United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Melissa Gay Wood (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”) seeking review of the decision by the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”) denying her application for
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 an application for DIB on June 11, 2015, alleging a
disability onset date of November 10, 2014 due to heart
attacks, mitral valve prolapse, underactive thyroid,
depression, acid reflux, high blood pressure, and arthritis
in her hands and wrists. (R. 111, 175-76, 192).
Plaintiff's application was initially denied on August
20, 2015. (R. 113-15). Plaintiff requested and received a
hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Paul W. Johnson. (R. 120-21, 138-43, 163). On December 13,
2016, the claimant appeared in Anniston, Alabama while the
ALJ presided over the video hearing from Montgomery, Alabama.
(R. 11). In his decision dated March 30, 2017, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act from
the alleged onset date through the date of decision. (R. 18).
On February 6, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 1-6). Because the
denial of review by the Appeals Council constitutes the final
act of the Commissioner, the case is now ripe for this
was born on August 11, 1959 and was 55 years old on the date
of alleged disability onset. (R. 98, 188). She is a high
school graduate and studied clerical key punch at a business
college. (R. 85, 102, 110, 193). On November 10, 2014,
Plaintiff left her most recent work at Honda due to her
alleged disability. (R. 192).
January 23, 2009, Plaintiff complained to her primary care
physician, Dr. William Perry, that she was experiencing
numbness in the left hand, which Dr. Perry identified as
“[m]ost likely carpal tunnel. If it does not get better
in a month wearing a split will do nerve conduction.”
(R. 324). On September 29, 2009, Plaintiff complained to Dr.
Perry about numbness in her hands, toes, and leg, as well as
overall fatigue. (R. 328). At that visit, Dr. Perry gave her
a vitamin B12 shot and suctioned a ganglion cyst on her
ankle. (R. 328). Plaintiff received vitamin B12 shots for
fatigue on eight other occasions between her September 2009
visit and February 12, 2015. (R. 350). At a September 27,
2010 visit, Dr. Perry wrote, “Still having the fatigue.
She does mention snoring, probably need to test her for sleep
apnea…Still on the Effexor and the Nexium, refills
given.” (R. 323). Plaintiff again complained to Dr.
Perry about fatigue at a March 28, 2011 visit. (R. 323). At a
check-up on September 19, 2011, Dr. Perry recorded that
Plaintiff was having “sharp left upper chest pains,
strong family history. Usually not exertional. She lifts a
lot at work.” (R. 323).
October 1, 2012, Dr. Perry performed
arthrocentesis on the Plaintiff's shoulder, hip, and
knee. (R. 350). He also gave Plaintiff an injection at the
base of that joint, in response to her complaints of thumb
pain. (R. 322). At a visit on October 12, 2012, Dr. Perry
recorded that Plaintiff had a “[l]ong history of carpal
tunnel left wrist with numbness in fingers” and treated
her with another shot at the base of the thumb.
(Id.). On June 17, 2013, Dr. Perry noted that
Plaintiff “still has some fatigue ever[y] morning when
she wakes up. There is a questionable history [of] sleep
apnea but never had the test. I would recommend getting
alleges a disability onset date of November 10, 2014 (the
date she stopped working at Honda), but the record does not
indicate any particular medical incident that occurred on
that date. (R. 111, 175-76, 192).
January 30, 2015, Dr. Glenn L. Wilson of Gadsden Orthopaedics
Associates, PC x-rayed Plaintiff's wrist in response to
her complaints of wrist pain. (R. 278). The x-ray showed
“mild [degenerative joint disease] of the cmc joint.
No. other deformity.” (Id.)
February 28, 2015, Plaintiff reported excruciating chest pain
that was radiating to her back and left arm. (R. 301, 303).
