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Healy v. Commissioner of Social Security

September 29, 2010

CRAIG HEALY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, who is proceeding with retained counsel, brings this action for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Pursuant to the written consent of all parties, this case is before the undersigned as the presiding judge for all purposes, including entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Pending before the court are plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 20) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 28).

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on October 18, 2005. In the application, plaintiff claims that disability began on October 1, 2003. Plaintiff claims that disability is caused by a combination of degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis in the thumb and toes, and borderline intellectual functioning. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied. Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on May 15, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Peter F. Belli. In an August 5, 2008, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant has the following severe impairment: degenerative joint disease;

2. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal an impairment listed in the regulations;

3. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of medium work; and

4. The claimant is capable of performing his past relevant work as a concrete labor foreman.

After the Appeals Council declined review on March 16, 2009, this appeal followed.

II. SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE

The certified administrative record ("CAR") contains the following evidence, summarized chronologically below:

March 8, 2004 -- Chiropractic records indicate that plaintiff complained of neck stiffness following yard work.

March 23, 2004 -- Records from plaintiff's chiropractor indicate that plaintiff's pain had increased following installation of a sprinkler system.

March 26, 2004 -- Plaintiff reported to his chiropractor that his back pain had increased following ditch digging/trenching.

April 27, 2004 -- Emergency room notes indicate that plaintiff sustained a minor eye injury while using a grinder earlier in the day.

October 8, 2004 -- Chiropractic notes indicate that plaintiff complained of increased back pain after moving boxes and furniture.

November 8, 2004 -- Treatment notes from plaintiff's chiropractor indicate that plaintiff was doing yard work.

November 12, 2004 -- Chiropractic notes indicate that plaintiff was doing yard work.

December 22, 2004 -- Chiropractic treatment notes indicate that plaintiff complained of increased pain following yard work.

January 21, 2005 -- Plaintiff related to his chiropractor complaints of increased pain following yard work.

February 1, 2005 -- Notes provided by plaintiff's chiropractor reflect that plaintiff complained of increased pain following a one-week trip where plaintiff drove to Oregon to assist a friend with home repairs and yard work.

March 4, 2005 -- Chiropractic treatment notes reflect that plaintiff had been trimming trees and clearing weeds.

March 18, 2005 -- Chiropractic notes show that plaintiff "cut 4 trees down, installed bathtub."

April 20, 2005 -- Plaintiff reported to his chiropractor that his pain had increased following repairing a garage door.

April 24, 2005 -- Chiropractic notes indicate that plaintiff reported increased pain following yard work.

May 6, 2005 -- Plaintiff reported to his chiropractor that his pain had increased following a trip to Oregon where he did house work and yard work.

June 27, 2005 -- Plaintiff reported to his chiropractor complaints of increased pain following mowing his lawn.

November 11, 2005 -- In a pain questionnaire, plaintiff stated that he is able to walk 1-2 blocks, can stand/sit for 1-2 hours at a time, drives his own car, and is able to do light housework.

December 12, 2005 -- Agency examining doctor Rajeswari Kumar, M.D., reported on a complete orthopedic evaluation. Dr. Kumar reported the following history:

The claimant reports that he had laceration of the left thumb and this was a work-related injury. He reports that the injury occurred about 10 or 15 years ago. He reports that he underwent repair of the laceration. He reports that he was able to return to his work. He worked in construction and noticed gradual onset of lower back pain and neck pain due to repeated lifting, bending, and stooping activities. He also started experiencing bilateral knee pain.

He reports that about three years ago, he retired. However he did not have any relief of symptoms and the pain is progressively getting worse. He is being followed by the doctor intermittently for the past few years. However, he reports that he has been to the doctor only a few times. He has been taking medications for pain relief. His workup in the past includes x-rays, which were done several years ago. His pain in the neck is constant. Lower back pain is constant. He denied any radicular symptoms and reports numbness in the left thigh intermittently. He also reports joint pain in both upper extremity and lower extremity joints. He reports muscle spasms in both lower extremities. The pain is sharp, throbbing, and burning and is aggravated with sitting, standing, walking, bending, and lifting. He reports that he can do all these activities; however, after finishing the work or finishing the activity, he experiences pain. He reports that the previous treatment has minimally improved his symptoms.

Plaintiff told the doctor that he is independent in all activities of daily living. On physical examination, Dr. Kumar reported and opined as follows:

On physical examination, his gait is nonantalgic. He is able to take a few steps on heels and toes. Cervical spine and lumbar spine range of motion is sightly restricted. No clinical evidence of radiculopathy. Examination of both shoulders and elbows show normal range of motion. There was no specific joint tenderness. The wrist range of motion is slightly restricted, but there is no evidence of joint tenderness or joint effusion. He has chronic ostroarthritic changes in the MP joints of the thumb bilaterally. His lower extremity exam shows normal range of motion without any specific joint tenderness. ...


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