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Gobis v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

June 7, 2016

Fawn Mia Gobis
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration

         Opinion No. 2016 DNH 097

          Judith E. Gola, Esq.

          Robert J. Rabuck, Esq. T. David Plourde, Esq.



         Fawn Mia Gobis seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, denying her applications for social security disability benefits and supplemental security income. Gobis contends that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in assessing her residual functional capacity and in finding that she could do her past relevant work. The Acting Commissioner moves to affirm.

         Standard of Review In reviewing the final decision of the Acting Commissioner in a social security case, the court "is limited to determining whether the ALJ deployed the proper legal standards and found facts upon the proper quantum of evidence." Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999); accord Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2001). The court defers to the ALJ’s factual findings as long as they are supported by substantial evidence. § 405(g). "Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Astralis Condo. Ass’n v. Sec’y Dep’t of Housing & Urban Dev., 620 F.3d 62, 66 (1st Cir. 2010).


         Gobis applied for social security disability benefits and supplemental security income in April and June of 2012 when she was forty-seven years old. She initially alleged an onset date of May 15, 2007, but later amended the date to April 17, 2008, based on impairments due to fibromyalgia, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, and thyroid disease. Gobis graduated from high school, has training in real estate, and worked as a real estate agent.

         Jennifer Jones, D.O. treated Gobis for complaints of body aches and trouble sleeping during 2008. Gobis was referred to Dr. Margarita Ochoa-Maya for an endocrinology consultation in June of 2008. Dr. Ochoa-Maya found hypothyroidism and low metabolism with insulin resistance. Gobis was taking Percocet for pain due to fibromyalgia.

         In January of 2009, Gobis was examined for a rheumatology consultation. The physician’s assistant who did the examination found symptoms consistent with fibromyalgia. She urged Gobis to exercise and to lose weight.

         In November of 2009, Gobis reported difficulty with depression and stress and was given samples of new medication. Gobis was seen in May of 2010 for an exacerbation of fibromyalgia. A rheumatology consultation in August of 2010 confirmed the fibromyalgia diagnosis.

         Gobis was treated for pain in her feet in early 2011. After falling through a grate in May of 2011, Gobis was treated at the emergency room for acute cervical strain and exacerbation of fibromyalgia. X-rays showed moderate to severe arthritis in her cervical and lumbar spine. Gobis continued to be treated by Dr. Jones and a physician’s assistant over the next year.

         On June 20, 2012, Gobis had a rheumatology examination with John Yost, D.O. She reported back pain for the past five years. Gobis said that she worked in real estate and lived with her three children, including her nine year old daughter who had cerebral palsy. Dr. Yost diagnosed chronic back pain due to a degenerative disc and facet osteoarthritis and noted that the underlying fibromyalgia was not the major cause of Gobis’s symptoms. Dr. Rowland Hazard confirmed degenerative disc changes in September of 2012, but he concluded that Gobis was not a candidate for surgery, and gave her a steroid injection.

         A state agency medical consultant, Dr. Hugh Fairley, completed a physical functional capacity assessment in September of 2012 based on a review of Gobis’s medical records. Dr. Fairley found that Gobis had severe impairments due to obesity and degenerative disc disease but did not find that fibromyalgia was a severe impairment. He assessed Gobis’s physical capacity to allow her to do full time sedentary work with some postural and environmental limitations.

         Based on a psychological consultative examination in October of 2012, Juliana Read, Ph.D. found that Gobis had only slight impairments and was mentally able to make simple decisions, interact appropriately with supervisors, and tolerate a work setting. Also in October of 2012, a state agency consultant, Laura Landerman, Ph.D. concluded that Gobis’s anxiety and affective disorders were not severe impairments.

         From the fall of 2012 through the fall of 2013, Gobis reported to her medical providers that she had some neck and back pain but was walking or doing other exercise at least several times each week. Her examinations produced mostly normal results, including full range of motion. Psychological examinations resulted in diagnoses of anxiety disorder, ...

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