Katrinak v. Astrue
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER entered...Upon consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED and that this action be DISMISSED, as further set out in order. Signed by Magistrate Judge Bert W. Milling, Jr on 12/6/2013. (clr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Social Security Commissioner,
CIVIL ACTION 13-0076-M
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3),
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of an adverse social security
ruling which denied claims for disability insurance benefits and
Supplemental Security Income (hereinafter SSI) (Docs. 1, 13).
The parties filed written consent and this action has been
referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge to conduct all
proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with
28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 (see Doc. 22).
argument was waived in this action (Doc. 23).
consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of
the parties, it is ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner
be AFFIRMED and that this action be DISMISSED.
This Court is not free to reweigh the evidence or
substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary of Health and
Human Services, Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th
Cir. 1983), which must be supported by substantial evidence.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
substantial evidence test requires “that the decision under
review be supported by evidence sufficient to justify a
reasoning mind in accepting it; it is more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance.”
Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 918
(11th Cir. 1984), quoting Jones v. Schweiker, 551 F.Supp. 205 (D.
At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was
forty years old, had completed a ninth-grade education (Tr.
434), and had previous work experience as a cashier and
inventory clerk (Tr. 434, 436).
In claiming benefits, Plaintiff
alleges disability due to bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome,
diabetes mellitus, hypertension, diabetic peripheral neuropathy,
osteoarthritis, obesity, major depressive disorder, and
borderline personality disorder (Doc. 13 Fact Sheet).
The Plaintiff filed applications for disability benefits
and SSI on July 6, 2009 (Tr. 150-55; see also Tr. 16).
were denied following a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ) who determined that she was capable of performing her past
relevant work as an inventory clerk (Tr. 16-26).
requested review of the hearing decision (Tr. 11-12) by the
Appeals Council, but it was denied (Tr. 1-5).
Plaintiff claims that the opinion of the ALJ is not
supported by substantial evidence.
(1) The ALJ did not properly consider the
opinions and conclusions of her treating physician; and (2) the
ALJ improperly discounted her testimony (Doc. 13).
has responded to—and denies—these claims (Doc. 18).
Plaintiff's first claim is that the ALJ did not accord
proper legal weight to the opinions, diagnoses and medical
evidence of Plaintiff's treating physician.
specifically references the conclusions of Dr. Helen Daniel
(Doc. 13, pp. 3-5).
It should be noted that "although the
opinion of an examining physician is generally entitled to more
weight than the opinion of a non-examining physician, the ALJ is
free to reject the opinion of any physician when the evidence
supports a contrary conclusion."
Oldham v. Schweiker, 660 F.2d
1078, 1084 (5th Cir. 1981);1 see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527
The medical evidence from Dr. Daniel follows.
Records from the Franklin Primary Health Center begin on
November 17, 2008 at which time Plaintiff complained of nausea;
she stated that she had not taken any blood pressure medications
in over a year (Tr. 238-39; see generally Tr. 234-39).
1The Eleventh Circuit, in the en banc decision Bonner v.
City of Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir. 1981), adopted
as precedent decisions of the former Fifth Circuit rendered prior
to October 1, 1981.
Katrinak’s pain was rated as zero.
Daniel’s diagnoses included
uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disease, obesity,
noncompliance, and depression/anxiety.
On December 24, 2008,
Plaintiff complained of a headache and body pain.
noted neuropathy and prescribed Elavil2 (Tr. 236-37).
next exam, on July 21, 2009, Plaintiff complained of right knee
and left shoulder pain from a recent fall; both were tender and
Katrinak walked with crutches (Tr. 234-35).
hypertension were both characterized as uncontrolled; Plaintiff
was noted to be noncompliant with her treatment.
On February 18, 2010, Katrinak complained of burning and
tingling in both feet and both hands; pain was rated as nine on
a ten-point scale (Tr. 380).
On May 10, Plaintiff was
experiencing pain in her legs; she had been out of her
medications for two months and her diabetes and hypertension
were both noted to be uncontrolled (Tr. 378-79).
later, Katrinak was noted to be in no pain, but did have
suicidal ideation; she was cleared to have a dental procedure
On January 18, 2011, Plaintiff complained of
right knee pain at a level of ten; Dr. Daniel noted that she was
noncompliant with her treatment, including her diet (Tr. 37172).
Her diagnoses were uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension,
Only.Amitriptyline, marketed as Elavil, is
used to treat the symptoms of depression.
Reference 3163 (52nd ed. 1998).
On that same date, January 18, 2011, Dr. Daniel expressed
the opinion that Plaintiff was unable to work because of
depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, diabetes, and
hypertension (Tr. 298).
Daniel stated that this was a permanent
condition from which she had been suffering for a number of
On February 10, Katrinak complained of pain in her right
knee and foot (Tr. 373-74).
Neuropathy was added to her
On April 25, 2011, Dr. Daniel completed a form in which she
indicated that she had treated Plaintiff for three years for
diabetes, hypertension, diabetic neuropathy, and osteoarthritis,
causing her to suffer burning and tingling in her feet and hands
as well as right knee pain (Tr. 381).
