United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rita Dempsey (“Plaintiff” or
“Dempsey”) brings this action pursuant to Section
205(g) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”),
seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (the “Commissioner”) denying her claims
for a period of disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Based on the court's review of the record and the briefs
submitted by the parties, the court finds that the decision
of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.
filed her application for DIB on or about May 15, 2013,
which she alleged a disability onset date of April 14, 2011.
(Tr. 93, 104, 173-79). She later amended her alleged onset
date to June 14, 2012. (Tr. 10, 204). The initial application
was denied by the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) on August 19, 2013. (Tr. 110). Plaintiff
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on
August 28, 2013. (Tr. 115). The hearing was set for February
3, 2015 with Administrative Law Judge Cynthia G. Weaver
(“the ALJ”). (Tr. 125). In her decision dated
April 23, 2015, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not
been under a disability within the meaning of Sections 216(i)
and 223(d) of the Social Security Act from the date of onset
through December 31, 2012. (Tr. 16). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on August 19, 2016. (Tr.
1-4). This denial was the final decision of the Commissioner,
and therefore a proper subject for this court's appellate
was fifty-five years old on her amended alleged onset
date. (Tr. 173). She alleges that she has been
disabled since that time due to emphysema/chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (“COPD”), arthritis,
neuropathy, anxiety, depression, asthma, high blood pressure,
diabetes, bone spurs, and a failed hip replacement. (Tr.
93-94, 209). Plaintiff has a high school education and last
worked in December 2007 as an assembly line worker. (Tr.
210-11). Her hand was injured on the assembly line in
December 2007, and she has not worked since that time. (Tr.
14, 27-28, 192, 194). She received a Worker's
Compensation settlement related to the hand injury in the
amount of $3800. (Tr. 28).
of background, Plaintiff had a total left hip arthroplasty
performed by Dr. Horn in October 2010 for osteoarthritis.
(Tr. 14, 283-84). X-rays of the hip taken in December 2010
showed “good fit and fill” and an overall
“excellent” appearance. (Tr. 533). In June 2011
Plaintiff presented to The Orthopaedic Center complaining of
some pain in her left hip and leg “for three
days.” (Tr. 526). On examination, Dr. Burnside noted
that “she walks with a limp” and “she
complains of a lot of pain in the left hip and leg. She says
it goes down to her knee on occasion but does not necessarily
go below her knees. Both of her knees are bothering
her.” (Tr. 527). Plaintiff was prescribed Medrol and
Ultram and was told to return to Dr. Horn on an as needed
returned to see Dr. Horn in July 2011 complaining of pain in
the left hip over the trochanteric area. (Tr. 513). On
physical examination Dr. Horn noted her gait had a
“troubled appearance and chronic limp. She struggles to
get up and down out of the chair.” (Id.). Dr.
Horn injected the hip with Depo-Medrol. (Id.).
Plaintiff was instructed to return to Dr. Horn on an as
needed basis. (Tr. 514). She returned in October 2011
complaining of pain in the left knee “which has
stiffness and soreness and activity intolerant and ongoing
inability to walk and stand significantly.” (Tr. 510).
Plaintiff received an injection in her left knee and left
March 2012 Plaintiff returned to Dr. Horn “saying that
she is having tenderness in her hip.” (Tr. 508). Dr.
Horn noted “[l]ast time I saw her in the fall she had a
hip injection which was successful. She had total hip
arthroplasty with good success.” (Id.). On
physical examination Dr. Horn noted “no limp.”
(Id.). There was “moderate tenderness”
in the left hip. Dr. Horn diagnosed Plaintiff with
“improved” tendonitis of the left hip,
osteoarthritis of the left knee, and status post total hip
arthroplasty left doing satisfactorily.” (Tr. 508-09).
available medical evidence during the relevant period from
June 14, 2012 through December 31, 2012 is scarce. (Tr. 12,
26; Pl. Br. at 3). On September 18, 2012, Plaintiff presented
to Dr. Horn at The Orthopaedic Center with “quite a bit
of pain in her hip, in her back, and down her leg. She says
the pain can go as far as the foot and has been tingling in
her foot in the past.” (Tr. 505). On physical
examination Dr. Horn noted “discomfort on extremes of
motion, ” “motion of the left hip is painful,
” and “tenderness over the greater
trochanter.” (Id.). In addition, both knees
were noted to be “generally tender.”
(Id.). Plaintiff was diagnosed with left leg pain
secondary to lumbar radiculopathy, osteoarthritis of the
knees bilateral, status post total hip arthroplasty left, and
trochanteric tendonitis left hip unresponsive to injection.
(Id.). An injection was given in the knee, and an
MRI scan of the lumbar spine and a bone scan of the pelvis
and demurs was recommended. (Tr. 506). After those tests,
Plaintiff was informed that “the knee is not the origin
of this pain.” (Tr. 614). X-rays of the lumbar spine
showed “good straight alignment, good interspace, good
disc spaces, left hip shows no problems with the stem, good
fit and fill.” (Tr. 507). X-rays of the pelvis showed
“satisfactory left total hip arthroplasty;”
X-rays of the lumbar spine showed “good straight
alignment, ” “good disc spaces, ” and
“good preservation view L5 disc space.” (Tr.
September 27, 2012, Plaintiff returned to the Huntsville
Clinic with a painful hip. (Tr. 504, 612). Dr. Horn went over
the results of the MRI with Plaintiff, and explained that
neither her back nor her hip was the source of her pain.
(Id.). Dr. Horn's notes state that Plaintiff
“is not happy at all but I do not have any other
suggestions with medicine adjustments and I sure do not want
to change things given to her by her physician. … I
hope that she can work with her medical doctor about the
level of medications she has asked me about …”
(Tr. 44, 504, 612). Plaintiff was advised to see Dr. Horn on
an “as needed” basis. (Id.). Plaintiff
did not receive any other medical treatment during the
relevant time. (Tr. 14, 26).
the effects of her medical conditions during the relevant
period of June 14, 2012 through December 31, 2012, Plaintiff
testified that she would occasionally need help tying her
shoes, sometimes need help stepping in and out of the
bathtub, and had difficulty standing at the stove and cooking
due to the pain in her leg, heel, and lower back. (Tr. 40).
She would try to load and unload the dishwasher, and could
usually do the top rack but not the bottom rack because
“being bent over like that, it would cause muscle
spasms. I had muscle spasms bad in my back.” (Tr. 41).
She was told by her doctor after her hip replacement surgery
to never sweep, mop, or vacuum. (Tr. 39-40).
the day, Plaintiff would have to alternate walking and
sitting, and several times a day would have to lie on her
back on the couch or in the bed, depending on how much she
had tried to do before. (Tr. 41). “Doing too
much” included loading and/or unloading the entire
dishwasher, standing and cooking supper, and/or loading the
washer into the dryer and then folding it up. (Tr. 42).
Plaintiff testified that she would go to church before her
hip surgery, but two years after the hip surgery she was
unable to sit through an entire service and would have to get
up and leave. (Tr. 42-43). She testified that her pain
prevented her from sitting through a two-hour movie or the
evening news. (Tr. 40-43).
alleviate these symptoms, Plaintiff was taking Lortab and
muscle relaxers; however, the pain was not completely
relieved. (Tr. 43). The medications made her drowsy and
nauseous: “more times than not back then I would have
to take my pain medicines and just go to bed and ...