United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
HARRIS TOLIVER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Special Order 3,
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and
Defendant's responsive brief, which the Court construes
as a cross-motion for summary judgment, are now before the
Court. Doc. 16; Doc. 17. For the reasons that
follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
should be GRANTED, Defendant's construed
Motion for Summary Judgment should be
DENIED, the Commissioner's decision
should be REVERSED, and this case should be
REMANDED for further proceedings.
seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner
denying her claim for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income under Title II of the Social
Security Act (“Act”). Plaintiff applied for
benefits in 2014, alleging that she had been disabled since
March of that year. Doc. 13-1 at 111, 121, 131-33, 143,
153-54, 346-55. Plaintiff's claim was denied at all
administrative levels, and she now appeals to this Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Doc. 13-1 at 3-13; Doc.
13-1 at 14-32; Doc. 13-1 at 155-57.
was 56 years old on the date of the hearing before the
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Doc. 13-1 at
45. She had a high school diploma and a job training course
in banking, with past relevant work experience as a childcare
worker, caregiver for the elderly, and accounting clerk. Doc.
13-1 at 45-47, 50; Doc. 13-1 at 88. In terms of
Plaintiff's pertinent medical history, she has been
diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes, painful neuropathy,
non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (“NPDR”),
retinal edema, and other ailments. Doc. 13-2 at 2; Doc. 13-2
at 125, 137; Doc. 13-2 at 302.
January 2015, Plaintiff went to an emergency department for
right eye pain, blurred vision, and visual disturbance, where
she was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy and retinal
edema. Doc. 13-2 at 112, 125. She reported that her vision
had been worsening for months. Doc. 13-2 at 112. In February
2015, Plaintiff was diagnosed with bilateral cataracts. Doc.
13-2 at 140. The same month, she underwent bilateral laser
surgery for macular edema. Doc. 13-2 at 152, 154. In October 2015,
Plaintiff underwent bilateral eye injections for macular
edema and NPDR. Doc. 13-2 at 302. In April 2016, Plaintiff
received an injection in her left eye for macular edema. Doc.
13-3 at 97. The following month, Plaintiff presented to the
hospital with severe NPDR and macular edema, complaining of
visual disturbance. Doc. 13-3 at 127. It was noted that
glaucoma was suspected in both eyes, and she received
bilateral eye injections. Doc. 13-3 at 127, 130. In August
2017, Plaintiff returned to the hospital with a headache
“stemming from [her] eyes” and complained of
chronic blurry vision, but she was unable to complete an eye
examination because of the vision problems. Doc. 13-3 at 615,
terms of her diabetic neuropathy, in February 2015, Plaintiff
reported that she could not feel her feet due to numbness,
she had problems with balance and walked with a broad base
and swayed side to side. Doc. 13-2 at 138, 222. She could not
toe or heel walk, and the feeling in both legs from toes to
knees was impaired to temperature, pin prick, and vibration.
Doc. 13-2 at 141, 222. In February 2015, April 2015 and
January 2016, neurologist Dr. Ram N. Narayan, M.D. stated in
his progress notes that Plaintiff's “neuropathy has
been quite disabling, ” and he issued fall precaution
orders on a number of occasions. Doc. 13-2 at 142, 223; Doc.
13-2 at 311; Doc. 13-2 at 312; Doc. 13-2 at 246. During her
January 2016 appointment, Plaintiff reported to Dr. Narayan
that her neuropathic pain symptoms had worsened, she had
“severe burning pain” and numbness in her feet,
and her balance continued to worsen. Doc. 13-2 at 310.
record is also replete with references to the edema in
Plaintiff's lower extremities. Doc. 13-2 at 81; Doc. 13-2
at 81; Doc. 13-2 at 168, 177; Doc. 13-2 at 325; Doc. 13-3 at
254, 419, 515, 524. Plaintiff testified that after taking
prescription medication for the edema, she has to urinate two
to three times per hour. Doc. 13-1 at 95. Additionally,
Plaintiff has osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, and
pain and decreased range of motion in both shoulders. Doc.
13-1 at 20; Doc. 13-2 at 325, 327; Doc. 13-3 at 420.
January 2015, one of Plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr.
Arjumand Ghayas, M.D., wrote a “medical
statement” asserting that Plaintiff had uncontrolled
diabetes complicated by severe neuropathy, severe burning in
both feet, and dizzy spells among other conditions. Doc. 13-2
at 98. Dr. Ghayas noted that due to Plaintiff's health,
it would be very difficult for her to return to work. Doc.
13-2 at 98. In February 2015, Dr. Narayan wrote a similar
statement, indicating that Plaintiff was seeing him for
“debilitating neuropathy that is causing her
significant gait and balance problems.” Doc. 13-2 at
The ALJ's Findings
initially denied Plaintiff benefits in April 2016. Doc. 13-1
at 161. Upon remand by the Appeals Council in October 2016,
the ALJ convened another hearing in November 2017. Doc. 13-1
at 81; Doc. 13-1 at 167. In April 2018, the ALJ issued a new
decision, holding that Plaintiff had the severe impairments
of osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, obesity, Type
II diabetes mellitus, neuropathy, kidney disease, diastolic
dysfunction, hypertensive heart disease, left ulnar
mononeuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sarcoidosis. Doc.
13-1 at 20. The ALJ stated that there was no evidence that
Plaintiff's macular degeneration and NPDR negatively
affected her ability to work. Doc. 13-1 at 20. The ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a range of sedentary work,
including her prior work as an accounting clerk, and she was
thus not disabled under the Act. Doc. 13-1 at 20-21, 23-24.