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.

Sharpe v. Barryhill

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

February 15, 2018

TAMMY L. SHARPE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BARRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.



         Plaintiff Tammy L. Sharpe, appeals from the Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's final decision on her application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i) and 423 (Disability Benefits). This appeal is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Sharpe has filed a Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 13), and Defendant Commissioner has filed a Motion for Summary Affirmance (d/e 16). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before this Court. Consent to the Exercise of Jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate and Reference Order entered November 30, 2016 (d/e 8). For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.



         Sharpe was born on June 18, 1969. Sharpe completed high school, although she took special education classes in high school. She previously worked as an assistant manager/cashier at a gas station and store. She last worked on October 27, 2011. She lived with her husband. She suffers from tremors, degenerative disc disease, asthma, history of possible sensory stroke, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and borderline intellectual functioning. Certified Transcript of Proceedings before the Social Security Administration (d/e 11) (R.), at 14, 63-65, 232-33.

         Evidence From Before the First Evidentiary Hearing

         On February 2, 2012, Sharpe saw Dr. Walid Hafez, M.D., for a tremor in her hands and lower jaw. R. 369-72. Sharpe reported that the tremor leveled off after a procedure on her thyroid. Sharpe reported that her tremor became worse in the last month. She reported that she was having trouble writing and buttoning her clothes. She reported that she occasionally had a jaw tremor. Dr. Hafez noted, “However, overall she is very happy and adjusted to her condition.” R. 370. On examination, Dr. Hafez noted that Sharpe gained weight. Sharpe was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 230 pounds 4.8 ounces. On examination, Sharpe's motor strength was good. Sharpe had cogwheeling at the neck, fine tremors in her hands and tension in her fingers. Dr. Hafez noted that Sharpe had no tremor when totally at rest. Sharpe had a mild intention tremor when she moved her hand. Sharpe's sensation was preserved. She had mild tremor placing a finger to her nose. Her handwriting also demonstrated a tremor. Dr. Hafez planned to recheck her thyroid hormone T4 level and prescribed Primidone. Dr. Hafez discussed tremor medication with Sharpe. He also discussed ways to improve Sharpe's tremor including using “weights at the wrists, relaxation, physical fitness, and ‘defocusing' off the tremor.” Dr. Hafez also scheduled Sharpe for physical therapy. R. 371.

         On March 5, 2012, Sharpe saw Dr. Hafez. R. 365-68. She reported no change in her tremors, but sudden mood changes and sudden anger at others since she started taking the Primidone. Dr. Hafez discontinued the medication. Sharpe reported that her tremor was gradually worsening. Sharpe reported having problems picking up a glass of tea. Sharpe was “now very self-conscious about the tremor and worries that people are looking at her.” R. 367. On examination, Sharpe had normal strength with preserved sensation. She was impaired on taking her finger to her nose with a mild intention tremor. Dr. Hafez concluded that Sharpe “has most likely an essential tremor.” He changed her medications. Dr. Hafez stated that Sharpe had a “fairly benign tremor and is not a candidate for deep brain stimulation.” Dr. Hafez encouraged Sharpe to engage in a fitness program and reduce her caloric intake. R. 367.

         On April 27, 2012, Sharpe saw nurse practitioner Jane Peterson, CNP. R. 420-23. Sharpe reported that she experienced an ice water sensation from her waist to her knee on the right side since the day before. Sharpe also reported bilateral pain in her feet for the last two weeks. Sharpe also reported back pain for over a month. R. 420. On examination, Sharpe was alert, oriented, cooperative, and her memory function was normal. Her breathing was normal, her gait was normal, and she could move all extremities. Peterson assessed possible peripheral neuropathy. She ordered an MRI of the lumbar spine. R. 422-23.

         On May 4, 2012, Sharpe was admitted to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Illinois, for paresthesis, and possible stroke. A CT scan of her head showed no intracranial hemorrhage, mass, or mass effect. The CT scan showed no acute intracranial abnormality. The CT scan report states that Sharpe had a clinical history of right-sided leg weakness, right-sided facial numbness, and lightheadedness. R. 332. An ultrasound of her carotid arteries showed no significant carotid artery stenosis. She was discharged on May 5, 2012. R. 334.

