United States District Court, D. Delaware
MICHELLE D. MCDONALD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Michelle D. McDonald, appeals the decision of Defendant,
Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner (the
"Commissioner") of the Social Security
Administration, which denied Ms. McDonald's application
for Social Security disability insurance benefits
("DIB") or Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of
the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34,
1381-1383f. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), which grants original jurisdiction to the
District Courts to review a final decision of the
pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary
judgment filed by Ms. McDonald and the Commissioner. (D.I. 9,
motions were referred to the United States Magistrate Judge
(D.I. 11), who issued a Report and Recommendation
recommending that Ms. McDonald's motion be denied, and
the Commissioner's motion be granted. (D.I. 17). Ms.
McDonald filed objections (D.I. 18) to which the Commissioner
has responded. (D.I. 20). I review the objections to the
Report and Recommendation de novo. See Brown v.
Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011).
McDonald has requested that the Court reverse the decision of
the Commissioner and find her disabled, or in the
alternative, remand this matter for further administrative
proceedings. (D.I. 18 at 4). For the reasons set forth below,
the Court sustains Plaintiffs objection with regards to the
credibility of her treating physician and requires that a new
hearing be granted consistent with this order.
McDonald filed for DIB, and later for SSI, alleging
disability beginning on November 15, 2011 due to severe
physical ailments, including degenerative disc disease of the
cervical spine and carpal tunnel syndrome. (D.I. 7-6 at 382,
384). A hearing was held before an ALJ on September 10, 2014.
(Id. at 382). The ALJ subsequently found that Ms.
McDonald did not qualify as "disabled" under the
Act and denied her request for benefits. After the ALJ's
denial, Plaintiff requested review by the Social Security
Appeals Council, but was denied. She then filed a timely
appeal to this Court.
Plaintiffs Medical History, Condition, and Treatment
time of her alleged disability, Ms. McDonald was 46 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual under 20 CFR
§ 404.1563 (c). (D.I. 7-6 at 390). Ms. McDonald has past
relevant work as a sales representative and possesses a high
school education. (Id. at 389-90).
McDonald's detailed medical history is contained in the
record, but the Court will provide a brief summary. On
November 15, 2011, McDonald stopped working. She said it
was"because of [her] condition(s) [and] other
reasons." (D.I. 7-11 at 569). She elaborated: "The
main reason was due to lay-off. I'm finding it hard [to]
find work as I had limitations. The work I was performing
prior to lay-off was worsening my medical conditions."
(Id.). Since that time, Ms. McDonald has developed
increased neck and back pain, worsening arthritic changes in
the cervical spine, and worsening carpal tunnel syndrome, for
which she has undergone two surgeries on the right hand to
date. (D.I. 7-6 at 387-89). Ms. McDonald has also experienced
gastrointestinal issues and associated chest pain, which
began in November 2013. (D.I. 7-7 at 409). She has also had
numerous endoscopies, saw various specialists, and had
gallbladder surgery in January 2014. (Id.). Ms.
McDonald is currently taking Linzess for bowel issues, which
forces her to remain close to a bathroom for most of the day.
(Id. at 410).
McDonald has been treated by Dr. James Kirkland Beebe, M.D.
since November, 2011. (D.I. 7-21 at 1185). Six months after
beginning treatment with Dr. Beebe, Ms. McDonald complained
of difficulty sleeping and problems related to arthritis in
both of her shoulders. (D.I. 7-12 at 692). X-rays of the
cervical spine showed significant arthritic changes.
(Id. at 708). She also complained of increased neck
pain on July 2, 2012 and Dr. Beebe diagnosed osteoarthritis
of the cervical spine and prescribed Aleve and Tylenol.
(Id. at 690). In September 2012, she complained of
right hand numbness and was diagnosed with right carpal
tunnel syndrome. (Id. at 750). X-rays of the spine
and knees have also shown significant damage in these areas.
(Id. at 907).
November 20, 2012, Dr. Beebe completed a Doctor's
Certificate for the Delaware Department of Labor, where he
diagnosed cervical radiculopathy and bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome, concluding that Ms. McDonald was "disabled
from all work indefinitely." (D.I. 7-16 at 928). In an
assessment of Ms. McDonald noted in a Multiple Impairment
Questionnaire dated July 2, 2013, Dr. Beebe diagnosed
"cervical degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis with
bilateral cervical radiculopathy, bilateral carpal tunnel
syndrome, and cubital tunnel syndrome." (D.I. 7-19 at
1105) Dr. Beebe estimated that Ms. McDonald's pain varied
from moderate to moderately severe (5-8 on a scale of 10) and
her level of fatigue was moderately severe (7 on a scale of
10). (Id. at 1107). In Dr. Beebe's July opinion,
Ms. McDonald could not stand/walk continuously, must stand
and move around for a period of 20 minutes each 15-20 minute
interval if sitting, could not lift any weight, and could not
carry more than five pounds and then only occasionally.
(Id. at 1108)
Beebe examined Ms. McDonald again on August 15, 2013 and
noted: generalized osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis
without myelopathy, lumbosacral neuritis/radiculitis, and
carpal tunnel syndrome. (D.I. 7-20 at 1122). A month later on
September 17, 2013, he completed a second Multiple Impairment
Questionnaire. (D.I. 7-21 at 1185). In this submission, his
opinions were that she could only sit for shorter periods,
and that she could not lift more than ten pounds
occasionally. (Id. at 1187-88).
Beebe noted "severe pain in the right wrist" on
November 5, 2013. ...