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Williams v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

April 10, 2017

MARVIN G. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1], Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DANNY C. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is pending for consideration of cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Marvin G. Williams [Record No. 12] and Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”) [Record No. 15]. The Commissioner's motion will be granted and the relief that Williams seeks will be denied for the reasons that follow.

         I.

         Williams filed applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) in June 2013, alleged a disability onset date of February 6, 2013. [Tr. 242] The applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. [Tr. 172, 179] Williams requested an administrative hearing, which was held on January 29, 2015, before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Roger Lott. [Tr. 70-118, 194] ALJ Lott determined that Williams had not been disabled from the alleged onset date through the date of his decision, May 15, 2015. [Tr. 65] The Appeals Council denied review. [Tr. 1] Williams has exhausted his administrative remedies and this case is ripe for review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

         Williams was 47 years old on the alleged onset date of disability. [Tr. 242] He has a tenth-grade education a prior work experience as a water treatment worker, sewage disposal worker, maintenance worker, milling machine operator, janitor, supervisor, forklift operator, and lumber handler. [Tr. 307, 113] Williams alleged that he became disabled due to hypertension, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”), and heart failure. [Tr. 306]

         Dr. Georges Damaa began treating Williams for complaints of chest and right arm pain in August 2012. [Tr. 356-371] Dr. Damaa diagnosed Williams during the August visit with ischemia. [Tr. 358] He again saw Williams in September 2012. Following a stress test, Dr Damma reported that Williams had nonobstructive coronary artery disease. [Tr. 364] Additionally, an x-ray showed no active cardiopulmonary process with signs of chronic bronchitis. [Tr. 519] Dr. Damaa reported that Williams's lungs were clear. [Tr. 363] In October 2012, Dr. Damaa advised Williams, a daily cigarette smoker, that he should refrain from smoking. [Tr. 365] Dr. Damaa also advised Williams that he was cleared to return to normal activity. [Id.]

         A pulmonary function study from January 2013 showed minimal obstructive lung defect and that Williams's lung volume was within the normal limits. [Tr. 420] Treatment notes from the Clover Fork Clinic in January and February 2013 indicate that Williams's lungs were clear without wheezes, rales, or rhonchi and that his breathing was not labored. [Tr. 450] He was assessed with bronchitis and benign hypertension. [Tr. 451, 456] The Clinic's physicians saw Williams in July and August 2013 and reported that Williams continued to smoke, that his COPD was stable, and that his lungs remained clear without wheezes, rales, rhonchi. [Tr. 458-65] Williams denied any side effects from his medication during this period. [Id.] Later reports indicate that Williams's COPD and hypertension were controlled. [Tr. 586, 595]

         Dr. Nagabhushanam Bollavaram treated Williams for shortness of breath associated with cough and wheezing in February 2014. [Tr. 514] Dr. Bollavaram noted good bilateral air entry with expiratory wheezing in all lung zones. [Tr. 516] Dr. Bollavaram advised Williams that his problems would worsen if he continued to smoke. [Tr. 518] Williams saw Dr. Bollavaram again in March and reported that his breathing symptoms had worsened. [Tr. 509] Dr. Bollavaram noted a pulmonary function study that showed moderate COPD and no hyperinflation, no restrictions, and normal diffusion. [Tr. 509-12] Dr. Bollavaram concluded that Williams did not qualify for home oxygen therapy. [Id.]

         Williams continued to obtain treatment from the Clover Fork Clinic from September 2014 through December 2014. [Tr. 555] Williams stated during his December 2014 visit that he was satisfied with his current treatment. [Id.] His BMI at this time was 38.69 kg/m2. [Id.] Treatment notes show mild expiratory wheezes throughout the lung fields, but the claimant had normal oxygen saturation. [Id.] Williams denied any side effects from his medication but continued to smoke daily. [Tr. 555, 556] Treatment notes indicated that Williams's lungs were clear. [Tr. 556] Williams was prescribed an albuterol inhaler, Imdur, Neurontin, aspirin, Cozaar, Paxil, simvastatin, Daliresp, Spiriva, Symbicort, hydroxyzine, and prednisone at this time. [Id.]

         State agency physician Dr. Delsadie Callins concluded that Williams had the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work in July 2013. [Tr. 127] Dr. Callins noted his heart disease, COPD, obesity, and degenerative disc disease, and applied various exertional limitations to reflect these conditions, such as limiting the amount of time that Williams could sit and stand or walk in an 8-hour work day, the weight that he could lift, and his ability to climb. [Tr. 124-25] However, Dr. Callins ultimately determined that Williams was not disabled. [Tr. 127]

         State agency physician Dr. Donna Sadler also concluded that Williams was not disabled in October 2013. [Tr. 149] She concluded that Williams's statements regarding the severity of his symptoms were only partially credible because they were not consistent with the objective evidence. [Id.] For example, Williams complained of worsening breathing problems but medical records showed that his lungs were clear and his breathing was not labored. [Id.] She affirmed Dr. Callins's RFC finding. [Tr. 153]

         Williams testified during the administrative hearing before the ALJ that he had chest pain approximately two or three times a week and that the chest pain was generally associated with exertion. [Tr. 89] He further stated that he has had increasing problems breathing that result in him “[g]etting out of breath and getting exhausted.” [Tr. 90] Williams testified that he is able to drive, takes care of his own personal needs, makes some of his own meals, performs some household chores, goes grocery shopping, and socializes with a friend occasionally. [Tr. 97-103]

         The vocational expert concluded that a hypothetical person of Williams's age and education level as described by the ALJ with various limitations on the ability to lift, move, and breathe in certain environments, could not perform any of Williams's past jobs. [Tr. 114] However, that there were jobs in the national economy that Williams could perform. [Id.]

         The ALJ found severe impairments of COPD, obesity, ischemic heart disease, and essential hypertension. [Tr. 55] However, Williams did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment. [Tr. 58] The ALJ concluded that Williams had the RFC to perform light work with limitations associated with lifting, ...


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