Chaple v. Astrue
ORDER denying 27 Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, granting 29 Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and adopting 35 Memorandum and Recommendations. Signed by Chief Judge James C. Dever III on 3/20/2012. (Sawyer, D.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
CINDY L. CHAPLE,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner of the Social Security
On February 16, 2012, Magistrate Judge Daniel issued a memorandum and recommendation
("M&R") [D.E. 35]. In the M&R, Judge Daniel recommended that the court deny Cindy L. Chaple's
("Chaple" or "plaintiff") motion for judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 27], and grant Michael J.
Astrue's ("Commissioner" or "defendant") motion for judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 29]. On
February 28,2012, plaintiff objected to the M&R. Pl.'s Obj. [D.E. 36]. On March 9, 2012, the
Commissioner responded in opposition to plaintiff's objections [D.E. 38].
"The Federal Magistrates Act requires a district court to make a de novo determination of
those portions ofthe [magistrate judge's] report or specified proposed findings or recommendations
to which objection is made." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F3d310, 315 (4th
Cir. 2005) (alteration in original) (emphasis and quotation omitted); see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Absent
a timely objection, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy
itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation."
Diamond, 416 F 3d at 315 (quotation omitted).
The court has reviewed the M&R, the record, and plaintiff's objections. As for those
portions ofthe M&R to which no party objected, the court is satisfied that there is no clear error on
the face of the record.
The court has reviewed de novo the portions ofthe M&R to which plaintiff objected. First,
plaintiff objects to Judge Daniel's detennination that the ALJ did not err by not considering
plaintiff's bacterial infection to be a severe impainnent. Pl.'s Obj. 1-2; see M&R 8-11. Judge
Daniel correctly stated that a diagnosis of a condition does not necessarily mean that the resulting
impainnent is severe. M&R 9; see Cobb-Leonard v. Astrue, No. 3:10-CV-449-MOC-DCK, 2011
WL 4498876, at ·5 (W.D.N.C. Sept. 8, 2011), memo & recommendation adopted Qy, 2011 WL
4498864 (W.D.N.C. Sept. 27, 2011). Although plaintiff was diagnosed with a bacterial infection
and testified that her condition caused pain, see Tr. 28-30, she did not present any evidence that the
infection was an impainnent, much less a severe impainnent.
See id. at 28-30, 256-59.
Accordingly, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiff's bacterial infection
was not a severe impainnent.
Second, plaintiff objects to Judge Daniel's determination that the ALJ did not err by not
considering plaintiff's learning disability to be a severe impainnent. Pl.'s Obj. 2-3; see M&R
11-13. In support ofplaintiff's argument that her learning disability is a severe impainnent, plaintiff
notes that she needs her husband to explain things, see Tr. 23-24, that she was in a special education
class while in school, see id. 23, and that a consultative examiner stated that she had "impaired"
judgment. See id. 337. However, the evidence also indicates that plaintiff was able to care for her
children, cook, drive a car, socialize with friends, pay bills, and handle money. See id. 206-13. In
addition, plaintiff graduated from high school, see id. 22, and Dr. Tovah Wax concluded that
plaintiff did not have a severe mental impainnent. See id. 349-63. Moreover, as Judge Daniel
noted, the record lacks evidence that plaintiff"had difficulty following simple instructions, dealing
with supervisors or co-workers, or responding to changes in a routine work setting." M&R 12.
Accordingly, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiffs learning disability
was not a severe impainnent.
Third, plaintiff objects to Judge Daniel's detennination that the ALJ did not err by not
considering Listing 11.14. PI.' s Obj. 3--4; see M&R 13-16. Plaintiff argues that there was evidence
showing that plaintiff met the requirements of Listing 11.14, and that the ALJ should have
specifically identified and discussed Listing 11.14 in his ruling. PI.' s Obj. 3--4. To satisfy Listing
11.14, plaintiff must have "[s]ignificant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two
extremities ...." 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 §§ 11.04B, 11.14. In support, plaintiff notes
a test that indicates that she had "severe subacute denervation" and an "absence ofthe right peroneal
F response," Tr. 412, her testimony about her difficulty walking, id. 26, 30, and Dr. Tin Le's ("Dr.
Le") statement that plaintiffs "[a]mbulation is unstable ...." Id.366. Dr. Le's report, however,
indicates that plaintiff is unstable only "for long distances," has normal motion in both feet, and has
no muscle atrophy in her lower extremities. See id. In addition, Dr. Helen Cannon testified that
plaintiff, despite having Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, did not meet a Listing. See id. 13, 33.
Accordingly, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiff did not meet the
requirements of Listing 11.14.
Moreover, although the ALJ should "identify the relevant listings and ... explicitly compare
the claimant's symptoms to the requirements[,] ... [m]eaningful review may be possible even absent
the explicit step-by-step analysis ... where the ALJ discusses in detail the evidence presented and
adequately explains his consideration thereof." Johnson v. Astrue, No. 5:08-CV-515-FL, 2009 WL
3648551, at *2 (B.D.N.C. Nov. 3,2009); see,~, Green v. Chater, No. 94-2049, 1995 WL 478032,
at·3 (4th Cir. Aug. 14, 1995) (per curiam) (unpublished); Russell v. Chater, 60 F.3d 824,1995 WL
417576, at ·3 (4th Cir. July 7, 1995) (per curiam) (unpublished table decision). Here, despite not
identifying Listing 11.14, the ALJ did evaluate the medical evidence and explain his consideration
ofplaintiff's walking ability. See Tr. 11-13. Accordingly, the ALJ adequately considered Listing
In sum, the court OVERRULES plaintiff's objections [D.E. 36] and adopts the M&R [D.E.
35]. The court GRANTS the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 29],
DENIES plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings [D.E. 27], and AFFIRMS the
Commissioner's final decision.
SO ORDERED. This.1.Q day of March 2012.
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