         On May 8, 2012, Sharpe saw Dr. Hafez. R. 361-64. Sharpe reported numbness from her right hip to her right knee, with a feeling of ice water and warm water running over it. Sharpe reported that the sensation moved up to her arm and right face. She reported tremors, weakness, difficulty urinating with leakage, dizziness, tingling and numbness in her right ear, and problems swallowing. R. 361. On examination, Sharpe's motor strength seemed good and symmetrical. Sharpe felt stimuli to the right side of her face as a tingling sensation. Sharpe had less perception of sharp and dull stimuli in the right lower extremity and less so over the right upper extremity. Dr. Hafez noted that Sharpe's coordination was “definitely impaired.” Sharpe's gait was good. She limped because of the pain in her right knee. Dr. Hafez concluded that Sharpe could have a mild sensory stroke, except the May 4 and 5 CT scan and carotid artery ultrasound were normal. R. 364.

         On May 18, 2012, Sharpe underwent an echocardiogram. The test showed normal heart function and an ejection fraction of 60 percent. R. 335-37.

         On June 1, 2012, Sharpe underwent a lumbar puncture for a biopsy of spinal fluid. The procedure report noted that Sharpe had a clinical history of paresthesia and urinary incontinence. R. 341. The results of the lumbar puncture biopsy was negative. R. 402.

         On June 12, 2012, Sharpe went to see Peterson. Sharpe had multiple questions regarding recent test results. Sharpe reported that she was feeling better but continued to have numbness in her right leg and tremors. Sharpe reported that she had twitching in her right eyelid and fatigue. Peterson did not conduct a physical examination during this visit. The same day Sharpe underwent an MRI of her thoracic spine. The MRI showed left-side bulging disk at ¶ 6-7 of doubtful clinical significance. The scan was otherwise normal. R. 342.

         On June 21, 2012, Sharpe saw Dr. M. Ali, M.D., for a hypercoagulable state. R. 402-05. Dr. Ali noted that Sharpe had heterozygous factor V Leiden gene mutation and history of sensory stroke. Dr. Ali noted that Sharpe had undergone MRIs of her carotid artery, brain, and thoracic spine. He noted that the scans were all normal except for the bulging disc at ¶ 6-7, which he said was “probably insignificant.” Dr. Ali also noted that the lumbar puncture results were negative. Dr. Ali stated that Sharpe's “hypercoagulable state revealed heterozygous factor V gene mutation.” She took aspirin for this condition. Sharpe reported the she still had some numbness in her right lower extremity, but the rest of the numbness “actually has been somewhat resolved.” R. 402.

         On examination, Sharpe's strength was symmetrical in all extremities. She had somewhat decreased sensation in the right lower extremity. Dr. Ali noted “some impairment of coordination with questionable positive finger-nose-finger test on right side.” Sharpe's gait was normal. Dr. Ali assessed hypercoagulable state. Dr. Ali recommended continuation of the aspirin and additional testing. R. 404-05.

         On July 2, 2012, Sharpe saw Dr. Hafez for a follow up visit. R. 357-60. Sharpe reported that the numbness in her right side had subsided except “outer aspect of strip knee up to thigh still numb.” Dr. Hafez noted that the MRI, lumbar puncture and other testing was generally negative except for the factor V Leiden mutation and mild bulging of a thoracic disc without cord compression. Dr. Hafez noted that Sharpe's condition “if anything has improved.” Dr. Hafez summarized:

The patient's condition if anything has improved. She is left now with a patch of numbness from the proximal part of the thigh laterally down to the right knee, down to the mid-leg laterally. There is no pain. She is fairly comfortable and she is capable of doing things the way she does without problem. She, however, still has issues with memory.
Her review of systems apart from these two issues is negative. She is trying to eat healthy foods.

R. 359. Dr. Hafez performed a formal SLUMS mental status examination. Sharpe scored 27 out of 30.[1] Dr. Hafez said concerning the test results.

This may be an expression of mild cognitive impairment the test, but her score which was 27 out of 30 is still in the normal range. Most likely this problem is related to decreased attention.

R. 306. Dr. Hafez could not diagnose any cause of Sharpe's condition:

We reviewed all those results with the patient. At the present time I am unable to apply a specific diagnosis to the patient's complaint. This could have been the result of her minor vascular event or viral infection. I do not have evidence for strokes, ongoing inflammatory disease like MS, etc.

