United States District Court, D. Delaware
AMY D. TATE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant. 
Vanessa L. Kassab, DOROSHOW, PASQUALE, KRAWITZ & BHAYA,
Wilmington, DE. Attorney for Plaintiff.
C. Weiss, Acting United States Attorney, United State's
Attorney's Office, Wilmington, Delaware.
Heather Benderson, Special As sistant United States Attorney,
OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL, Philadelphia, PA. Attorneys
U.S. District Judge
Amy D. Tate appeals from the decision of Nancy A. Benyhill,
the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
("the Commissioner" or "Defendant"),
denying her claims for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under Title n, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434 ("Title II") and Title XVI, 42
U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383 ("Title XVI") of the
Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3).
the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by
Plaintiff and the Commissioner. (D.I. 14, 17) Plaintiff asks
that the Court reverse the Commissioner's decision and
remand with instructions to award benefits or, in the
alternative, remand for further proceedings before the
Commissioner. (D.I. 15 at 4) The Commissioner requests that
the Court affirm the decisions denying Plaintiffs application
for benefits. (D.I. 18 at 2) For the reasons set forth below,
the Court will deny Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment
and grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
November 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income. (D.I. 7 ("Tr.") at 176, 183) Plaintiffs
applications were denied at the initial level of
administrative review on April 29, 2011 (id. at
122), and they were denied on reconsideration on June 22,
2012, after additional consultative examinations
(id. at 129). After a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on January 17,
2014, the ALJ issued a decision on March 19, 2014, finding
that Plaintiff did not have a disability within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. (Id. at 17-28) Plaintiff
filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision, which
was denied on May 13, 2015, resulting in a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security. (Id. at 1)
16, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit in the District of Delaware,
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of
benefits. (D.I. 2) The parties completed briefing on their
cross-motions for summary judgment on September 7, 2016.
(See D.I. 15, 18, 20)
was 37 years old at the onset of her alleged disability. (Tr.
at 26) She has a high school education and has previously
worked as a customer service representative and loan
processor. (Id. at 27, 41) Plaintiff contends that
she cannot work due to back, leg, and neck problems, as well
as depression. (Id. at 220) 1. Plaintiffs
Testimony On January 17, 2014, Plaintiff testified
before the ALJ in support of her petition for benefits.
(Id. at 35-71) She testified that her back and hip
pain started in 2007 after she was in a car accident.
(Id. at 58) She said that she left her job in 2010
after receiving an injection for migraines that left her with
brain swelling and blurry vision. (Id. at 44)
Plaintiff testified that she experiences blurred vision, and
has a prescription for Topamax to treat migraines.
(Id. at 45) She testified that she has back pain and
cannot walk or sit for long periods. (Id. at 46-47)
She also testified that she has difficulty remembering
things. (Id. at 47) Plaintiff stated that she stays
in the house most of the time, has difficulty going up and
down stairs, and spends six non-sleeping hours a day laying
on her left side. (Id. at 51-52, 61)
Dr. Xing's Opinion
began seeing Dr. Xing, a pain management specialist, in early
2011. (See Tr. at 346-51) Dr. Xing provided epidural
and other injections, as well as pain medications. (See,
e.g. Id. at 394, 437, 524, 537) Dr. Xing's notes
indicate that Plaintiffs pain responded well to treatment,
with 50% pain relief (using medications) by July 2011.
(Id. at 404) By 2013, Dr. Xing's records
consistently show that Plaintiff showed at least 70%
improvement with medication (see, e.g., Id. at 541,
543, 551, 553), and that Plaintiff told Dr. Xing her
medications were "working well" (id. at
525, 529). During this same period, Dr. Xing's notes also
show that Plaintiff experienced increased function and
mobility as a result of her treatments. (See, e.g.,
Id. at 523, 525, 527, 529) Further, Dr. Xing noted that
Plaintiff was working as a waitress during late 2012 and
early 2013. (Id. at 547, 549, 551)
patient questionnaire completed on January 14, 2014, in
support of Plaintiff s benefits application, Dr. Xing opined
that Plaintiff could sit for about four hours and stand or
walk for less than two hours during an eight-hour workday,
occasionally lift and carry less than ten pounds, and reach
overhead for 5% of an 8-hour workday. (Id. at
520-21) She also stated that Plaintiff would require hourly
15-minute unscheduled breaks during the workday, could sit
for 30 minutes at a time, stand only 15 minutes at a time,
and was likely to miss more than fours days of work per
month. (Id. at 520-22) Dr. Xing also indicated that
Plaintiff could tolerate moderate levels of stress.
(Id. at 522)
The ALJ's Findings
appeals the ALJ's March 19, 2014 decision, which made the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act ...