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Rumzis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

January 23, 2019




         Plaintiff, Ginger Glo Rumzis, seeks review of the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying her claim for disability insurance benefits (SSDI) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423. Docket 18. The Commissioner opposes the motion and urges the court to affirm the denial of benefits. Docket 20. For the following reasons, the court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.


         Rumzis filed an application for SSDI benefits on May 12, 2014, alleging disability since October 19, 2013. AR 240. The Commissioner denied her claim initially on October 9, 2014, and upon reconsideration on April 8, 2015. AR 146, 128. Rumzis then appeared with counsel before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Denzel R. Busick at an administrative hearing on January 27, 2017. See AR 71 (transcript of hearing). The ALJ issued an opinion affirming the denial of benefits on March 10, 2017. AR 20. The Appeals Council denied Rumzis' request for review on January 16, 2018. AR 1. Thus, Rumzis' appeal of the Commissioner's final decision is properly before the court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         Rumzis was born on May 8, 1973. AR 114. She was 40 years old on the alleged onset date, and she lived in Arizona when she initially applied for SSDI. AR 115. Rumzis completed a Bachelor of Arts in music education and has received an LLB from Nottingham Trent University. AR 380. She has worked several jobs in music, including as an elementary band director, choir director, and music teacher, and she also spent time working as a paralegal. AR 125.

         Rumzis has a history of several medical conditions, including a herniated disc, tear, and canal stenosis in her neck, depression, anxiety, stomach issues, scoliosis, right knee damage, and neck pain related to a prior car accident. AR 295. She presented to the emergency room on October 8, 2013, complaining of weakness and dizziness that had worsened over three weeks. AR 424. She had a Head/Brain CT scan, which showed no acute intracranial abnormalities. AR 423. Rumzis again presented to the emergency room on November 20, 2013, complaining of weakness and dizziness after a chiropractor appointment. AR 417. Following a CT scan of her cervical spine that day, Dr. Ron Shinar noted mild degenerative changes at ¶ 5-6 and mild levoconvex scoliosis. AR 415. She also had an MRI of her cervical spine on February 21, 2014, and the radiologist noted a “[t]ear of the posterior annulus with midline posterior disc herniation at ¶ 5-C6 impinging on the ventral aspect of the spinal cord resulting in mild central canal stenosis.” AR 452. On February 24, 2014, Rumzis presented to the Pain Management Associates at Hedley Orthopaedics Institute in Arizona for her neck and upper back pain. AR 430. She rated her pain at ¶ 2/10 with medication, but an 8/10 without medication. Id. Kirk Bowden, DO, diagnosed her with cervical spondylosis, brachial neuritis, and cervicalgia. AR 432.

         Rumzis received monthly treatment for her ongoing neck pain at Heavens Medical PLC in Arizona in 2014. See AR 499-519. Treatment notes from Dr. Jason Heavens show that her medical providers managed her pain medication, directed her to continue with her chiropractic care and physical therapy, and discussed her cortisone injections. AR 500. Rumzis also reported that her neck pain increased her anxiety, she suffered from nausea and other side effects due to her medication, and she fatigued easily. AR 501, 503. At times, it was noted that physical therapy decreased her pain and increased her mobility. AR 505.

         Rumzis received chiropractic care for her neck and upper back issues many times in 2013 and 2014. See AR 434-498. She also participated in several physical therapy sessions at Ideal Physical Therapy in Arizona in 2014. See AR 521-573. Physical therapy notes indicate that Rumzis tolerated her exercises, felt improvement in her neck pain symptoms following therapy sessions, and benefited overall. Id. In September 2014, Rumzis had a lipoma removed from her upper back after her providers suggested removal of the small mass in order to potentially alleviate some of her symptoms. AR 585.

         As to psychological care, Rumzis saw Dr. Jessica Leclerc, a clinical psychologist in Arizona, in 2014. AR 602. Dr. Leclerc diagnosed her with panic disorder and an unspecified depressive disorder. AR 606. Dr. Leclerc noted that Rumzis did not exhibit problems with understanding, concentration, or persistence, and she scored well on a mini-mental status exam that tested her memory. AR 605-607.

         In 2015 and 2016, she saw Dr. Shawn Culey at Avera in Sioux Falls for her neurological symptoms and low blood pressure. AR 708-750. After discussing many of Rumzis' labs and testing results, Dr. Culey recommended Rumzis to see Dr. Todd Zimprich, a neurologist in Sioux Falls, for her lightheadedness and fainting. AR 724. She underwent an autonomic screen test at his direction, but Dr. Zimprich noted the test did not give a “clear POTS diagnosis.” AR 703. She also permanently moved back to South Dakota at some point in 2016, and Dr. Culey's notes indicate that Rumzis felt somewhat better living in South Dakota. AR 743.


         During the administrative hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Rumzis; Mercedes Lodnel, the daughter of Rumzis; and Frank Samlaska, a vocational expert. AR 73. Rumzis, represented by counsel at the hearing, testified about her education, work experience, and the difficulties she has had while working or around the house. She testified that she has a Bachelor of Arts in music education AR 78. Rumzis has been a music teacher, band director, and a choral director. AR 100. She also worked as a paralegal at a law firm while attending law school. AR 101-102.

         Rumzis testified that she stopped working in September or October of 2013, after she experienced her first seizure and began having dizzy spells while at school. AR 78-80. She experienced seizures or dizzy spells two or three times a week. AR 81. Rumzis testified that her episodes have been less frequent or less severe since she moved back to South Dakota from Arizona, attributing the improvement to the colder climate here. AR 82. Additionally, she suffers from a dizziness sensation every day. AR 83.

         Rumzis also testified that she has experienced physical pain in her neck and her mid and lower back since September 2013. AR 85. Sometimes she must lay down due to her neck pain. AR 86. Maintaining stamina is one of her biggest issues, as she testified to experiencing chronic fatigue. AR 88-89. Rumzis also testified about headaches, which are less frequent now that she lives in South Dakota, but she still has strong pain behind her eyes. AR 92. She has a difficult time concentrating or comprehending what she reads, and while she still drives when she can, she has her daughter drive her when she does not feel comfortable. AR 85, 90-91.

         Rumzis, a lifetime musician, testified about short term memory loss and how there are times when she tries to read music but the music notes look completely foreign to her. AR 93-94. On good days, she said she can drive, do dishes, and do laundry, but on bad days, she spends the entire day in bed, needs help getting dressed, and does not cook. AR 86-87. Rumzis testified about how her pain has affected her socially, as she used to be a “social butterfly” but now she does not want to leave ...

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