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Jacobi v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

April 10, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Jennifer Gayle Jacobi and Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“the Commissioner.”) [Record Nos. 1');">10, 1');">12] Jacobi argues that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) assigned to her case erred in concluding that she was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (“Act”). Specifically, she asserts that the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinion evidence and to fully consider all impairments in determining her residual functional capacity (“RFC”). Jacobi requests an award of benefits or, alternatively, that this matter be remanded for further administrative proceedings. The Commissioner contends the ALJ properly evaluated the evidence of record and that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed. She further contends that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence.

         For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion will be granted and the administrative decision will be affirmed. The relief sought by Jacobi will be denied.

         I. Procedural History

         On March 25, 201');">13, Jacobi filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits, (“DIB”), alleging an onset of disability of April 22, 201');">11');">1.[1');">1" name="FN1');">1" id= "FN1');">1">1');">1][Administrative Transcript; hereafter, “Tr.” 21');">10] After being denied initially and on reconsideration, Jacobi requested an administrative hearing. [Tr. 1');">108, 1');">11');">17, 1');">125] On February 20, 201');">15, Jacobi appeared before ALJ Don Paris in Lexington, Kentucky. [Tr. 7-45] ALJ Paris denied benefits in a written decision on March 1');">17, 201');">15, which the Appeals Council affirmed. [Tr. 62-72, 1');">1] The claimant has exhausted her administrative remedies and this matter is ripe for review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. Background

         Jacobi was fifty-three years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. She was married and had two adult daughters, one of whom lived at home. [Tr. 1');">12] Jacobi has a high school education and took one year of vocational training in graphic art. [Tr. 1');">13] She worked most recently in 2008 as a receptionist for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. [Tr. 353] She also worked for nine years as a teacher's aide in a public elementary school, and for six years as a self-employed day care operator. [Tr. 1');">14-1');">16, 353]

         Jacobi reported being five feet, five inches tall and weighing two hundred and ten pounds. [Tr. 1');">12] She stated that she developed right shoulder pain during her teenage years and underwent surgery in 1');">1992. This surgery relieved the pain for a brief time. [Tr. 1');">16-1');">17] Jacobi advised the ALJ that she now has pain in both shoulders. Id. She also reported suffering from pain in her hands, hips, and feet, which began in the mid-1');">1990s. [Tr. 1');">18] Physical therapy and chiropractic treatment were reported to have worsened the pain. [Tr. 1');">19] Jacobi stated that she awoke frequently every night due to pain, as well as her need for a new CPAP machine. [Tr. 21');">1] She also reported having suffered from migraine headaches her entire adult life. [Tr. 34] These headaches, which occurred once or twice per week and include visual disturbances and nausea, required her to sleep from two to ten hours. [Tr. 36-37] Jacobi stated that she lost two jobs because of missed time due to migraines. [Tr. 34]

         Jacobi testified that she could “mostly” bathe independently, but that she did not do so as frequently as she had in the past. [Tr. 23] She did some light cooking, but her husband often picked up fast-food on his way home from work. Id. Jacobi reported that household chores often went unfinished, but that she could load the dishwasher or do a single load of laundry, sometimes with assistance. [Tr. 23-24] She used to read and paint for pleasure, but she was no longer able to hold a book or a paintbrush. [Tr. 24, 33] Her only hobbies were watching television and using Facebook. [Tr. 24, 294]

         Jacobi reported being able to sit and stand for about fifteen minutes before changing positions. [Tr. 29-31');">1] She believed she could walk for about twenty minutes without stopping and that she could bend and stoop “once or twice.” [Tr. 31');">1] She had no mental health problems before she stopped working, but after she became unemployed and increasingly ill, Jacobi claims she became more depressed. [Tr. 27] She received counseling in Danville, Kentucky, which helped, but she did not feel good enough to get ready to go. [Tr. 25]

         The record contains treatment notes from Jacobi's primary care provider, Dr. Rick Angel. Dr. Angel noted in March 2008 that Jacobi complained of increased frequency of migraines and that she had tried multiple preventive medications, but without success. [Tr. 497] The claimant continued to complain of headaches with visual disturbances in February 2009. [Tr. 493] Dr. Angel remarked that a review of systems was otherwise negative and ordered an MRI of Jacobi's brain, which was normal. [Tr. 493, 502] Jacobi returned to Dr. Angel the following month, complaining of a “big flare up” of fibromyalgia. [Tr. 491');">1] Dr. Angel prescribed Lortab and vitamin B1');">12. The claimant was doing somewhat better by May 2009, but by June, she called Dr. Angel to report that her fibromyalgia was worse. [Tr. 489]

         Jacobi returned to Dr. Angel in September 201');">10 and was prescribed a new fibromyalgia medication. [Tr. 485] It appears that her next visit with Dr. Angel was a little over a year later. At that time, Jacobi reported that she was “having a lot of trouble” with fibromyalgia and that she had not been able to work. [Tr. 480] It appears that, at some point during the previous year, Jacobi had discontinued the fibromyalgia medication prescribed in September 201');">10. Id. Dr. Angel prescribed a new medication for the condition and advised Jacobi to follow-up in four weeks. Id.

         In October 201');">12, the claimant returned to Dr. Angel, asking for a referral to a neurologist and a rheumatologist. [Tr. 478-79] Angel diagnosed Jacobi with polyarthralgia and recorded that she had nodules in her hands. [Tr. 478] Diagnostic imaging detected soft tissue density on the radial aspect of the right second DIP joint. [Tr. 498] A subsequent laboratory test was negative for rheumatoid arthritis factor. [Tr. 508] Jacobi had a final visit with Dr. Angel in May 201');">14, before he joined a different practice group. Dr. Angel prescribed pain medicine and commented that Jacobi was doing “reasonably well.” [Tr. 659]

         Dr. Kelly Cole is the claimant's treating rheumatologist. Dr. Cole saw Jacobi for the first time in August 201');">13. [Tr. 540] With respect to arthralgia, Dr. Cole remarked that Jacobi had no synovitis or abnormal lab results, but did have severe pain and stiffness. [Tr. 541');">1] She also noted decreased range of motion of the right shoulder, and heaviness and paresthesia throughout the extremities. [Tr. 541');">1] Cole referred Jacobi to other specialists, including a neurologist, and recommended a follow-up appointment in four months. Id.

         When the claimant returned to Dr. Cole in August 201');">14, Cole commented again regarding Jacobi's joint pain and stiffness. [Tr. 630] Specifically, Cole reported that Jacobi had left knee pain, that she experienced catching, and could not straighten it completely. Id. However, the symptoms improved with a Medrol dose pack and Jacobi refused an injection. Accordingly, an orthopedic evaluation was deferred at that time. Id. An x-ray ...

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