United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Hazel Annette Malloy (“Plaintiff” or
“Malloy”) 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 January 13, 2014, in which
she alleged a disability onset date of April 24, 2013. (Tr.
18, 122-26). Plaintiff later amended her onset date to
January 1, 2014. (Tr. 18, 36). The initial application was
denied by the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) on April 8, 2014. (Tr. 18, 71-75).
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on April 23, 2014. (Tr. 18, 78-79).
The hearing was held on August 17, 2015 before Administrative
Law Judge George W. Merchant (“the ALJ”). (Tr.
18, 87-91). In his decision dated September 25, 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. (Tr. 26). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on February 21, 2017. (Tr.
1-3). This denial was the final decision of the Commissioner
and therefore is now a proper subject for this court's
was 49 years old on her amended alleged onset date. (Tr. 36).
She alleges that she has been disabled since that time due to
congestive heart failure, tendinitis, and arthritis. (Tr. 35,
37, 46). She has an eighth-grade education and last worked in
April 2013 as a head housekeeper. (Tr. 39, 41). Plaintiff
drew unemployment benefits until January 2014. (Tr. 36).
of background, in April 2009 Plaintiff presented to the
Jasper Podiatry Center complaining of pain in her feet. (Tr.
210). Dr. Odle noted that Plaintiff's “nails are
long, thick, and discolored, ” and were “painful
during ambulation.” (Id.). Dr. Odle ordered
nails one through five to be debrided and recommended
follow-up in 10 weeks. (Id.). Plaintiff did not
return to see Dr. Odle until January 2011. (Tr. 209). Dr.
Odle again found Plaintiff's “[n]ails to be long,
thick, and discolored with subungual debris and clinical
evidence of onychomycosis;” and that Plaintiff's
nails are “painful with ambulation and shoe
pressure.” (Id.). Dr. Odle ordered nails six
through ten to be debrided. (Id.). Plaintiff
returned to Dr. Odle in April 2012 complaining of frequent
leg cramps along with burning and numbness in her feet. (Tr.
208.). Dr. Odle again ordered nails six through ten to be
debrided. (Id.). In April 2013 Plaintiff returned to
Dr. Odle. (Tr. 204-205). Dr. Odle examined the
Plaintiff's new custom-made orthotics prescribed by Dr.
Shah of the Lorna Road clinic in Hoover. (Id.).
Dr. Odle noted that Plaintiff had been wearing the orthotics
since “last Friday.” (Id.). Dr. Odle
noted that Plaintiff related chronic pain over lateral aspect
of the left foot,  and that Plaintiff's foot is acutely
painful with palpation. (Id.). Dr. Odle ordered
nails six through ten to be debrided once again.
2012, Plaintiff presented to Dr. Bradley at Walker Medical
Diagnostics for a foot pain study. (Tr. 260). Dr. Bradley
viewed Plaintiff's X-ray and noted a relatively flat
longitudinal arch, small plantar calcaneal spur, an
atypically thin navicular bone (probably developmental), an
atypically thin fourth metatarsal (probably developmental),
and a mild hallux valgus deformity and splaying of the second
and third toes. (Id.). There was “no
convincing evidence of acute pathology.”
April 2013 Plaintiff presented to Dr. Shah for evaluation of
her foot problems, including a “long history of flat
feet” and “bilateral congenital
brachymetatarsalgia.” (Tr. 240-42, 247-50). Dr. Shah
noted that Plaintiff was “fine” until 6 months
ago “but since then has experienced burning pain over
the lateral column.” (Tr. 241). Dr. Shah noted that
Plaintiff was wearing custom-made inserts by David Ford, and,
while they were helping, Plaintiff continued to experience
October 2013, Plaintiff was diagnosed with
“tendinopathy at the insertion of the peroneus of the
base of the fifth metatarsal on the left foot” by Dr.
Cuomo at Southern Orthopedics. (Tr. 289). After performing a
physical evaluation of Plaintiff, Dr. Cuomo found that
Plaintiff was “alert, oriented, and not in any acute
distress” with a significant flat foot and a
congenitally short fourth toe/metatarsal bilaterally.
(Id.). Dr. Cuomo ordered, performed, and read
radiographs of the left foot, which did not show any obvious
abnormalities other than the short fourth metatarsal and a
mild heel spur. (Id.). A radiograph of the right
foot showed only a small heel spur at the base of the heel.
(Id.). Dr. Cuomo wrote Plaintiff a script for some
KG Cream and also prescribed physical therapy, stretching,
and stepping on a freeze bottle. (Id.). She was
advised to return to Southern Orthopedics in about a month
for a reassessment of her progress. (Id.).
November 2013, Plaintiff underwent a bone density exam at
BHC-Walker Imaging, which returned normal findings other than
the left femoral neck which indicated osteopenia. (Tr. 223).
March 2014 Plaintiff underwent a disability determination by
Dr. Bernard Simieritsch of the Winston County Medical Clinic.
(Tr. 283-86). Plaintiff's complaints at that time were
pain in both feet upon walking a half-mile, a spur on her
head causing numbness in the neck, shoulders, and head, and
shortness of breath due to purported congestive heart
failure. (Tr. 283). On physical examination Dr. Simieritsch
noted Plaintiff's (1) normal ability to heel and toe walk
and squat and rise, (2) normal bilateral dexterity of fingers
and thumbs, and (3) normal ability to button, tie shoelaces,
pick up small objects, hold a glass, and turn a doorknob.
(Tr. 285). Upon examination of the left foot x-ray, Dr.
Simieritsch found a genetically shorter fourth metatarsal by
about two centimeters, but the foot appeared to be otherwise
normal. (Tr. 282). Dr. Simieritsch noted that
Plaintiff is obese and needs to lose eighty pounds, has a
slightly reduced range of motion in her right shoulder, and
has peripheral neuropathy of her feet. (Tr. 286).
April 2015 Plaintiff presented to Dr. Mendelsohn of
Cardiology PC for a cardiac evaluation. (Tr. 291-311). Dr.
Mendelsohn examined duplex sonography of Plaintiff's
right and left lower extremities and found no evidence of
deep venous thrombosis and noted that all of Plaintiff's
venous structures showed normal augmentation and
compressibility. (Tr. 311). Dr. Mendelsohn noted Plaintiff
had abnormal EKG or ECG. (Tr. 305). She was directed to begin
compression hose therapy and follow up in three months to
reassess the condition of her legs and the possible need for
endovenous ablation. (Tr. 294).
November 2011 Plaintiff has seen Dr. Russell as her primary
care physician. (Tr. 215-74, 312-24; Pl. Br., Doc. #11 at 6).
As Plaintiff's primary care physician, Dr. Russell
referred Plaintiff to Dr. Bradley, Dr. Shah, Cahaba Imaging,
and BHC-Walker Imaging and kept records from Plaintiff's
visit to these doctors in his patient file for Plaintiff.
(Tr. 215-74, 312-24). On August 17, 2015, the same date as
Plaintiff's hearing before the ALJ, Dr. Russell issued a
statement advising Plaintiff to elevate her feet three hours
per day due to swelling and foot pain. (Tr. 324).
the effects of her medical conditions during the relevant
period of January 2014 to the present, Plaintiff testified
that because of her congestive heart failure she gets very
short of breath and tires easily. (Tr. 35). Plaintiff
testified that her feet are “real painful” and
that they “burn and tingle … and swell.”
(Tr. 43). Plaintiff testified that because of arthritis in
her shoulder sometimes it “gives away” and what
she is holding “just falls.” (Tr. 47). ...