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GANDY v. BARNHART

November 2, 2004.

CYNTHIA GANDY, Plaintiff,
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARTIN ASHMAN, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Cynthia J. Gandy, seeks judicial review of the final decision of Defendant, Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), who determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Before this Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, which requests this Court to reverse the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision that Plaintiff was not entitled to DIB, and reverse and/or remand Plaintiff's case for further determination of her disability. The Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment, which requests this Court to affirm the ALJ's decision, is also before the Court. For the reasons set forth below, this Court reverses the ALJ's decision and remands Plaintiff's case for further determination of her disability.

  I. Procedural History

  Plaintiff applied for DIB on June 3, 1999. (R. at 9, 108.) Plaintiff claimed that on September 30, 1998, she became unable to work due to carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis of the left shoulder, and hardening of the arteries. (R. at 9.) Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. at 60, 66, 75.) On January 12, 2000, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing by an ALJ. (R. at 78.) The Administrative hearing was held before ALJ B. Carlton Bailey Jr. on October 30, 2001, where Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified. (R. at 22-57.) At that hearing, the ALJ also received the testimony of Susan Entenberg, a vocational expert. (R. at 52-56.) Additionally, at that hearing, Plaintiff requested that her alleged date of disability onset be amended to June 30, 1999.*fn1 (R. at 9.) On April 25, 2002, the ALJ rendered his decision and found Plaintiff not disabled because there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (R. at 17.) Plaintiff filed a timely appeal but the Appeal Council denied the request for review, making the ALJ's decision final. (R. at 3.)

  II. Background Facts

  A. Plaintiff's Background

  Plaintiff was born on January 23, 1955, (R. at 33), and was forty-seven years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. at 10.) Plaintiff completed highschool and one year of college. (R. at 36.) Plaintiff has approximately twenty-two years of secretarial and clerical work experience. (R. at 50.) Plaintiff's most recent employment ended in June of 1999. (R. at 29.) B. Medical Facts

  Plaintiff was involved in an auto accident in December 1997. (R. at 10-11.) An MRI was performed on Plaintiff's left shoulder on January 13, 1998. (R. at 175.) The MRI revealed mild degenerative changes in the acromioclavicular joint and some abnormalities in the posterior aspect of the belly of the supraspinatus muscle, which may have represented an isolated strain of the supraspinatus muscle. (Id.) The MRI uncovered no evidence of rotator cuff tear. (Id.)

  From January 1998 until March 1998, Plaintiff underwent physical therapy treatment for tendonitis of her left shoulder and for neck strain. (R. at 187-93.) Therapy was discontinued due to a lack of further improvement. (R. at 187.)

  On April 13, 1999, Plaintiff underwent an Electromyographic ("EMG") consultation of her upper extremities at Christ Hospital and Medical Center. (R. at 172.) That consultation revealed bilateral median neuropathies at the level of both wrists consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome. (Id.) The involvement was very mild and limited to sensory slowing only. (Id.) Additionally, a clinical examination conducted at that time revealed that Plaintiff had left biceps tendonitis within the bicipital groove. (R. at 11, 179.) From January 1998 until May 1999, Plaintiff received physical therapy on her left wrist but full recovery was not achieved. (R. at 181-93.)

  In July 1999, Plaintiff underwent surgery for release of carpal tunnel on her left arm. (R. at 194.) A September 8, 1999 check-up by Dr. Jose Perez-Sanz found that Plaintiff was recovering well, though still complaining of pain and tenderness in her left wrist and forearm. (Id.) In February 2000, Plaintiff underwent nerve conduction studies which disclosed the existence of mild median mononeuropathy at the wrists. (R. at 310.) An EMG test performed in June of 2000 revealed that Plaintiff had mild right median neuropathy at the wrist with mild motor and sensory delay. (Id.) The examining physician also reported that Plaintiff's left carpal tunnel syndrome was nearly resolved, from an electrophysiologic point of view. (Id.)

  In October 1999, Plaintiff was hospitalized for testing after reporting to her treating physician, Dr. Zainulabuddin Syed, that she had experienced several episodes involving a loss of balance, blurred vision and slurred speech. (R. at 11.) Testing revealed that Plaintiff had only borderline left ventricle hypertrophy and trace mitral valve regurgitation. (R. at 218.)

  Treatment notes from psychologist Dr. Mario M. Gallo reveal that Plaintiff was seeking treatment for generalized anxiety disorder from July 2000 through April 2001. (R. at 234-44.) During her meetings with Dr. Gallo, Plaintiff reported feeling fatigued, depressed and stressed stemming from a variety of physical complaints. (R. at 235-41.) In March of 2002, Plaintiff was noted to be tired, upset and depressed following the death of her mother in ...


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