R. 360.

         On July 18, 2012, Sharpe saw Dr. Ali for a follow up. R. 373-74. Dr. Ali noted that he completed the additional testing for Sharpe's hypercoagulable state. The additional testing was negative. Sharpe reported that she still had some shooting pain in her right lower extremity. Sharpe reported no other new symptoms. R. 373. Dr. Ali recommended continuation of the daily aspirin. R. 374.

         On August 1, 2012, Sharpe completed a Function Report-Adult Form. R. 242-49. Sharpe reported that she had a hard time walking down stairs due to her tremors and partial numbness in her right leg. She said that the heat “makes my asthma act up.” She said she got dizzy bending over due to vertigo. She said she had no strength on her right side due to a lumbar puncture test. R. 242. Sharpe reported that she let the dogs out and did laundry during the day. Otherwise, she sat and rested. She did not drive due to her vertigo, numbness, and tremors. R. 243. She reported that she had problems sleeping due to lower back pain, leg pain, and severe headaches. R. 243. She said she had trouble remembering to take her medications. She said she made sandwiches and heated leftovers. She did not cook more extensively because she could not stand for long periods. R. 244.

         Sharpe said she did not do yardwork because of her asthma. She went outside once a day, but more often in cool weather. She went grocery shopping once a month. R. 245. She opined that she could lift five pounds, walk 10 yards, pay attention for five minutes or less. She could not follow spoken instructions but could follow written instructions, but demonstrations worked best. R. 247.

         On September 28, 2012, Sharpe saw psychologist Dr. Frank Froman, Ed.D., for a consultative examination (CE) and mental status examination (MSE). R. 375-84. Dr. Froman stated that, “Tammy presented as a somewhat anxious individual who appeared to put forth a very strong effort, trying to do better each time, and became angry with herself when she did not know what to say or do. Anxiety definitely interfered with her performance.” R. 376. Dr. Froman administered a Wechsler Memory Scale-Fourth Edition test. Dr. Froman stated that the test results showed “unusually poor memory virtually ‘across the boards.'” R. 383. Dr. Froman diagnosed probable dementia of unknown origin, borderline intellectual functioning by interview, and a current Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) of 45.[2] R. 383. Dr. Froman opined:

CONCLUSIONS: Tammy does not appear able to perform one or two step assemblies at a competitive rate. She is able to understand simple oral and written instructions, but will not be able to retain them without "writing them down or looking at them." She can get along with other people adequately, and seems to be able to manage her own benefits. I strongly doubt that she would be able to withstand the stress associated with customary employment until such time as we have a more clear understanding as to what might be causing her memory loss.

R. 384.

         On October 5, 2012, state agency physician Dr. Richard Lee Smith, M.D. prepared a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment. Dr. Smith opined that Sharpe could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk about six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit about six hours in an eight-hour workday; never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb stairs and ramps; and frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crawl, and crouch. Dr. Smith opined that Sharpe had no manipulative limitations. R. 97-98.

         On October 5, 2012, state agency psychologist Dr. Joseph Mehr, Ph.D., prepared a Mental Residual Functional Assessment. R. 98-100. Dr. Mehr opined that Sharpe was markedly limited in understanding and remembering detailed instructions; not significantly limited in remembering locations and work-like procedures; and not significantly limited in understanding and remembering short and simple instructions. R. 99. Dr. Mehr opined that Sharpe was not significantly limited in her ability to carry out simple and short instructions. He opined that she was moderately limited in carrying out detailed instructions. He opined that Sharpe was moderately limited in her ability to maintain attention and concentration for extended periods.

         Dr. Mehr explained:

This woman performs very poorly on cognitive tests at a MSE which is in direct contrast to her capacity when assessed by her treating physician. She is oriented times three, presents as mentally impaired at a CE MSE but is fairly independent in activities of daily living. Her issue at the CER (sic) MSE may be the result of ADHD which is diagnosed by her treating source. She retains enough mental capacity necessary for remembering work locations and work related procedures and she has the cognitive capacity to understand and remember instructions for simple one and two step work of a routine and repetitive type.
She also retains sufficient attention and concentration to persist at and complete work activities for the periods of time required in the general work force. This lady retains the capacity for adequate pace and perseverance to maintain a schedule and on time attendance, and to complete a normal work day and work week on a consistent basis. She is able to perform at minimally acceptable rates, requiring only the common frequency and lengths of rest ...

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.