United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
SHERRY L. HELTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY C. BERRYHILL, Acting COMMISSIONER OF Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge
Sherry Helton brings this matter under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of an administrative decision
of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. The Court,
having reviewed the record and the cross-motions for summary
judgment filed by the parties, will AFFIRM
the Commissioner's decision as no legal error occurred
and the decision is supported by substantial evidence.
Standard for Determining Disability
the Social Security Act, a disability is defined as
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). In determining disability, an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses a five-step analysis.
See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336
F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). Step One considers whether the
claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity;
Step Two, whether any of the claimant's impairments are
“severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments
meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step
Four, whether the claimant can still perform past relevant
work; and, if necessary, Step Five, whether significant
numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the
claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of
proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner.
Id.; see also Preslar v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
Procedural and Factual History
filed for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and
supplemental security income benefits (SSI) on August 4,
2014, alleging disability as of July 3, 2014. [TR 286-94].
Helton alleged disability due to having her left kidney
removed, recurring kidney stones, recurring kidney
infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and high blood
pressure. [TR 306].
medical records indicate that she has suffered from
headaches. For instance, on October 22, 2014, Halton
was treated by a physician assistant, Lora Conley, for
headaches. [TR 588]. Helton's medical records report
symptoms of a left parietal headache, facial pain, throbbing,
and blurred vision in the left eye. [TR 581, 588]. Initially,
Helton was given a Toradol (ketorolac tromethamine) injection
to treat her headache. [TR 589]. At a follow-up appointment
on November 11, 2014, Helton reported that the injection had
helped temporarily but that the headaches had returned. [TR
581]. Additionally, Helton reported that she had suffered
from intermittent headaches for fives years but that she had
suffered from daily headaches for one week that had increased
in intensity. [Id.]. Helton's treatment with
Conley also indicate a history of diabetes. [TR 564, 581].
treatment records indicate that Helton was treated for
headaches and symptoms associated with sinusitis. [See,
e.g., TR 568-79]. On April 14, 2015, Helton was treated
for headaches by Dr. Duane Densler at the Pikeville Medical
Center. [TR 614-17]. Dr. Densler found no evidence of
cerebellar ectopia and possible carotid siphon aneurysm. [TR
616]. Dr. Densler recommended an evaluation at the University
of Kentucky or a similar medical facility so that a
catheter-based angiography could be performed.
[Id.]. Still, Dr. Densler reported that Helton's
orientation, memory, cranial nerves, balance, coordination,
and fine motor skills were all normal. [Id.].
MRIs were conducted, finding a right carotid aneurysm and a
neurovascular radiology consult was recommended. [Tr 620].
Additionally, medical records submitted by Dr. Mark Caruso,
Helton's primary care physician, indicate a treatment
history for headaches and diabetes, among other medical
conditions. [TR 646-724].
November 7, 2016, Helton was treated by an endocrinologist,
Dr. Hazel Yang for type II diabetes. [TR 747-58]. Dr.
Yang's treatment notes indicate that Helton had suffered
from diabetes for about two years and that symptoms of
excessive thirst (polydipsia), excessive urination
(polyuria), and excess glucose in the blood stream
(hyperglycemia) were worsening. [TR 747].
Helton was treated by the UK Healthcare Neuroscience
Institute for a right periophthalmic aneurysm. [TR 771-85].
Treatment records from a January 29, 2016, appointment
explain that while Helton had “some subjective numbness
over her distal upper and lower extremities, ” Helton
had no cranial nerve deficits and good strength throughout.
applications for benefits were denied initially on November
12, 2014. [TR 215-18]. Helton's applications were also
denied on reconsideration on February 27, 2015. [TR 223-36].
Subsequently, Helton appeared at an administrative hearing in
front of ALJ L. Raquel Bailey Smith. [TR 146-74]. Helton was
represented by an attorney at the hearing.
hearing, Helton reported that she stopped working due to a
medical condition involving her kidney, which required
surgery. [TR 154]. Helton also reported issues with
uncontrolled diabetes and explained that she took
prescription medications Trulicity and Humalog Mix 50-50. [TR
154-55]. Furthermore, Helton testified that she was unable to
work due to numbness in her hands and pain in her legs caused
by her diabetes. [TR 160]. The ALJ asked Helton,
“[o]ther than [diabetes], do you believe anything else
keeps you from working?” [TR 160]. Helton replied,
Helton testified that she suffers from tension headaches that
cause nausea. [TR 169]. Helton explained that she experienced
one tension headache per week lasting approximately two hours
but that she did not take any medication for her headaches.
vocational expert also testified at the hearing. The
vocational expert explained that Helton had worked as a taxi
driver. [Tr 171]. The ALJ posed hypotheticals to the
vocational expert. [TR 171-73].
issued an unfavorable decision on March 15, 2017. [TR
99-111]. The ALJ found that Helton suffered from the
following severe impairments: mild osteoarthritis of the left
hip, mild degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,
obesity, and diabetes mellitus. [TR 101]. The ALJ found that
Helton's periophthalmic aneurysm was not a severe
impairment. [TR 101].
four, the ALJ discussed Helton's diabetes and associated
symptoms. [See TR 104-05]. Additionally, the ALJ
discussed Helton's previous treatments for headaches and
diabetes while reviewing the medical evidence. [TR 104-09].
Ultimately, the ALJ found that the objective medical evidence
did not support Helton's assessment of the severity of
her symptoms. [TR 108].
the ALJ found that Helton had the residual function capacity
to perform light work and found that Helton could not perform
past relevant work but that there were jobs that exited in
significant numbers in the national economy that Helton could
perform. [TR 104-10]. As a result, the ALJ found ...