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Muirhead v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 14, 2017

SYNDA SHALLAN MUIRHEAD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER REVERSING AND REMANDING DISABILITY DETERMINATION

          Marcia S. Krieger United States District Court.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court as an appeal from the Commissioner's Final Administrative Decision (“Decision”) determining that the Plaintiff Synda Shallan Muirhead is not disabled within the meaning of §§216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. Having considered all of the documents filed, including the record (#14), the Court now finds and concludes as follows:

         JURISDICTION

         The Court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a final decision of the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Ms. Muirhead sought disability insurance benefits Title II of the Social Security Act based on physical impairments that rendered her unable to work as of July 30, 2010. The state agency denied her claim. She requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who issued an unfavorable decision. Ms. Muirhead appealed to the Appeals Council, which denied her request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. Ms. Muirhead timely appealed to this Court.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         The Court offers a brief summary of the facts here and elaborates as necessary in its analysis.

         Ms. Muirhead was born on February 19, 1969. She graduated from High School and has worked cleaning houses, as a cashier, as an administrative clerk, and as a ventilation equipment tender. She contends that physical and mental impairments prevent her from working.

         In 2005, Ms. Muirhead underwent surgery on her lower back to replace two discs, which did not have a significant beneficial effect. On July 30, 2010, a semi-truck rear ended her vehicle, causing her to suffer additional injuries to her neck and back. She also complain s of chronic pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.

         Treatment and Opinions by Treating Professionals

         Jeffrey Donner, M.D. has treated Ms. Muirhead for her back problems since 2004 and has performed a number of surgeries and more conservative procedures in an attempt to provide her with relief. Dr. Donner filled out a Physical Medical Source Statement in support of Ms. Muirhead's disability claim. According to Dr. Donner, she can only sit or stand for thirty minutes at one time and less than two hours in an eight-hour working day; she requires three to four unscheduled breaks during a workday that would each last for fifteen to twenty minutes; she can lift less than ten pounds occasionally and ten pounds rarely but she should never lift twenty pounds or more; she can rarely twist, stoop, crouch/squat, and climb stairs but should never climb ladders; she has significant limitations with reaching, handling, and fingering in that she can grasp, turn, or twist objects 50% of the time during an eight-hour workday, perform fine manipulations with her fingers 80% of an eight-hour workday, and reach in front of herself for 30% of an eight-hour workday but could not reach overhead at all. Dr. Donner further opined that Ms. Muirhead would be off task for 25% or more of an eight hour work day, is capable of low stress work, and would be absent from work for more than four days per month.

         Orrie Clemens, M.D., a pain treatment specialist, began seeing Ms. Muirhead on Dr. Donner's referral in 2006 to address chronic pain. Dr. Clemens completed a Physical Medical Source Statement stating she can only sit for thirty to forty-five minutes at a time, stand for thirty minutes at a time, sit for about two hours in an eight-hour workday, and stand or walk for less than two hours in an eight hour workday; she requires four to five unscheduled breaks during a workday that would each last for twenty minutes; she can lift less than ten pounds rarely but should never lift twenty pounds or more; she should never twist or climb ladders but can rarely stoop, crouch/squat, and climb stairs; during an eight-hour workday, she can grasp, turn, or twist objects 10% of the time with her right hand and 15% with her left hand, perform fine manipulations with her fingers 10%, reach in front of herself for 10%, and reach overhead for 10% of the time. Dr. Clemens further opined that Ms. Muirhead would be off task for 25% or more of an eight hour work day, was capable of low stress work, and would be absent more than four days per month.

         Opinions by Non-treating Professionals

         On September 5, 2013, James McElhinney, reviewed Ms. Muirhead's file but did not examine her. He opined that Ms. Murihead could frequently lift up to ten pounds, stand or walk for a total of four hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit about six hours in an eight-hour workday. He further opined that she can push or pull without limitation as long as it does not involve more than ten pounds; she can climb ramps or stairs occasionally, stoop frequently, kneel occasionally, crouch frequently, and crawl occasionally but should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; although there are no limitations as to her ability to handle, finger, and feel, she has the limited ability to reach overhead; and, finally, she should not be exposed to unprotected heights.

         THE ...


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