The doctor further stated
that physical activity would greatly increase Katrinak’s
symptoms and would either distract her or cause her to totally
abandon what she was doing; Plaintiff was treated with oral
medications, but would benefit from physiotherapy.
stated that Plaintiff would be unable to “engage in any form of
gainful employment on a repetitive, competitive and productive
basis over an eight hour work day, forty hours a week, without
missing more than 2 days of work per month or experiencing
frequent interruptions to her work routine” (Tr. 381).
doctor said that she would be unable to work because of her
pain, mental state, and social interaction skills.
In his determination, the ALJ summarized the evidence of
record and then stated the following regarding Dr. Daniel’s
The undersigned gives no weight to the
opinion of Dr. Daniel dated January 2011
(Exhibit B10F) that the claimant is unable
to work. Dr. Daniel’s opinion is
conclusory, providing no explanation at all
for her opinion other than a list of the
claimant’s medical conditions. Moreover,
although Dr. Daniel opined that the claimant
is unable to work due to, among other
conditions, schizophrenia, neither Dr.
Daniel, nor the claimant’s treating mental
health physician, diagnosed the claimant
with schizophrenia for the duration period
(See Exhibit B9F). The undersigned has also
considered the opinion of Dr. Daniel
(Exhibit B16F) dated April 2011 that
physical activity will greatly increase the
claimant’s symptoms and cause distraction
from task or total abandonment of task and
that the claimant is unable to work due to
pain, but gives it less weight than the
opinions of Drs. Elmore and Davis. Dr.
Daniel’s opinion is inconsistent with
treatment notes, which show only occasional
complaints of pain. Additionally, the
reliability of Dr. Daniel’s opinions is
undermined by the fact that she listed
schizophrenia, but not osteoarthritis, as a
cause of the claimant’s disability in her
first opinion dated January 2011 and listed
osteoarthritis, but not schizophrenia, as a
cause of the claimant’s disability in her
April 2011 opinion.
The Court finds substantial support for the ALJ’s decision
regarding Dr. Daniel’s conclusions.
No other doctor finds
Katrinak disabled or suggests limitations approaching a total
inability to work.
Furthermore, as noted by the ALJ, Daniel’s
own records do not support her conclusions.
otherwise is without merit.
Katrinak also claims that the ALJ improperly discounted her
Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ did not explain his
reasoning (Doc. 13, pp. 2-3).
The Court notes that the ALJ is
required to "state specifically the weight accorded to each item
of evidence and why he reached that decision."
Schweiker, 662 F.2d 731, 735 (11th Cir. 1981).
In his determination, the ALJ found that Katrinak’s
“medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected
to cause some symptoms; however, the claimant’s statements
concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of
these symptoms [were] not credible” (Tr. 21).
In explaining his
decision, the ALJ noted that the results from the Minnesota
Multiphasic Personality Inventory, administered by Psychologist
Davis, suggested that she “was not reading the items, was so
disoriented that she was not aware of the situation (which
seemed unlikely), or that the claimant was trying to emphasize
her physical problems to draw attention to herself for treatment
purposes or for the benefit of accessing secondary gains” (Tr.
The ALJ further noted that Dr. Elmore’s objective findings
did not support her claims of “pain, including burning and
tingling in the hands and feet due to diabetic neuropathy, and
right knee pain due to osteoarthritis” (Tr. 22).
with regard to Katrinak’s complaints of pain, the ALJ noted that
her treating physician had recommended a conservative course of
treatment and that Plaintiff had sought no treatment for knee or
foot pain since March 2011 (Tr. 22).
The ALJ noted that, in
spite of her claims of having difficulties with her hands, there
was no evidence of persistent complaints related to carpal
tunnel syndrome or diabetic neuropathy (Tr. 23).
The ALJ noted
that Katrinak was regularly noncompliant with medications and
dietary restrictions, causing her diabetes and hypertension to
be uncontrolled (Tr. 23).
The ALJ noted that, in spite of
Plaintiff’s claims of depression and other mental difficulties,
she had a history of only sporadic treatment; additionally, what
records did exist did not support a finding of mental disability
The ALJ noted that Plaintiff’s abuse of drugs and
alcohol interfered with her medical regimen; additionally, the
ALJ noted Katrinak’s inconsistent testimony regarding her abuse
Finally, the determination pointed out that
although Plaintiff had asserted that she was unable to afford
medical treatment, there was no evidence that she had sought
help at low- or no-cost clinics while finding money to smoke and
drink alcohol (Tr. 24).
The Court finds that the ALJ has thoroughly explained his
reasoning in finding that Katrinak’s testimony regarding her
limitations was not credible.
That determination is supported
by the substantial evidence of record.
otherwise is without foundation.
Katrinak has raised two different claims in bringing this
Both are without merit.
Upon consideration of the
entire record, the Court finds "such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
Perales, 402 U.S. at 401.
Therefore, it is
ORDERED that the Secretary's decision be AFFIRMED, see
Fortenberry v. Harris, 612 F.2d 947, 950 (5th Cir. 1980), and
that this action be DISMISSED.
Judgment will be entered by
DONE this 6th day of December, 2013.
s/BERT W. MILLING, JR.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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