United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge.
Linda Moritz seeks judicial review of an adverse decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), which denied her eligibility for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income Benefits (“SSI”) under Title II
and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, codified at 42
U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d) and 1614(a)(3)(A).
Specifically, Moritz contends that the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”): (1) failed to evaluate her obesity
consistent with Social Security Ruling (“SSR”)
02-1p; and (2) erroneously found her testimony not credible.
While the ALJ did not specifically mention SSR 02-1p, the
court finds that he met its requirements. In addition, the
court finds that the ALJ made a proper credibility finding.
Accordingly, the court will affirm the final decision of the
Commissioner, adopting the ALJ's finding that Moritz was
not entitled to DIB and SSI.
Social Security Application
September 1, 2010, Moritz filed a Title II application for a
period of DIB and a Title XVI application for SSI, alleging
disability beginning August 28, 2010. Both applications were
denied initially on December 27, 2010, and again upon
reconsideration on May 23, 2011. (AR 84-92, 94-102.) A
hearing to reconsider the denial of DIB and SSI was held on
October 30, 2012, before ALJ Arthur J. Schneider, at which
Moritz was both represented by counsel and also testified.
(AR 117-122, 51-77.) The ALJ also heard and considered the
testimony of Allen R. Searles, a neutral vocational expert.
December 18, 2012, the ALJ issued a written decision denying
Moritz's application for DIB and SSI. (AR 19-32.) The ALJ
found that although Moritz has severe impairments, including
morbid obesity, she was not disabled within the meaning of
the Social Security Act from August 28, 2010, through the
date of the opinion. This decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security on April 5, 2014, when
the Appeals Council declined Moritz's request for review
of the ALJ's decision. (AR 1-3.)
Overview of Medical Issues
Moritz's medical record contains treatment notes for
diabetes, muscle spasms and cramping, low back pain radiating
down her left leg, and foot pain (possibly neuropathy from
her diabetes). With that overview, the court provides the
following summary of Moritz's medical record from 2009
until the date of the hearing in October 2012.
records reflect ongoing treatment for diabetes management and
some blood pressure management from August 2009 to October
2012 at the Marshfield Clinic, with Dr. Sheehan providing
direct care or at least oversight of nurse visits. During
this time, Dr. Sheehan also performed periodic (at least once
per year) diabetic foot exams, all of which were normal.
December 2009, Moritz was seen by Drs. Katherine Patterson,
Verica Neskovic, and Swati S. Biswas for muscle cramping and
back pain. All three physicians are with the Marshfield
Clinic. At a December 2, 2009, appointment, Dr. Patterson
noted that Moritz “does not appear to feel
comfortable” due to low back pain, and she also
mentioned that Moritz was considering applying for
bankruptcy. Similarly, in a December 15, 2009, treatment
note, Dr. Biswas found Moritz's back was tender to touch
and her range of motion was restricted in certain respects,
but had no significant abnormalities. Dr. Biswas further
noted Moritz's interest in obtaining disability. Dr.
Neskovic again saw Moritz on December 17, and after reviewing
her history of muscle spasms, noted that her physical exam
was normal, changed her medications to deal with the muscle
cramps, and suggested therapy.
January 2009 and again in April of 2010, Moritz underwent
nerve conduction studies, both of which showed normal
results. She also again saw Dr. Neskovic in April 2010, again
complaining of low back pain, this time with radiating pain
down her left leg, muscle spasms and some tingling in her
feet. Still, Dr. Neskovic noted a “normal physical
exam” except for pain in her low back during straight
leg raises. In response, Dr. Neskovic increased Moritz's
pain medication. In April, Moritz also had an MRI of her
spine. Another doctor, Gregory Peterman, reviewed the results
of that MRI and, after comparing them to an earlier June 2007
MRI, noted “no significant interval change in the
spondylosis at the lower thoracic spine with small disc
protrusions and the degenerative fact hypertrophy in the
lower lumbar spine.” (AR 707.) In May 2010, Moritz
again saw Dr. Biswas as well. At that time, Moritz repeated
her complaint of low back pain, radiating down her left leg.
The notes from that appointment reflect yet another normal
physical exam. Still, Moritz discussed her continuing
interest in pursuing a disability claim, although Dr. Biswas
noted that he didn't think she would qualify.
beginning in May 2010, Moritz began seeing Dr. Poole, a
podiatrist, to address her foot pain. At a May 17
appointment, Poole discussed the possibility of plantar
fasciitis surgery. Moritz had that surgery in June 2010,
after which Dr. Poole noted that she was healing well at two
post-operation appointments, the latter occurring
approximately three weeks after surgery. Moritz denied having
any pain. On August 4, 2010, she requested a note from Dr.
Poole stating she could wear tennis shoes to work as she was
starting a new job on August 23, 2010.
the seemingly positive results of the foot surgery, Moritz
presented at the Aspirus Wausau Hospital Emergency Room
complaining of foot pain on August 30, 2010. In early
September 2010, Moritz also called Dr. Poole and the offices
of Dr. Marie A. Tomasi, also with the Marshfield Clinic, now
complaining of severe foot pain, and specifically
noting a burning feeling. On September 13, 2010, Moritz saw
Dr. Neskovic. The notes reveal that Moritz complained of
burning foot pain at that appointment as well, though she
noted that her muscle cramping was fairly well controlled
with medication and “denie[d] having significant low
back pain at present.” (AR 404.)
October and November 2010, Moritz returned to Dr. Poole
regarding her foot pain. Poole's treatment plan included
new orthotics, for which Moritz was subsequently fitted in
December. Despite those orthotics, Moritz complained in a
January 2011 phone message to her doctor's office that it
felt like she was “walking on hot coals.” (AR
535.) The burning foot pain, however, appears to have
subsided by March 28, 2011, because in an appointment with
Dr. Neskovic on that date, Moritz reported that the