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Korfiatis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

March 8, 2019

Maria Korfiatis
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration

          Daniel A. Osborn, Esq. Roger B. Phillips, Esq. Luis A. Pere, Esq.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PAUL J. BARBADORO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Maria Korfiatis challenges the denial of her applications for supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). She contends that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) who considered her applications improperly evaluated her residual functional capacity and erred in finding that she could perform her past relevant work. The Acting Commissioner, in turn, moves for an order affirming the ALJ's decision. I grant Korfiatis's motion and remand the case to the agency because there is no indication in the record that the ALJ considered a medical source's opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Facts

         Korfiatis is a 35-year-old woman with two years of college education. She has previously worked as a station cleaner, a medical receptionist, and a security guard. Korfiatis has allegedly been disabled since July 11, 2013, due to a combination of rheumatoid arthritis, right wrist impairment, fibromyalgia, asthma, spinal impairment, obesity, and depression.

         Korfiatis's applications were initially denied in October 2014. On September 20, 2016, she testified via video at a hearing before ALJ Matthew Levin, who ultimately denied her applications. See Administrative Transcript (“Tr.”) 36. The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) Appeals Council denied her request for review in November 2017, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Acting Commissioner. See Tr. 7-13. Korfiatis now appeals.

         B. Medical Evidence

         Korfiatis is 5'5” tall and weighed 360 pounds at the time of the hearing. She fractured her right wrist in a work accident on July 11, 2013. Following the accident, she had two hand surgeries. Afterward, she continued complaining to her treating providers of pain and numbness in the wrist.

         Dr. Matthew Clarke, one of her providers, indicated in his treatment notes in February, April and June 2014 that Korfiatis was cleared to return to work, but was limited to lifting, pushing, and pulling less than fifteen pounds without frequent, forceful, or repetitive motions with the right wrist. Tr. 543, 552, 555. She did not return to work at that time.

         Starting in November 2014, Dr. Clarke changed his prognosis, indicating that Korfiatis could not return to work because of her right-hand pain. See Tr. 808. He repeated this observation in treatment notes from follow-up appointments throughout the following year. See Tr. 813, 819, 822.

         In addition to her right-wrist injury, Korfiatis suffered from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. She testified at the hearing that her fibromyalgia has progressively worsened since her initial diagnosis in 2007, that it affected her knees, feet, back, and shoulders, and that it caused her constant pain. Tr. 81. Rheumatoid arthritis exacerbated her pain and caused swelling in her hands and legs. Tr. 82. She testified that she could sit for about one hour on good days but only for approximately 15 minutes on bad days, which occurred four to five times per week. Tr. 82-83.

         Family practitioner Dr. Concetta Oteri treated Korfiatis for rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Oteri opined in April 2016 that due to this condition and the associated inflammation in the joints, Korfiatis could never lift more than 10 pounds, could occasionally lift less than 10 pounds, could stand, walk or sit for 30 minutes without interruption, could stand or walk for a total of 2 hours, and could sit for a total of 4 hours in an 8hour workday. He further opined that she could never climb, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, push or pull, and could occasionally bend, balance, reach, feel and handle. Tr. 883-84.

         Rheumatologist Dr. Fredrick Ast, who treated Korfiatis over a four-year period, opined that she could never carry any weight, could never push or pull with her right hand, could occasionally reach in all directions, handle, feel and finger with the right hand, and could occasionally reach overhead, handle and finger with the left hand. Dr. Ast further opined that Korfiatis could never balance, stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl, ...


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