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MARTIN v. BARNHART

May 1, 2003

RICKY MARTIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Illston, United States District Judge

JUDGMENT

The denial by the Commissioner of supplemental security income benefits to plaintiff Ricky Martin is affirmed. Judgment is entered accordingly.

IT IS SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR REMAND; AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Plaintiff Ricky Martin ("Martin") has filed a motion for summary judgment, challenging the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of supplemental security income benefits. Defendant Commissioner has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. Having reviewed all the relevant documents, the Court hereby DENIES plaintiffs motion for summary judgment, DENIES plaintiffs motion for remand and GRANTS defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On April 12, 1999 Martin applied for supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, claiming that he had been disabled due to heart, back, and right foot problems, bleeding ulcer, and shortness of breath. (Tr. 291-293, 308). His application was denied initially on July 29, 1999, and again upon reconsideration on September 9, 1999 by the Social Security Administration. (Tr. 14). Martin then filed a timely request for an ALJ hearing on September 22, 1999. (Tr. 252). Martin had filed prior applications for disability insurance benefits and SSI benefits based on disability on January 9, 1998, August 6, 1997 and April 20, 1994. (Tr. 14-15, 208-15). In all three applications, it was determined that Martin was not disabled. Id. The ALJ did not reopen Martin's prior applications. (Tr. 14-15). The ALJ upheld the denial of benefits in his decision dated March 7, 2001. (Tr. 14). The ALJ found that Martin retained the residual functional capacity for light exertional work, with no concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, gases and dust. (Tr. 18). The ALJ also found that Martin does not have any impairment or impairments which meet or equal the criteria set forth in any applicable section of the Listing of Impairments found at 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 18). An alternative ground for the ALJ's decision was the lack of any showing of changed circumstances since the prior ALJ denial decision on October 26, 1995 that would establish Martin's disability. (Tr. 19). On August 3, 2001, the Appeals Council denied Martin's request for review of the ALJ's decision. Martin subsequently filed a complaint in this Court on October 9, 2001, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision.

B. Summary of Medical Evidence

In July of 1996, Martin injured his right heel while playing basketball. (Tr. 410). He sought emergency care at San Francisco General Hospital where he was diagnosed with a right Achilles tendon rupture. (Tr. 410). On July 29, 1996 orthopedic surgeon Theodore Miclau, M.D., performed a surgical repair of Martin's Achilles tendon rupture. Id. Martin "withstood the procedure well" and there were no complications. (Tr. 411). The progress reports submitted by San Francisco General Hospital on January 8, 1997, July 23, 1997 and November 12, 1997 all indicated that Martin's Achilles tendon repair had "healed," and that he was "doing well." (Tr. 475, 482, 493).

On September 9, 1997 Dr. Martin, an internist at North State Medical Clinic, examined plaintiff and reported: he had "no difficulty getting onto or off the examining table"; he used no assistive devices; his lungs were clear; the etiology of his alleged chest pain was unclear; the straight leg raising test was negative; and the neurological examination was essentially normal. (Tr. 507-508). During the examination, Martin did complain of "persistent pain in the area of his Achilles tendon as well as ipsilateral right hip pain which developed during the subsequent months" after he underwent surgical repair of his tendon rupture. (Tr. 506). Martin recalled that he had "been told by his orthopedist that he has arthritis in that hip." Id. Dr. Martin also stated that Martin "would likely benefit from no heavy lifting, no stairs and no prolonged standing and no squatting." (Tr. 508).

X-rays were also performed on Martin at San Francisco General Hospital due to his complaints of persistent pain in his Achilles tendon, chest and right hip. The X-rays of Martin's right knee taken on June 22, 1997 disclosed "no evidence of acute fracture or dislocation." (Tr. 447). The X-rays of Martin's right hip taken on July 5, 1997 showed "no evidence of acute fracture or dislocation." (Tr. 447). The X-rays of Martin's pelvis taken on July 23, 1997 showed "no significant abnormality." (Tr. 445). A pulmonary function test was also performed on February 22, 1997 that showed "no evidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease." (Tr. 446). Martin's chest X-ray taken on January 3, 1998 did not disclose any significant abnormalities. (Tr. 444). A "dipyridamole stress and rest sestamibi study" performed in June 1998 showed "no evidence of myocardial infarction or ischemia." (Tr. 395, 452). The discharge note by Dr. Todd May at San Francisco General Hospital dated June 22, 1998 stated that the myocardial infarction was "ruled out," that Martin had "no further episode of chest pain, " but that he did have "gastroesophageal reflux disease." (Tr. 463).

The state agency physicians, who reviewed the medical evidence, reported on September 23, 1997, November 19, 1998, and July 28, 1999 that Martin could lift or carry up to fifty pounds occasionally and up to twenty-five pounds frequently, and that he could stand or walk for about six hours and sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday (Tr. 519, 527, 535). Dr. Elliot Liff, a Board-certified internist, examined Martin on July 19, 1999. (Tr. 511-516). Dr. Liff reported that Martin had a full range of motion of all the joints in his lower extremities; there was no "edema"; he had a normal gait; his lungs were clear; and his heart had a "regular sinus rhythm," with "no murmurs." (Tr. 512).

On July 21, 2000, Dr. Deborah Greer of Southeast Health Center examined Martin and completed a "cardiac residual functional capacity questionnaire" to determine Martin's physical impairments and limitations. (Tr. 549). Dr. Greer stated that Martin's symptoms included chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, palpitations, and dizziness, and that he had chronic right knee pain and right Achilles pain. (Tr. 549, 554). Dr. Greer reported that Martin stated that he had a "burning pain everyday," and that he could not work "under stressful situation[s]." (Tr. 550). Dr. Greer stated that Martin could lift or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, that he could walk half a city block without severe pain or rest, that he could stand or walk for only less than two hours in an eight-hour workday, that he had environmental restrictions, and that he needed a 10-minute unscheduled break every hour during an eight-hour workday. (Tr. 552-553). Dr. Greer also stated that Martin's impairments could be expected to last at least twelve months. (Tr. 551).

Dr. E. See, also of the Southeast Health Center, examined Martin and indicated on his objective findings that Martin's impairments included "knee pain, chronic back pain, and left ankle dermatoforima." (Tr. 555). Dr. See also found that Martin had a "temporary disabling condition that will last less than twelve months" therefore he was still "employable" and not precluded from all work since his ...


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