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Willie Ivy v. Commissioner of Social Security

May 24, 2011

WILLIE IVY,
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. 15) and defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 16).

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits on February 28, 2007. He claims that disability began on March 20, 2007, and that disability is caused by a combination of severe degenerative arthritis, diabetes, hepatitis C, lower back pain and deterioration, and depression. Plaintiff's claim was initially denied. Following denial of reconsideration, plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, which was held on August 19, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Sandra K. Rogers. In a February 4, 2009, decision, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff is not disabled based on the following relevant findings:

1. The claimant has the following severe impairments: osteoarthritis of the left hip, depression, and a history of drug use;

2. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment set forth in the regulations;

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

4. Considering the claimants, age, education, work experience, residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.

After the Appeals Council declined review on February 24, 2010, this appeal followed.

II. SUMMARY OF THE EVIDENCE

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

August 8, 2005 -- Treatment records indicate that plaintiff refused medication for hepatitis C and that he was not taking his diabetes medications.

June 1, 2006 -- Treatment records indicate that plaintiff had been in prison the past year. On physical examination, the doctor noted no abnormal test results. Plaintiff was told to continue with his medications.

September 1, 2006 -- Treatment notes indicate that plaintiff presented with complaints of severe left hip pain. Plaintiff was not in any acute distress at the time of the examination which revealed no abnormal findings.

February 3, 2007 -- Treatment notes indicate that plaintiff was not in compliance with diabetes medication. There was no abdominal pain reported. On physical examination, findings were normal except for "pain at groin area with L hip rotation." Plaintiff was referred to an orthopedic specialist per his request. Plaintiff also stated that he was still using heroine and that he was not ready to quit.

March 7, 2007 -- Treatment notes from treating doctor Dhiren Nanavati, M.D., reflect that plaintiff presented with complaints of left hip pain. Plaintiff reported that he can "do household ambulation with minimal pain." The doctor reported that plaintiff's left hip only hurt after prolonged walking and that he is up at night only "sometimes." Dr. Nanavati expressed the opinion that plaintiff was "not employable in the near future" due to severe arthritis in the left hip, mild arthritis in the right hip, "and other medical issues."

March 27, 2007 -- Plaintiff submitted a Function Report. In describing his typical day, plaintiff stated his mother has to help him out of bed in the morning due to leg stiffness. He also stated that his mother prepares his breakfast. Plaintiff stated that his mother also assists him with drying off after a shower and dressing. He stated that he alternates among sitting, standing, and limited walking throughout the day "since I cannot do each of them for long periods of time." According to plaintiff, he does not care for any other people or for any animals. Plaintiff stated that his condition affects his sleep because he does not sleep through the night due to pain and stiffness. As to housework and yardwork, plaintiff stated that he can water the lawn but only for short periods of time because he must alternate between sitting and standing or walking due to pain. He does this about once a month for 15 to 20 minutes. Plaintiff did not indicate whether he does any other household chores. As to money, plaintiff stated that, while he can pay bills, count change, and handle a savings account, he is unable to handle a checking account due to poor memory. Plaintiff stated that he cannot lift, squat, bend, stand, reach, walk, sit, kneel, or climb due to pain in his hip and lower back. He added that he has difficulty with memory, concentration, completing tasks, understanding, following instructions, and getting along with others due to poor memory. Plaintiff also stated that he uses a cane though it was not prescribed.

March 28, 2007 -- Plaintiff's mother, Queen Ivy, submitted a Third Party Function Report. Her report is essentially the same as plaintiff's report, discussed above.

April 21, 2007 -- Agency examining psychiatrist Bradley Daigle, M.D., conducted a comprehensive psychiatric examination. Plaintiff's chief complaint at the time was of hip pain. Plaintiff reported that he had been a heroine user but had not used the drug since May 2006. Plaintiff denied feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. Plaintiff was not taking any psychiatric medications at the time. As to daily activities, Dr. Daigle reported:

He currently lives in Stockton with his mother. He has a girlfriend who is unemployed. He has a valid driver's license. He drives a motor vehicle without particular problems. He is able to take buses. He goes out alone without any reported difficulty. He takes care of his own self-care. He does light housekeeping and chores. He handles his own bills and money. He likes to go fishing and he goes to church regularly. . . .

Following an unremarkable mental status examination, Dr. Daigle was not able to offer any psychiatric diagnosis and assigned a global assessment of functioning ("GAF") score of 70 out of 100. Dr. Daigle concluded that plaintiff ". . . does not have a serious psychiatric problem but only minor depression which is currently completely untreated." Dr. Daigle noted only slight limitations in plaintiff's ability to: (1) relate to and interact with supervisors, co-workers, and the public; (2) associate with day-to-day work activity including attendance and safety; and (3) adapt to the stresses common to a normal work environment.

May 31, 2007 -- Agency examining doctor Satish Sharma, M.D., conducted a comprehensive internal medicine examination. Dr. Sharma recorded the following history:

The claimant is a 44-year-old black male who is complaining of low back pain for the last several years. The back pain at times radiates to lower extremities. He does not give any history of trauma to the back. He also gives a history of intermittent numbness in the lower extremities. Says anytime he stands, walks, lifts anything, bends, or sits in one position for long periods of time, he has low back pain.

He also has history of hepatitis C. He was diagnosed about four years back. Says he had the liver biopsy but has not been started on interferon treatment. He denies ever being a heavy alcohol user. He complains of increased fatigue, also gives history of recurrent nausea and abdominal cramps.

He also is a known case of diabetes for the last four years. He denies any hospitalization for control of diabetes. He complains of increased fatigue, says mild exertion makes him tired. He gives a history of decreased vision, denies ever having any laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy.

He also complained of left hip pain. He says he is having left pain for the last several years, getting progressively worse. He does not give any history of injury to the hip. He had x-ray of bilateral hips done in February 2007, which showed degenerative changes in both hips, left worse than the right. On the left, there is a severe superolateral joint space narrowing with subchondral cyst formation, marginal osteophytes, and subchondral sclerosis. Mild degenerative changes are noted on the right with mild degenerative osteophytes. There is no fracture or destructive bone lesion. Sacroiliac joints and symphsis pubis are normal. He says his doctors have told him that he has severe arthritis in the hip and he needs a hip replacement. Says anytime he bears weight on the lower extremities, he has pain in the left hip.

Following a physical examination, Dr. Sharma offered the following functional capacity assessment:

Based upon today's physical examination and observations, he has limitations in lifting to 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally. Standing and walking limited to 6 hours per day with normal breaks. Bending and stooping should be done occasionally. Sitting limited to 6 hours per day. No limitation in holding, feeling, or fingering the objects. No limitation in speech, hearing, or vision.

June 6, 2007 -- Agency consultative doctor Melvin Morgan, M.D., submitted a Psychiatric Review Technique form. The doctor concluded that plaintiff has a non-severe affective disorder, as well as a substance addiction disorder. No difficulties with activities of daily living or in maintaining social functioning were noted. Dr. Morgan did note, however, ...


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