She went to the emergency room at Gadsden Regional Medical
Center and was referred to the cardiology department, where
she was diagnosed as having a myocardial infarction (heart
attack). (R. 301). A stent was inserted into her heart on
March 2, 2015. (R. 285, 292-97, 301). Plaintiff was released
from the hospital on March 3, 2015. (R. 301-02). On April 6,
2015, at the Plaintiff's post-stent follow-up
appointment, Dr. G. Bruce Head III at Southern Cardiovascular
Associates reported: “The patient's cardiovascular
status is quite stable without recurrent angina or evidence
of left ventricle dysfunction.” (R. 315). Dr. Head
noted that since discharge she had done “extremely
well” and that there has been “no recurrence of
any type of chest pain.” (R. 314).
request of the Social Security Administration, on July 24,
2015, Dr. Celtin Robertson of MDSI Physician Group, Inc.
provided a functional assessment of Plaintiff's
condition. The assessment found that Plaintiff had
“[n]o limitations on maximum standing/walking or
sitting. No. assistive device. No. limitations on maximum
lifting/carrying, postural activities, or manipulative
activities. No. limitation on workplace environmental
activities.” (R. 99, 358-63). Dr. Robertson also
reported that Plaintiff's motor strength was “5/5
in both upper and lower extremity muscle groups including
bilateral grip strength.” (R. 362). He reported that
Plaintiff is able to “grip and hold objects securely to
the palm by the last three digits…and to grasp and
manipulate both large and small objects with the first three
digits.” (R. 362).
September 1, 2015, Plaintiff visited Gadsden Orthopaedics
Associates, PC, complaining of worsening pain in the joint of
her left hand. (R. 369). Dr. Glenn L. Wilson treated
Plaintiff's hand with arthrocentesis and an injection,
after identifying carpal tunnel syndrome and degenerative
joint disease. (R. 369-70). Follow-up testing and imaging was
performed on September 4, 2015 and confirmed the diagnosis of
mild bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. (R. 371-76). On
September 15, 2015, Dr. Wilson performed electromyogram and
nerve conduction velocity (EMG/NCV) tests on Plaintiff, again
confirming mild bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. (R. 368).
Dr. Wilson noted on this date that Plaintiff's thumb is
“better after injection.” (Id.) On
September 15, 2015 and again on February 16, 2016, Dr. Wilson
treated Plaintiff's left hand with arthrocentesis and an
injection to treat her arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
visited Southern Cardiovascular Associates, PC on January 29,
2016, complaining of blood pressure issues, dull chest pain,
shortness of breath, numbness of left leg, and headaches. (R.
386). The attending provider, Jennifer J. Crowder, CRNP,
performed a Holter Monitor test on Plaintiff to measure her
heart activity over 48 hours. (R. 389). On February 18, 2016,
Plaintiff again saw Dr. Head at Southern Cardiovascular
Associates, PC to review her Holter monitor test results. (R.
378-83). Dr. Head explained that her Holter test results
suggested a benign non-sustained arrhythmia, with no
treatment necessary. (R. 382).
addition to her regular check-ups (R. 392-406), Plaintiff saw
Dr. William B. Perry, her primary care provider, on February
12, 2016 to inquire about having carpal tunnel surgery
because of pain in her left wrist. (R. 394). She also had a
wrist joint aspirated again. (R. 394).
was admitted to Gadsden Regional Medical Center again on
August 26, 2016 for nausea, heart palpitations, weakness, and
intermittent chest pain. (R. 408-27). The attending
physician, Dr. Sunil J. Jaiswal, referred her to Dr. Head.
(R. 412), who referred her for an outpatient cardiovascular
stress test with nuclear imaging, stating that he did not see
evidence of ischemic syndrome and that her bradycardia was
related to her blocker therapy. (R. 410). She was discharged
from the hospital on August 27, 2016. (R. 412-13). A
cardiovascular stress test performed on September 12, 2016
revealed normal left ventricular function and no evidence of
recurrent myocardial ischemia. (R. 429). Left ventricular
ejection fraction was 60%. (Id.). Reviewing this
stress test on October 6, 2016, Dr. Head explained to
Plaintiff that the test did not indicate any recurrent
obstruction in the coronary arteries and discussed management
of her low heart rate. (R. 433).
documents submitted to the Social Security Administration,
Plaintiff described her daily activities as cooking,
cleaning, shopping, sewing, and caring for pets. (R. 209-16,
221-23). Plaintiff's mother-in-law reported that
Plaintiff shops, cleans house, ...