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Czyzewski v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 22, 2015


Lauren S. Tovinsky, Esq., JACOBS SCHWALBE & PETRUZELLI PC, Cherry Hill, NJ, Attorney for Plaintiff Rita Czyzewski.

Paul J. Fishman, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, By: Andrew Charles Lynch, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel, Philadelphia, PA, Attorneys for Defendant Commissioner of Social Security.


JEROME B. SIMANDLE, Chief District Judge.


This matter comes before the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying Plaintiff Rita Czyzewski's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. (the "Act").

Plaintiff principally argues that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") failed to properly evaluate and weigh the opinion of the agency consulting physician, Dr. Joan Joynson. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in failing to adequately address that Dr. Joynson initially identified Plaintiff's mental impairments as severe, but later changed her opinion of these impairments to non-severe upon the request of an agency reviewer. Plaintiff also argues that the ALJ's finding regarding her residual functional capacity is not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ did not account for her anxiety, depression, and fibromyalgia. Plaintiff also argues that the ALJ improperly discounted Plaintiff's testimony regarding her limitations. Plaintiff maintains that the record is fully developed and ripe for a decision in her favor without remand.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court rejects Plaintiff's arguments and will affirm the ALJ's decision.


A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on October 24, 2011, alleging an onset of disability on July 9, 2010. (R. at 18.) The claim was denied, as was a request for reconsideration. (Id.) Plaintiff appeared at a hearing held on January 17, 2014 before the ALJ, Marguerite Toland. (Id.) Plaintiff was represented by an attorney and elected to give testimony. (Id.) On March 25, 2014, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's appeal at step five of the sequential analysis, finding that Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a medical secretary. (R. at 29.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 1-6.) Plaintiff then filed the instant action.

B. Medical History

The Court finds the following facts relevant to the present motion. Plaintiff was 59 years-old as of the hearing date, and she had past work experience as a medical secretary. Plaintiff's medical history includes treatment for fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, anxiety, and depression. Plaintiff noted in her testimony that she did not receive continuous treatment for her various medical conditions because she lacked health insurance since leaving her job in November, 2010. (R. at 46.)

1. Kennedy Health System

Plaintiff sought emergency medical attention for anxiety and panic attacks in August, 2002. (R. at 335-44.) Plaintiff reported severe anxiety over the preceding six weeks, as well as repeated visits to the emergency room for panic attacks. (R. at 339.) She was discharged with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and prescribed Klonopin, Zoloft, Depakote, and Seroquel. (R. at 339-44.) Plaintiff was to follow up with Dr. Talati. (R. at 339.) The Court is unable to locate any other reference to Dr. Talati in the record, and it is therefore unclear whether Plaintiff received follow-up mental health care as directed.

2. Virtua Family Medicine

On January 13, 2011, Plaintiff was seen at Virtua Family Medicine for abnormal blood pressure and anxiety. (R. at 284.) Plaintiff indicated that she felt like her anxiety was returning. (Id.) Notes from this visit query whether Plaintiff's blood pressure issues were causing her anxiety or vice versa. (Id.) There are no subsequent notes from this facility in the record.

3. Virtua Health Emergency Room

On May 5, 2011, Plaintiff presented at the emergency room with reports of chest pain and diaphoresis which "resolved spontaneously." (R. at 287.) Upon physical exam, emergency room doctors reported no abnormal cardiac findings. (R. at 288.) Plaintiff's EKG was normal. (Id.) Imaging revealed no active disease in the chest, no evidence of ...

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