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Anthony Ray Jones v. Michael J. Astrue

December 8, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge



Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying his applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted, without oral argument, to the Honorable Sheila K. Oberto, United States Magistrate Judge.*fn1


Plaintiff was born in 1955, has an eleventh-grade education, and previously worked as a production helper. (Administrative Record ("AR") 20, 27.) On June 17, 2005, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning on May 28, 2005, due to a work injury that occurred on May 17, 1999, causing him to stop working in 2000.*fn2 (AR 12, 17.)

On February 27, 2002, an MRI of Plaintiff's lumbar spine showed some mild disc desiccation at L5/S1 and a small disc protrusion with no nerve root compression. (AR 214.)

On October 4, 2005, Plaintiff complained of low back pain and reported that he was unable to participate in activities of daily living, sat around all day, and was depressed. (AR 235.) On May 25, 2006, Plaintiff reported that he could walk about a half mile to shop for groceries and could perform limited housework. (AR 223.)

On June 27, 2006, Plaintiff's treating physician, Jeff Jones, M.D., opined that Plaintiff's medications, including Lexapro, MS Contin, Hydrocodone, and Ibuprofen, "provided [Plaintiff] with a significant subjective decrease in his pain and also an increase in his function as manifested by the ability to sit, stand, and walk." (AR 219.) Dr. Jones did "not feel that any of the medications [Plaintiff] takes are preventing him from returning to the work force and I am encouraging him to do that." (AR 219.)

On December 7, 2006, Ethelynda Jaojoco, M.D., conducted a consultative orthopedic examination of Plaintiff. (AR 259-63.) Dr. Jaojoco noted that Plaintiff "worked as a production worker for Granny Goose and last worked in 2000. The company eventually closed." (AR 260.) Dr. Jaojoco's functional assessment of Plaintiff was as follows:

[Plaintiff] is able to stand and/or walk for six hours and sit for six hours. He does not require any assistive devices.

He is able to lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. The lifting and carrying restrictions are secondary to the lumbar degenerative disk disease and the presumed degenerative disk disease of the cervical spine.

He has postural limitations of frequent bending, stooping, and crouching with no crawling.

He has no manipulative or environmental restrictions.

(AR 262-63.)

On August 13, 2007, T. P. Nguyen, M.D., a state agency physician, assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity ("RFC"). (AR 279-83.) Dr. Nguyen opined that Plaintiff could (1) occasionally lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds and frequently up to 10 pounds; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling with the upper and lower extremities. (AR 280.) Plaintiff could occasionally climb ramps and stairs (but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds), balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. (AR 281.) Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. (AR 281-82.)

The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR 59-60, 64-65, 69-73, 77-83.)

On July 11, 2008, ALJ Howard K. Treblin held a hearing where Plaintiff testified that he last worked in 2000 as a production worker. (AR 16, 28.) The ALJ noted in his decision Plaintiff's testimony as follows:

[Plaintiff] testified that he is unable to work because of a work related back injury, involving his back, neck, and both legs and feet. He testified he has tingling in both arms extending to his fingertips. He has high blood pressure and has developed depression. [Plaintiff's] current medical treatment consists solely of medications. His medications relieve pain somewhat, but make him sleepy. [Plaintiff] described his pain level of 5/10, and he spends half his day lying down or sitting because of pain. He is able to sit comfortably about an hour, can stand for 15 minutes, and walk about 30 minutes. He has difficulty using his hands, but his doctor has not provided any diagnosis or explanation as to the cause of his symptoms. Doing activities such as shopping or doing housework increases his pain. Because of depression, he has difficulty maintaining ...

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