Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Duvall v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 23, 2019

Penny Duvall, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Maria Davila, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Penny Duvall filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security. (Doc. 1.) Before the Court are Duvall’s opening brief, the Commissioner’s response brief, and Duvall’s reply brief. (Docs. 19, 20, 21.) For the following reasons, the Commissioner’s decision will be affirmed.

         Background

         I. Procedural History

         Duvall applied for disability insurance benefits on August 3, 2015, claiming a disability onset date of January 1, 2010. AR 60.[1] Her application was denied on November 13, 2015, and again on reconsideration on March 2, 2016. AR 87, 92. On March 9, 2016, Duvall requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). AR 95. At the hearing, held on August 9, 2017, Duvall testified about her medical conditions and past work, and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified about which jobs a hypothetical person with Duvall’s characteristics can perform. AR 36–58. On December 7, 2017, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Duvall not disabled and denying benefits. AR 15–30. On November 13, 2018, the Appeals Council denied review. AR 1–3. Duvall now seeks judicial review of the ALJ’s decision denying benefits. (Doc. 1.)

         II. Factual Background

         Duvall was born with Turner syndrome, a chromosomal condition that affects only women. See AR 378. Duvall has several conditions associated with Turner syndrome, including heart defects, short stature, obesity, and deficient interpersonal skills. AR 24, 378, 380. Duvall has congenital heart disease, including coarctation (narrowing) and dilation of the aorta and a bicuspid aortic valve. AR 339. She had two heart-related surgeries as a child: one in 1983 to insert a synthetic conduit between the ascending and descending aortas, and a pericardiectomy in 1985 to address constrictive pericarditis. AR 315. She underwent cardiac catheterization in 2012. AR 529–32.

         Duvall has a bachelor’s degree. AR 185. She was a substitute middle-school teacher from 2000 to 2005, and a fulltime elementary-school teacher from 2005 to 2009. AR 186. According to Duvall, she was let go from her teaching positions due to “interpersonal relations with co-workers, management in particular.” AR 185.

         Dr. Daniela Lax is Duvall’s treating cardiologist. On March 18, 2013, Dr. Lax wrote an assessment letter on behalf of Duvall. AR 380. On April 18, 2016, after Duvall’s date last insured, Dr. Lax completed a Cardiac Impairment Questionnaire. AR 514–519. The substance of Dr. Lax’s reports, as well as the ALJ’s treatment of them, are discussed below as relevant.

         III. Hearing

         At the hearing before the ALJ, Duvall testified that she has Turner syndrome and suffers from many of the effects of that condition, including congenital heart disease, short stature (she is five feet tall), obesity (she weighed 180 pounds on the date of the hearing), and difficulty functioning in social situations. AR 40–41, 46. According to Duvall, prior to her date last insured, she was able to dress and bathe herself, assist her mother with household chores, go grocery shopping, do laundry, mow the lawn, go swimming for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and drive a car. AR 41–44. However, she testified that she often requires two to three days of recovery after doing some of these tasks, and two to three times per month she will feel “sharp pains” while doing them. AR 46, 49–50.

         Duvall also testified that she has a college degree and used to be a teacher. AR 40. When asked how she was able to achieve this with Turner syndrome, she explained that the symptoms of Turner syndrome were often ignored or incorrectly characterized while she was growing up (e.g., she was called a “strong-willed child”), and that without her parents pushing her to go to college and get a job, she probably would not have done so. AR 46–47. She testified that her lack of interpersonal skills caused her to be fired from three teaching jobs for being “unprofessional” and not “follow[ing] instructions.” AR 47– 48. As an example, she stated that she was reprimanded for being “assertive and aggressive towards the students, ” including taking a deck of cards from a student. AR 51–53.[2]

         The VE testified that Duvall’s teaching work is within the light exertion range. AR 56. The ALJ asked the VE about a hypothetical claimant with Duvall’s age, education, and work history who can sit, stand, or walk for six hours per eight-hour workday, occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds, frequently lift and carry 10 pounds, frequently climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, and occasionally interact with coworkers, supervisors, and the public. AR 56. The VE testified that the hypothetical claimant could not perform Duvall’s past teaching job. AR 56. According to the VE, however, the hypothetical claimant could perform other jobs in the national economy, including marking clerk, hand packager, and production helper. AR 56. The VE confirmed that her testimony was consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. AR 57.

         IV. ALJ Decision

         The ALJ followed the five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled. AR 19–30. At step one, the ALJ found that Duvall was not engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” AR 20. At step two, the ALJ found that Duvall has three “severe” impairments: Turner syndrome, congenital heart disease, and obesity. AR 20. The ALJ found that Duvall’s lack of interpersonal skills is a “non-severe” mental impairment. AR 20–23. At step three, the ALJ found that Duvall does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. AR 23.

         Between steps three and four, the ALJ found that Duvall has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to sit, stand, or walk for six hours per eight-hour workday, occasionally lift or carry 20 pounds, frequently lift or carry 10 pounds, frequently climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl, and occasionally interact with coworkers, supervisors, and the public. AR 24. In determining Duvall’s RFC, the ALJ found that Duvall’s statements about her symptoms were “not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record.” AR 25. The ALJ gave “controlling weight” to Dr. Lax’s assessment of Duvall in 2013, which noted only that Duvall requires ongoing monitoring due to Turner syndrome, not that Duvall has functional limitations. AR 26. The ALJ gave “limited weight” to opinions rendered by Dr. Lax in 2016, including that Duvall cannot lift or carry more than five pounds, because they were rendered after Duvall’s date last insured and lack evidentiary support. AR 27. The ALJ gave “substantial weight” to the opinions of the agency physicians because “they reviewed available information, ” and “[s]ubsequent treatment records have not documented any significant change in the claimant’s condition through the date last insured.” AR 27.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Duvall cannot perform her past relevant work, either as actually performed or as generally performed in the national economy. AR 28. At step five, the ALJ noted that Duvall’s vocational profile under 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2 supports a finding that she is not disabled. AR 28–29. The ALJ, considering Duvall’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, then found that Duvall could have performed jobs other than teaching prior to her date last insured, and, therefore, that she is not disabled. AR 28–30.

         Standard ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.