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King v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

August 23, 2016

Robin L. King
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner Opinion No. 2016 DNH 149


          Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge

         Robin L. King 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 application for social security disability benefits. King contends that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in failing to find that she had additional severe impairments, in finding that she did not meet Listing 1.04, and in evaluating the credibility of her subjective complaints. 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).


         Robin King applied for social security disability benefits because of meralgia paresthetica, leg numbness, and lower back problems in October of 2012 when she was forty-six years old. She had previously worked as a housekeeper, machine operator, order picker, and temporary laborer.

         The medical evidence in the administrative record begins in September of 2011 when King saw Dr. West because of right knee pain. Despite tenderness in her knee, she had a full range of motion and her neurological exam was “non-focal” or normal. Dr. West diagnosed tendonitis, obesity, hypertension, and depression. An x-ray of her knee in March of 2012 showed osteoarthritic changes.

         In October of 2012, King had a lumbar spine MRI that showed lumbar spine degenerative disc and facet disease. The x-ray also showed moderate narrowing of the spinal canal at ¶ 3/L4 and moderate right foraminal narrowing. At an appointment in November of 2012, the nurse found that King’s lumbar spinal area was tender, her leg reflexes were diminished, but her straight leg test was normal. By December, the nurse found that with medication King had no acute distress despite back and thigh tenderness.

         In an evaluation at the Pain Clinic in January of 2013, Dr. Ferns noted King’s diagnosis of lumbar spine degenerative disc and facet disease, that King had stopped working due to pain, that her strength was normal, her muscular range of motion was normal, her gait was normal, and she could walk heel to toe. Dr. Ferns administered a nerve block for her thigh pain. The next week King reported that the pain was interfering with her ability to walk and do things at home but her examination was normal except for lumbar tenderness. King had another nerve block in February of 2013 but had no relief from pain. Health care providers reported during King’s appointments over the next six months that she was experiencing symptoms of ankle swelling due to obesity.

         Dr. Hugh Fairley, a state agency consultative physician, reviewed King’s medical records of physical impairments. Dr. Fairley found that King retained the ability to lift and carry ten pounds, walk and stand for two hours in an eight-hour day, sit for six hours with alternating between sitting and standing, occasionally do postural activities, and could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds.

         A hearing before an ALJ was held on King’s application on October 6, 2014. King was represented by an attorney and testified at the hearing. King provided her educational background and her prior work experience. She described her daily activities and said that she could not work because of arthritis in her back. A vocational expert testified that there were jobs in the relevant economies that King could do.

         The ALJ issued a decision on December 8, 2014. The ALJ found that King had severe impairments due to bilateral meralgia paresthetica and obesity but that King’s degenerative disc and facet disease and right knee condition did not cause severe impairment. He also found that King’s impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment and considered Listing 11.14. The ALJ concluded that King had the residual functional capacity to do light work under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), without climbing ladders, scaffolds, and ropes, and could do postural activities occasionally. With that evaluation, the ALJ found that King could do her past work as a housekeeper and could also do other jobs, such as fast food worker, cashier, and price marker.

         The Appeals Council denied King’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the Acting ...

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