United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO REVERSE THE DECISION OF
THE COMMISSIONER AND MOTION TO AFFIRM THE DECISION OF THE
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
following reasons, the Court DENIES Ms.
Pitre's motion to reverse the decision of the
Commissioner and GRANTS the
Commissioner's motion to affirm.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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,
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.
Amanda Pitre's Medical History
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.
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.
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.
December 10, 2014, Ms. Pitre filed a written request for a
hearing by an Administrative Law Judge. Tr. at 239-41.
Amanda Pitre's Testimony
15, 2016, Ms. Pitre, represented by counsel, testified before
the ALJ. Tr. at 19.
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.
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
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.
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
Pitre testified that she took medication for high
cholesterol, allergies, acid reflex, asthma, and inability to
sleep. Tr. at 117.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Vocational Expert Testimony
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.
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.
The ALJ's Decision
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,
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 ...