United States District Court, D. Delaware
C. Linarducci, New Castle, DE; Thomas D. Sutton, Leventhal
Sutton & Gornstein, Trevose, PA - attorneys for Plaintiff
Koch, Regional Chief Counsel, Heather Benderson, Special
Assistant United States Attorney Social Security
Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Philadelphia,
PA - attorneys for Defendant.
NOREIKA, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Margaret Schwartz ("Ms. Schwartz" or
"Plaintiff) appeals the decision of Defendant Nancy A.
Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
("the Commissioner" or "Defendant"),
denying her claim for Social Security Disability Insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. The Court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
before the Court are Plaintiffs motion and Defendant's
cross-motion for summary judgment. (D.I. 7, 9). Plaintiff,
Ms. Schwartz, seeks reversal of the "decision of the
Commissioner and order an award of the benefits to which she
is entitled or, in the alternative, [that the Court] remand
her claim to the Commissioner for a proper
determination." (D.I. 8 at 1). The Commissioner requests
that the Court affirm the decision denying Plaintiffs claim
for benefits. (D.I. 10 at 20). For the reasons stated below,
the Court will grant-in-part and deny-in-part Plaintiffs
motion and deny Defendant's cross-motion for summary
judgment. This matter will be remanded for further
February 29, 2012, Ms. Schwartz filed an application for
Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II, alleging
disability beginning October 31, 2011. (Tr. 26, 213
-214). Plaintiff s claim was denied initially on
December 20, 2012 and again upon reconsideration on May 23,
2013. (Tr. 121-124, 126-131). Plaintiff then requested a
hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
on July 29, 2013. (Tr. 132-133). The hearing took place on
July 15, 2015 during which both Ms. Schwartz and Christina
Cody ("Ms. Cody), an impartial vocational expert
("VE") testified. (Tr. 39-89). After the hearing,
on August 24, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that
Plaintiff "has not been under a disability within the
meaning of the Social Security Act from October 31, 2011,
through the date of [the] opinion." (Tr. 17). Plaintiff
requested review of the ALJ decision by the Appeals Council
on October 23, 2015. (Tr. 8-9). On May 13, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiffs request for review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
5, 2016, Plaintiff filed suit in the District of Delaware
seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of
benefits. (D.I. 1). The parties' completed briefing on
the cross motions for summary judgment on April 14, 2017.
(D.I. 7-10, 13).
applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on March 1, 2012
when she was 56 years old. (Tr. 213 -14). Plaintiff became
unable to work as of October 31, 2011 at the age of 5 6,
which is "advanced age" as defined by 20 C.F.R.
§404.1563(d). (Tr. 213). She is a high school graduate
and completed specialized job training at the Court Reporting
Institute in Philadelphia. According to her Work History
report (Tr. 240-249), she had held jobs as a transcriptionist
and a secretaryin the 18 years prior to becoming unable to
Disability Report - March 1, 2012 (Form SSA-16)
Disability Report dated March 1, 2012 (Form SSA-16) (Tr.
213-214), Plaintiff asserted that she has the following
physical or mental conditions that limit her ability to work
1. Diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression, sleep apnea;
2. Type 2 Diabetes;
4. Osteoarthritis of knees;
5. Osteoarthritis of shoulders;
6. Osteoarthritis of hips;
7. Sleep apnea;
9. High blood pressure; and
10. High cholesterol.
disability report, she indicates that she stopped working
because of her conditions, but that her conditions had not
caused her to make changes to her work activity.
(Id.). She also lists the following medications:
Amaryl, Cymbalta, Janument, Lantus, Lipitor, Losartan, which
were prescribed by Dr. James Lenhard at Christiana Care
Diabetes and Metabolic Disease Centerand Dr. James Loughran at
Concord Plaza Office Park. (Tr. 254). Plaintiff lists five
providers in addition to Drs. Lenhard and Loughran who may
have medical records about her physical and mental
conditions: Dr. John Carlson, Drs. James Neman and Peter
Rocca at Rheumatology Associates, Dr. James Purtill at
Rothman Instititute and Dr. Brett Wharton. (Tr. 254-259).
Medical History, Treatment, and Conditions
Court has reviewed all medical records submitted. The
relevant medical history begins in February of 2011 and
continues through October 27, 2015. (D.I. 5-9 - 5-11, Exhs 1F
P. Loughran MD is listed as Plaintiffs primary care physician
throughout the relevant time. His records contain copies of
the records obtained from other medical providers described
below. His notes from visits in during the relevant time
period indicate that Plaintiff suffered from persistent knee
pain. (Tr. 400-401, Tr. 469; Tr. 484-85; Tr. 493).
Christiana Care Endocrinology
saw Dr. James Lenhard, an endocrinologist, regularly during
the relevant time. In October of 2011, Dr. Lenhard noted that
Plaintiff suffered from diabetes, hypertension,
hyperlipidemia, osteoarthritis, back pain, and depression.
(Tr. 338-39). In follow up visits in 2012, he reviewed
Plaintiffs bloodwork and condition. In February of 2012, he
noted the same conditions previously stated. He also noted
that her glycemic control had worsened, but that Plaintiff
had lost weight and "is/was" walking 20 minutes a
day, her "regular exercise includes walking" and
she did not report leg pain when walking. (Tr. 381-85). In
the same notes, however, he noted that Plaintiff does not
exercise and that her osteoarthritis makes exercise
difficult. (Tr. 383-84). In November of 2012, Dr. Lenhard
noted that Plaintiff has had knee pain from osteoarthritis,
that Dr. Rocca had suggested knee replacement surgery but
that she was hesitant to have that surgery. (Tr. 377). He
noted that her weight had increased since the prior visit and
included the same notes about exercise that had been
previously stated. (Tr. 377-380). Dr. Lenhard's notes
from March of 2013 indicated an additional weight gain but
were otherwise largely the same as the November 2012 report.
Rheumatology Associates (Drs. James Neman ...