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Rimland v. Astrue

May 9, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge





Presently before the Court are Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 10], Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 14], Magistrate Judge Papas' Report and Recommendation ("Report") [Doc. No. 17], Plaintiff's objections [Doc. No. 18], and Defendants' reply to Plaintiff's objections [Doc. No. 21.] For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Papas' Report and Recommendation, GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.


On June 13, 2003, Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, alleging that he became disabled on May 1, 2003 due to polycythemia rubra vera,*fn1 severe foot pain, dizzy spells, inability to breathe, weakness, fatigue, and sudden sweating. [TR at 16.] Plaintiff was previously employed as a bakery assistant, forklift operator, and warehouse worker. [Id.]

The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application both initially and upon reconsideration. [Id. at 33-37.] On December 21, 2004, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Plaintiff, his father, a medical expert, and a vocational expert ("VE") attended the hearing and testified. [Id. at 38-40, 359-378.] Plaintiff's doctors, Dr. Kossman, and Dr. Hirschenbein, submitted medical records showing that Plaintiff had been treated for polycythemia rubra vera, gout, renal disease and that his left kidney had been removed. [Id. at 18-19.] Plaintiff testified that he experienced "attacks" once every 3-4 months, during which his feet swelled and his skin broke. [Id. at 363.] Plaintiff stated that during the attacks he could not walk well. [Id. at 364.]

Plaintiff's father, Dr. Bernard Rimland, testified that Plaintiff was "totally incapacitated," that he lacked energy, and experienced frequent bouts of diarrhea and migraine headaches. [Id. at 367.] Dr. Rimland also stated that Plaintiff's frequent medical appointments would make it difficult for him to gain employment. [Id. at 374.]

A medical expert, Dr. Grant-Anderson ("Dr. Grant"), reviewed the evidence and testified that Plaintiff's diseases did not, singularly or in combination, meet an impairment recognized by the Social Security Administration. [Id. at 370.] Dr. Grant noted that Plaintiff's polycythemia affected his renal disease and caused the kidney stones and infections that led to the removal of Plaintiff's left kidney. However, he also found that his polycythemia was fairly well controlled as a result of his medications. [Id.] Dr. Grant found that Plaintiff suffered "attacks" once a quarter and described Plaintiff's functional capacity:

[H]e could lift occasional 50 [lbs]. Frequently, 25 pounds, walk or stand up to an hour at a time. Cumulatively up to six hours a day. Sit up to a total of six hours a day. There would be no other significant limitations, Your Honor. Now, during the period of his sickness, he would have extreme limitations. He would be unable to walk more than 15 minutes at a time. Cumulatively, no more than two hours a day and the sitting would be up to three minutes at a time. Cumulatively, up to four hours a day and he would be unable to do any lifting or carrying." [Id.]

Lastly, a VE testified that Plaintiff's past work was "medium in nature, semi-skilled." [Id. at 376.] The VE also stated that Plaintiff would be able to transfer some skills from his work as a bakery assistant to a light or sedentary position. [Id. at 376-77.]

After reviewing the medical records and testimony, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. [Id. at 22.] He cited to Dr. Kossman's findings that Plaintiff's renal functions appeared to have stabilized and that the polycythemia was clinically stable while he was on medication. [Id. at 18-19.] The ALJ acknowledged that Dr. Hirschenbein described Plaintiff's gout as "controlled" and that the medical records generally showed only a trace of lower extremity edema. [Id.] The ALJ concluded that the medical evidence also supported Dr. Grant's conclusion that Plaintiff's gout was stable and that he was clinically stable while on medication. [Id.]

In addition, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to "lift/carry 25 pounds frequently, lift/carry 50 pounds occasionally, stand/walk for one hour at a time for a total of six hours per eight-hour day, and sit six hours per eight hour day." [Id. at 19.] The ALJ stated that Plaintiff's RFC would not preclude his past work as a bakery assistant, fork lift operator and warehouse worker. [Id. at 22.] In support, he ...

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