United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Jasper Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tacilyn Burke 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
(“Commissioner”) denying her claims for a period
of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”). See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Based on the court's review of the record and the
documents submitted by the parties, the court finds that the
decision of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.
9, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for
disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
alleging disability as of June 8, 2014. (R. 49, 144, 182-95).
The Social Security Administration (“SSA”)
initially denied Plaintiff's application on September 8,
2014. (R. 49, 132-42, 144). On September 19, 2014, Plaintiff
filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). (R. 49, 98-126). That request was
granted (R. 40, 49), and Plaintiff received a hearing before
ALJ George Merchant on October 24, 2016. (R. 40, 48-49). On
December 6, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision which was
unfavorable to Plaintiff. (R. 46-48). After the Appeals
Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for
review of the ALJ's decision (R. 1-7), the ALJ's
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, and
therefore a proper subject for this court's review.
Statement of Facts
application alleges disability due to the following: various
foot deformities, microcyst in bones of feet, spinal bone
spurs, fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, scoliosis, pineal
gland cyst in brain, anxiety disorder, depression, severe
migraines, and dyslexia. (R. 132). She completed four years
of college and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in
communications. (R. 217, 320). She has past work experience
as a caregiver at a group home, watching patients and
handling medical billing. (R. 217-18). She was 29 years old
at the time of the ALJ decision. (R. 59, 192).
early March 2011, Plaintiff underwent a routine brain MRI at
Walker Medical Diagnostics due to complaints of headaches.
(R. 261). The MRI revealed probable minimal paranasal sinus
disease and a pineal gland cyst which are “typically
clinically silent but can become symptomatic if greater than
1 cm in size, as in this case.” (Id.). On
March 21, 2011, Plaintiff consulted with Dr. Carter S. Harsh
at Neurosurgical Associates - Birmingham. (R. 271). Dr. Harsh
reviewed the MRI and concluded: “I do not believe [the
pineal region cyst] would be symptomatic.”
(Id.). He recommended a follow-up scan in four
repeated the MRI in June 2011. (R. 268). The repeat MRI
revealed “no significant change in cystic appearing
mass in pineal gland since 3/09/2011, ” no
hydrocephalus, and a “Chiari I malformation.”
(Id.). Continued follow up on the cyst was
recommended. (R. 269). On July 21, 2011, these results were
discussed with Plaintiff during her visit to Dr. Harsh. (R.
273). Plaintiff was instructed to have a follow up MRI in one
year and to be evaluated by a neurologist. (Id.).
14, 2012, Plaintiff again repeated the MRI. (R. 270). No
change in the pineal cyst was noted. (Id.). The
Chiari I malformation was again noted. (Id.). On
June 28, 2012, the results from the MRI were discussed with
Plaintiff during her office visit with Dr. Harsh. (R. 275).
She reported some stable headaches and some syncopal
episodes. (Id.). She was instructed to have another
MRI in 18 months and to follow up with another doctor
regarding the syncopal episodes. (Id.).
was referred to Dr. Thomas B. Traylor at Rheumatology
Associates, P.C. for “recent detected acute phase
reactants.” (R. 291). At the July 25, 2012 visit,
Plaintiff reported: modest obesity unresponsive to diet
restrictions, bilateral foot deformity with chronic
persistent foot pain, fibromyalgia, impaired grip, lateral
hip pain and left knee painful swelling, neck pain with
headaches, and chronic relapsing back pain. (Id.).
X-rays from the visit revealed mild to moderate
weight-related dependent osteoarthritis with mild cervical
disc disease, mild lumbar disc disease, and mild
thoracolumbar scoliosis. (R. 294). Plaintiff was to start a
“graduated program of Physical Rehabilitation
Therapy” to “include the use of an assistive
device for weight bearing, bracing, orthotics etc. as
appropriate” and to follow up in three to four weeks.
(Id.). Plaintiff continued to visit Dr. Traylor
throughout 2012 and 2013, with notes indicating mild limited
mobility in the neck and back, painful knee mobility, and
axial painful mobility. (R. 277-78, 281). Plaintiff continued
with Physical Rehabilitation Therapy. (R. 368-81).
underwent a gastric band procedure in July 2013. (R. 106-07,
277, 292, 294).
August 6, 2014 Plaintiff, had a consultative exam with Dr.
Samia S. Moizuddin at Walker Rural Health services. (R. 314).
Dr. Moizuddin noted that Plaintiff was applying for
disability due to chronic body pain and depression/anxiety.
(Id.). She found Plaintiff to be in no acute
distress but did find waddling due to body habitus with no
assistive device. (Id.). Plaintiff denied difficulty
walking and exhibited full muscle strength in all groups,
normal muscle tone, and intact sensations. (Id.).
Dr. Moizuddin diagnosed Plaintiff with morbid obesity,
chronic pain syndrome, GERD, obstructive sleep apnea,
headache, depression, and anxiety. (Id.).
August 14, 2014, Plaintiff underwent a consultative
examination by Dr. Charles E. Houston. (R. 320-22). Dr.
Houston diagnosed Plaintiff with generalized anxiety
disorder, depressive disorder, some narcissistic tendencies,
and multiple physical problems. (R. 321). He noted that
Plaintiff “has difficulty with her gait sometimes due
to foot problems” and “doesn't like to
drive.” (R. 321). Dr. Houston concluded that
“[h]er ability to meet the demands of competitive
employment is affected by her psychiatric problems, and
possibly by her physical condition.” (R. 322).
reports from May 2015 revealed mild multilevel degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine. (R. 325). Plaintiff visited
Dr. Ashish Shah at the Highlands Orthopedic Clinic on July
22, 2015 complaining of “pain over the right bunion,
” bilateral feet pain, and instability, but also
reporting independence with all activities of daily living.
(R. 358, 361). Two months later Plaintiff followed-up with
Dr. Shah, now reporting that she was “essentially
unable to work due to the pain and instability in her feet.
She has been in ASO braces that she reports have no[t] helped
foot pain and has even created some forefoot pains.”
(R. 352). Dr. Shah diagnosed Plaintiff with pes planus foot
deformity and discussed surgery ...