problems with her vision in 2010, which progressively worsened until she lost vision in her left eye completely. (R. 44). Although she has been diagnosed with diabetes, plaintiff testified she had no limitations associated with the diagnosis. (R. 45). Plaintiff's high blood pressure was well under control until she began having problems with glaucoma and diabetes. (R. 45).

On a typical day, plaintiff gets up, fixes breakfast, and sits around the house. (R. 48). She reads the newspaper and visits with her grandchildren several days a week. (R. 48-49). She does most daily household chores but does not cook because of her eyesight. (R. 49, 53). She occasionally uses a computer to check her email. Id. Plaintiff alleged she sometimes has problems with depth perception when reaching for something. (R. 50-51). Plaintiff further testified she had recently developed tingling in the bottom ...

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