Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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.

Pitre v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 27, 2019




         Amanda Carol Pitre filed a Social Security disability and supplemental security income claim under Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), which was denied. Ms. Pitre has now filed a motion to reverse the decision of the Social Security Administration. In response, Nancy Berryhill, Deputy Commissioner for Operations (“Commissioner”), has moved for an order affirming the Commissioner's decision.

         For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Ms. Pitre's motion to reverse the decision of the Commissioner and GRANTS the Commissioner's motion to affirm.


         A. Factual Allegations

         Before her alleged disability, Ms. Pitre worked as an assistant preschool teacher for two hours a day, five days per week. Answer with Tr. at 359, ECF No. 14 (“Tr.”). In this job, she spent approximately half an hour each day walking, standing, sitting, climbing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, handling large objects, handling small objects and reaching. Tr. at 360. Due to complex regional pain syndrome, she alleges bouts of severe burning pain in her back, both legs, and feet, which have limited her mobility. Tr. at 376, 377.

         On February 3, 2014, Amanda Carol Pitre filed a Title II application for a period of disability, disability insurance, and a Title XVI application for supplemental security income, claiming that her disability began on August 1, 2013. Tr. at 19; Tr. 313. During her first denial, on April 1, 2014, doctors and disability specialists determined that Ms. Pitre was ineligible to receive disability benefits. Tr. at 220. After a request for reconsideration, Ms. Pitre's claim was again denied on October 27, 2014. Tr. at 231-33, 235-38.

         1. Amanda Pitre's Medical History

         Ms. Pitre allegedly suffered from complex regional pain syndrome, a learning disability, anxiety, asthma, seizures, and a kidney disorder that causes a salt, magnesium, potassium and electrolyte deficiency called Gitelman Syndrome. Tr. at 358. Ms. Pitre claimed to take seven medications for her various disorders. Tr. at 361. At the time of her Social Security application, Ms. Pitre was living with her parents. Tr. at 369. When asked to detail her daily activities, Ms. Pitre noted that she went to school on Mondays and Wednesdays, read, did homework, watched television, worked on her computer, and sometimes served as a babysitter. Id. She also took care of animals. Id.

         Ms. Pitre claimed that her illnesses caused her to quit her job as a teacher's assistant because it had become painful to walk, move around, and lift heavy things; she also had difficulty sleeping. Tr. at 370, 372. Her illnesses allegedly hindered her lifting, squatting, bending, standing, reaching, walking, sitting, kneeling, and stair climbing. Tr. at 373. Because of her ailments, Ms. Pitre claimed that she has had to use crutches, a walker, a wheelchair, and a cane. Tr. at 375. Nevertheless, Ms. Pitre acknowledged that she could manage her hair with assistance, dress herself, bathe herself, feed herself, and use the restroom on her own. Tr. at 370.

         The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) determined that “the medical record reveal[ed] that the claimant ha[d] been evaluated and treated for asthma, Gitelman Syndrome, headache syndrome, tonsillectomy, seizures, and hyperlipidemia.” Tr. at 22.

         On December 10, 2014, Ms. Pitre filed a written request for a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge. Tr. at 239-41.

         2. Amanda Pitre's Testimony

         On July 15, 2016, Ms. Pitre, represented by counsel, testified before the ALJ. Tr. at 19.

         At the hearing, Ms. Pitre testified that she graduated from high school and Gateway Community College. Tr. at 27, 95. While she ultimately dropped out due to a self-described mental breakdown, Ms. Pitre also testified that she had attended Southern Connecticut State University. Id. Since 2015, she had not re-enrolled. Tr. at 97.

         Ms. Pitre testified that she suffers from Gitelman Syndrome, which is a salt deficiency that limits her ability to retain sodium. Tr. at 100-01. The disease required her to see her doctor every two weeks and get blood work done every week. Tr. at 101. According to Ms. Pitre, the condition led to a November 7, 2014 hospitalization at the Yale New Haven Hospital. Tr. at 102- 03. Due to the Gitelman Syndrome, Ms. Pitre began seeing Dr. Robert Moskowitz for yearly electrocardiogram tests.

         In addition to Gitelman Syndrome, Ms. Pitre testified that she has complex regional pain syndrome or reflex synthetic dystrophy syndrome, a nerve disorder that causes severe burning pain throughout her neck, back, and lower legs. Tr. at 109. The disease and corresponding pain limited Ms. Pitre's ability to walk more than short distances, caused fatigue, and led to the use of stabilizing braces on her legs. Tr. at 139.

