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Guidry v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 4, 2017


         SECTION “B” (3)


         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Victoria Guidry seeks review of the final decision of the Social Security Commissioner denying her claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Rec. Doc. 22. Following cross-motions for summary judgment (Rec. Docs. 19, 21), the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) that Plaintiff's case be dismissed with prejudice. Rec. Doc. 22. Plaintiff filed objections to that Report and Recommendation. Rec. Doc. 23. For the reasons outlined below, IT IS ORDERED that the Magistrate Judge's Report is ADOPTED, OVERRULING Plaintiff's objections;

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DENIED, and the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment is GRANTED; and

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's petition is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


         Plaintiff Guidry has previous work experience as a shrimp peeler for a seafood company and as a door greeter at Wal-Mart. Rec. Doc. 23 at 2. Plaintiff fell from her stool while working at the seafood factory on June 19, 2012, resulting in pain in her neck, back, hip, and left upper arm. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff reported that this pain prevented her from sitting for long periods at her job. Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 2. After her attempts to return to work resulted in further pain, Plaintiff began suffering from depression. Rec. Doc. 23 at 3.

         Plaintiff filed for disability benefits and Dr. Kinnard performed an orthopedic evaluation of Plaintiff on August 7, 2012. Rec. Doc. 13-7 at 28. Dr. Kinnard released Plaintiff to return to work after Plaintiff's evaluation revealed mild to moderate findings, specifically minimal degeneration of the cervical spine and no evidence of disc herniation. Id. Dr. Kinnard further noted that Plaintiff's “degree of subjective complaint far outweighs any objective findings on physical examination and on diagnostic tests.” Id. However, upon attempting to return to work, Plaintiff reported having continued severe pain in her mid-back, left knee, and left elbow, along with insomnia and depression. Rec. Doc. 23 at 3-4. Plaintiff alleges that this ongoing pain rendered her unable to work beginning in January 2013. Id. at 4.

         Plaintiff filed for Disability Insurance Benefits on March 22, 2013, and Defendant denied Plaintiff's application for benefits on August 6, 2013. Id. Plaintiff then sought and received a hearing before an administrative law judge, which was held on October 9, 2014. Id. The ALJ affirmed the denial of Plaintiff's application. Rec. Doc. 13-2 at 22. The ALJ reached this conclusion after considering the medical opinions and objective findings of four doctors, as well as testimony from Plaintiff and vocational expert Beth Drury. Id. at 30.

         The four doctors offered varying opinions about Plaintiff's abilities. Dr. Guy Lefort performed a consultative physical examination of Plaintiff in July 2013. Rec. Doc. 13-7 at 67. Although Plaintiff displayed some decreased range of motion in her neck, she had a normal gait and full range of motion elsewhere. Id. at 71. Plaintiff exhibited “normal pushing, pulling, crouching, squatting, and stooping, ” and she was able to climb on and off the examination table with no assistance. Id. Dr. Lefort reported that Plaintiff would have trouble reaching for objects for a sustained period of time, which would make her job as a shrimp peeler “difficult.” Id.

         Dr. William Fowler performed a psychological evaluation of Plaintiff in July 2013, after which he recommended that Plaintiff be limited to performing simple, repetitive tasks for short periods of time. Id. at 77. Dr. Fowler noted that Plaintiff's “pace and performance may negatively be affected and she may be more unreliable over extended periods.” Id.

         Dr. Charles Lee, a non-treating physician, performed a review of Plaintiff's medical records through July of 2013 and determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. Rec. Doc. 13-3 at 13. Dr. Lee based these opinions upon mental evaluations-which described Plaintiff's ability to work as either “moderately” or “not significantly” limited-as well as physical evaluations, which suggested only partial limitations on physical work such as lifting, climbing, and crouching. Id. at 8-11.

         Finally, Dr. Theryll Johnson, Plaintiff's treating physician, composed a single-sentence “To Whom It May Concern” letter on March 18, 2014. It states that Plaintiff is unable to work due to severe back pain and depression. Rec. Doc. 13-7 at 113.

         The ALJ considered the totality of the objective medical evidence, Plaintiff's credibility, the conservative nature of Plaintiff's treatment, and the record as a whole, before concluding that Plaintiff was not “a totally disabled individual.” Rec. Doc. 13-2 at 21. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had a residual functioning capacity (“RFC”) that allowed her to perform simple, routine, repetitive work with the following limitations: frequently operate left foot controls; occasionally climb, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel and crawl; and frequently reach and perform overhead reaching with the non-dominant left upper extremity. Id. at 16. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could return to her former work as a door greeter or shrimp peeler or seek other light, unskilled jobs that exist in Louisiana and the rest of the country. Id. 21-22.

         On August 4, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the ALJ's decision, after which Plaintiff filed the instant action. Rec. Doc. 22 at 2. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on April 4, 2017 (Rec. Doc. 19), and Defendant filed a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment on May 26, 2017 (Rec. Doc. 21). Magistrate Judge Knowles issued a Report and Recommendation affirming the ALJ's decision to dismiss Plaintiff's claims. ...

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