United States District Court, D. Delaware
EUNICE M. WARDELL, Plaintiff;
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
VANESSA L. KASSAB, DOROSHOW, PASQUALE, KRAWITZ & BHAYA,
WILMINGTON DE, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF.
C. WEISS, GREGG W. MARSANO, ERIC P. KRESSMAN, AND BRITTANY J.
GIGLIOTTI, OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL, SOCIAL SECURITY
ADMINISTRATION, PHILADELPHIA, PA, ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT.
ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Eunice Wardell appeals from the decision of Defendant Nancy
A. Berryhill, the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner"), denying her claim for disability
insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.
The Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary
judgment filed by Plaintiff and the Commissioner. (D.I. 12,
14). Plaintiff has filed an opening brief (D.I. 13), and the
Commissioner has filed a combined opening and answering brief
(D.I. 15). There has been no further briefing by the parties
and Plaintiffs counsel confirmed a reply brief was not being
filed. After reviewing the briefing and the administrative
record, Plaintiffs motion is DENIED and the
Commissioner's motion is GRANTED.
filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits
("DIB") on December 4, 2012, alleging disability
beginning on November 30, 2011. (Tr. 184-90). Plaintiff is
insured for disability benefits through March 31, 2017. (Tr.
application was initially denied on February 25, 2013, and
was again denied on reconsideration on October 8, 2013. (Tr.
119-20, 137-38). On December 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed a
request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). (Tr. 157). Plaintiff was represented by
counsel at the hearing, held on October 22, 2015, via video
teleconferencing. (Tr. 32-82). On August 4, 2016, the ALJ
issued a decision denying Plaintiffs claim for DIB. (Tr. 17).
On September 28, 2016, Plaintiff requested review of the
ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 4, 182-83).
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review on
April 20, 2018. (Tr. 1-5). Thus, the ALJ's decision
denying DIB became the final decision of the Commissioner.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955, 404.981;
Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
21, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking judicial review
of the ALJ's decision. (D.I.I). On December 6, 2018,
Plaintiff filed her motion for summary judgment. (D.I. 12).
The Commissioner opposed Plaintiffs motion and filed a
cross-motion for summary judgment on January 4, 2019. (D.I.
was 57 years old at the time of the alleged onset of her
disability in November 2011, and 61 years old at the time of
the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 42). She is married and lives
with her husband. (Tr. 202). Plaintiff has completed high
school and has past work experience as a data entry clerk and
program coordinator. (Tr. 204).
Plaintiffs Medical History 
Psychiatric Consultation with Dr. Rebecca Moore - June
first record of potential mental impairment is from June 2013
when Plaintiff was hospitalized for a neurological event. At
that time, Dr. Rebecca Moore noted that Plaintiff may have a
conversion disorder, as Plaintiff stuttered only when
discussing distressing events or undergoing stressful
situations. (Tr. 469-71). Dr. Moore further noted Plaintiffs
stress regarding her unemployment and that Plaintiff
expressed demoralization at not being able to work. (Tr.
469). At this consultation, Dr. Moore assigned Plaintiff a
Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") score of
55-65, indicating mild to moderate mental illness. (Tr. 471).
Based on her evaluation, Dr. Moore "strongly
encouraged" Plaintiff to seek outpatient psychotherapy.
Consultation with Dr. Brian Simon - September 2013
September 30, 2013, Plaintiff underwent a consultative exam
with Dr. Brian Simon, a psychologist, as a result of the
Social Security Administration's determination that more
evidence was needed to evaluate Plaintiffs mental
impairments. (Tr. 529-33). Dr. Simon diagnosed Plaintiff with
(1) an adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions
and conduct, acute and (2) conversion disorder with mixed
presentation (provisional), as well as assigning Plaintiff a
GAF of 54, indicating a moderate mental impairment. (Tr.
532). Dr. Simon made the following conclusions in the context
of the competitive labor market: Plaintiff had (1) a mild
impairment in understanding simple, primarily oral,
instructions, (2) a moderate impairment in carrying out
instructions under ordinary supervision, (3) a moderate
impairment in sustaining work performance and attendance in a
normal work setting, (4) a moderately severe impairment in
coping with the pressures of ordinary work, and (5) a
moderate impairment in performing routine, repetitive tasks
under ordinary supervision. (Tr. 527).
Dr. Simon's narrative evaluation also noted the
- Plaintiff "appear[ed] to be capable of making
decisions, as well as exercising judgment, insight, and
common sense at work." (Tr. 532).
- Plaintiff was "capable of interacting appropriately
with others, performing simple tasks, and avoiding hazards at
- "Her presentation did not suggest that [Plaintiff] has
any problems maintaining concentration, focus, and attention
at this time, and she should be able to understand, follow,
and carry out simple instructions." (Id.).
- "[I]t appear[ed] that [Plaintiff] should be capable of
managing any benefits that she is entitled to receive."
"Her attention and concentration were fair,  speech
was coherent, normal in rate, low in volume, and was goal
directed. She did not show signs of having any articulation
problems." (Tr. 531). "Her memory was good for
immediate and fair for short-term material."
- Plaintiff was "unable to perform serial
calculations without making any errors." (Id.).
- Plaintiff "may encounter some problems adapting to
different circumstances and being able to persist for a