         Ms. Pitre also testified that she had a non-epileptic seizure disorder. Tr. at 111, 112. Because of her seizure disorder and newly prescribed leg braces, Ms. Pitre stopped driving approximately one month before the ALJ hearing. Tr. at 112-15.

         Ms. Pitre testified that she took medication for high cholesterol, allergies, acid reflex, asthma, and inability to sleep. Tr. at 117.

         When asked about her daily routine, Ms. Pitre testified that she got up between 9:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., unless she has a doctor's appointment. Tr. at 115, 138. Ms. Pitre also testified that she has not been paid for work since August 2013, when she resigned from her job at a day care facility. Tr. at 148. In the years since, Ms. Pitre's only income has been derived from working as a babysitter for two boys whose parents she met at church, which she allegedly stopped doing in March 2016. Tr. at 150-52.

         3. Medical Evidence

         On July 19, 2016, Ms. Pitre's primary care provider, Ann Celeste Mapas-Dimaya, M.D., wrote to the ALJ that Ms. Pitre had “physically disabling conditions such as reflex sympathetic dystrophy causing chronic pain and Gitelman syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder affecting the kidneys.” Tr. at 42. Dr. Mapas-Dimaya indicated that Ms. Pitre was “incapable of being successfully employed due to debilitating symptoms from both conditions” and “recommended continued insurance coverage for [Ms. Pitre] past the age of 26, as she is still unmarried, and fully dependent on the support of her parents.” Id.

         On September 30, 2016, Ms. Pitre's counsel submitted notes from Ms. Pitre's July 26, 2016 cardiac visit. Tr. at 44. The notes detail that the reason for the visit was a follow-up for chest pains and palpitations, which required another follow up around August 23, 2016. Id. The notes indicate that Ms. Pitre had to keep taking medications the same way and that the “list has 4 medication(s) that are the same as other medications prescribed to you.” Tr. at 45, 46.

         On the same day, Ms. Pitre's counsel also submitted evidence that Ms. Pitre was a resident at the Milford Health and Rehabilitation Center from November 7, 2014 until December 3, 2014. Tr. at 85.

         4. Vocational Expert Testimony

         At the July 15, 2016 hearing, Ruth Baruch testified by telephone as a vocational expert. Tr. at 19. She testified that Ms. Pitre's “work as a day care worker [was] not past relevant work because; she did not perform this work at the level of substantial gainful activity.” Tr. at 31 (emphasis in original). Ms. Baruch testified that someone fitting Ms. Pitre's medical profile would be unable to perform her past work as a daycare worker. Tr. at 160.

         Alternatively, Ms. Baruch testified that someone fitting Ms. Pitre's medical profile would be able to find a number of jobs in the national and regional economy. Tr. at 160-61. For example, there are 3, 356 available jobs in Connecticut and 214, 689 available jobs nationally for price makers; there are 345 available jobs in Connecticut and 22, 112 jobs nationally for hand packagers; there are approximately 361 available jobs in Connecticut and 5, 244 available jobs nationally for electrical assemblers. Tr. at 161. Ms. Baruch further testified that an individual with leg braces and Ms. Pitre's medical profile would still be eligible for the same jobs in the state and national economies. Id.

         5. The ALJ's Decision

         After consideration of the of the record, the ALJ determined that:

1. Ms. Pitre met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act, Tr. at 22;
2. Ms. Pitre was not engaged in substantially gainful activity from August 1, 2013 until the ALJ decision, id.;
3. Ms. Pitre had severe impairments related to complex regional pain syndrome and a learning disorder where “objective evidence in the medical record of impairments that are non-severe in that such impairments establish only a slight abnormality or a combination of slight abnormalities that would have no more than a minimal effect on the claimant's ability to meet the basic demands of work activity, ” id.;
4. Ms. Pitre did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met the severity requirements of 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, which the ALJ determined only amounted to some “mild restriction” in daily living and “mild difficulties” in social functioning, Tr. at 24, 25;
5. Although she may need to frequently, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and climb ramps or stairs, Ms. Pitre has the residual functional capacity to perform light work under 20 C.F.R. 414.1567(b) and 416.967(b), Tr. at 26;
6. Ms. Pitre had no past relevant work, Tr. At 31;
7. Ms. Pitre was considered a younger individual for her disability determination, id.;
8. Ms. Pitre had at least a high school education and the ability to communicate in English, id.;
9. Transferability of job skills was not an issue because Ms. Pitre did not have past relevant work, id.;
10. Based on Ms. Pitre's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers within the national ...

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.