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Lisa Jefferson v. Michael J. Astrue

February 25, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Suzanne H. Segal United States Magistrate Judge



Lisa Jefferson ("Plaintiff") seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner" or the "Agency") to deny her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636©, to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. For the reasons stated below, the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.


Plaintiff Lisa Jefferson filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on May 19, 2009. (AR 129). She alleged a disability onset date of July 4, 2008. (Id.). The Agency initially denied her application on August 18, 2009. (AR 76). Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Peggy M. Zirlin on June 15, 2010. (AR 98). On October 8, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. (AR 23). On October 13, 2010, Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision. (AR 18-19). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request on December 15, 2011. (AR 5-7). Plaintiff filed the instant action on February 17, 2012.


A. General Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on December 16, 1960. (AR 47). Plaintiff's highest completed level of education is the tenth grade. (Id.). Plaintiff was employed at National Security Group as a security guard since 1995. (AR 67). Plaintiff claims she was injured on the evening of July 4, 2008, during work. Plaintiff alleges that she twisted her ankle and fell on her right knee as she was running to inform her manager of nearby gang activity. (Id.). She has not been employed since the injury. (AR 48). Plaintiff complains of constant right knee pain, low back pain, anxiety and depression. (AR 43-64).

Plaintiff alleges that she can stand or walk for only about five minutes due to pain from her right knee. (AR 51). Plaintiff claims that she uses a cane when she walks because her right knee unexpectedly gives out, causing her to fall. (AR 50-51). Plaintiff also asserts that she can only sit for about five minutes due to her low back pain. Finally, Plaintiff claims that she suffers from anxiety attacks and depression caused from her knee pain and her "situation". (AR 59). Plaintiff alleges that she gets anxiety attacks three to four times a week. (Id.). However, Plaintiff has not received treatment for anxiety or depression. (AR 53-54)

Plaintiff testified that she lays in bed for most of a twenty-four hour day. (AR 52-53). She further testified that she only leaves her bed to use the restroom or to eat. (AR 52-53). Plaintiff does not do any household chores. (AR 53). Plaintiff lives with a friend who provides her meals. (Id.). However, Plaintiff is able to dress and bathe herself. (AR 58). Plaintiff claims that she does not drive due to side effects from her medication. (AR 56). Plaintiff also goes shopping and to the movies with her friends. (Id.).

B. Medical History

On July 29, 2008, Dr. Brian Padveen, a chiropractor, examined Plaintiff in connection with Plaintiff's workers' compensation claim. (AR 291). Following an evaluation, Plaintiff was referred to Dr. Gil Tepper, an orthopedic surgeon. (AR 234). On September 4, 2008, Dr. Tepper performed a right knee and ankle examination. (AR 237). He reported flexion of the right knee as 95/150. (Id.). Dr. Tepper also reviewed an MRI of Plaintiff's right knee dated August 5, 2008 from the Miracle Mile Medical Center. (AR 185, 238). Dr. Tepper reported a tear of the lateral meniscus. (AR 238). Dr. Tepper also reported that Plaintiff was "an excellent candidate for a right knee arthroscopic surgery." (AR 238).

Plaintiff underwent outpatient arthroscopic surgery on January 9, 2009, with Dr. Ramin Rabbani. (AR 215-17). Following the surgery, Plaintiff was instructed not to drive or operate heavy machinery, perform any strenuous activities, and to keep the leg elevated as much as possible for at least three days. (AR 270). Plaintiff was also prescribed Norco and Naprosyn. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that her knee occasionally swells as a result of the surgery. (AR 65-66). Plaintiff testified that she elevates her legs four times a day and uses ice packs to help with the swelling. (AR 65-66).

On January 13, 2009, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Tepper for a post operative evaluation. (AR 227-30). Plaintiff claimed she had twenty percent improvement since the last time she had visited Dr. Tepper. (AR 227). After an evaluation, Dr. Tepper diagnosed Plaintiff as "status post right knee scope" and "right ankle osteoarthritis." (AR 229). On January 22, 2009, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Tepper for a re-evaluation. (AR 231). Plaintiff stated that her knee pain was "mild" and noted an eighty percent improvement in overall symptoms since the surgery. (Id.). Dr. Tepper recommended physical therapy three times a week for the following four weeks. (Id.). Plaintiff again presented to Dr. Tepper on February 12, 2009. (AR 227). She complained of knee pain with buckling, falling, sharp pain, ...

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