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TRUESDALE v. BARNHART

February 5, 2004.

JAMES A. TRUESDALE, JR., Plaintiff -against- JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SHIRA SCHEINDLIN, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

  James A. Truesdale, Jr. brings this action under section 205(g) of the Social Securty Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (the "Act"), challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social" Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI"). Plaintiff has moved, and the Commissioner has cross-moved, for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federc31 Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

 II. BACKGROUND

  A. Procedural History

  Plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits and DIB on October 6, 2000. See Transcript of the proceedings ("Tr.")*fn1 Page 2 at 11. In his application, plaintiff alleged that he was disabled and unable to work since January 21, 1997, due to an accident in 1983 that led to a screw being placed in his right knee which causes him pain. Id. at 52. Additionally, plaintiff stated that he was depressed, chemically dependent, had a nervous condition, and suffered from seizures, all of which caused him to become disabled in 1996 by not being able to "handle a job either mentally or physically." Id. His claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 11. Upon request, a hearing was conducted before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on May 1, 2002. Id. at 18. On May 17, 2002, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff's application for benefits. Id. at 8. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on September 19, 2002. See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Support of His Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("PI. Mem.") at 1.

  B. Plaintiff's Personal History

  Plaintiff was born on June 14, 1963. Tr. at 62. He was thirty-seven years old when he filed his application in October 2000. Id. at 22. He completed nine years of school but never obtained a general equivalency diploma, although he did undergo vocational training in carpentry. Id. at 22-23. Plaintiff lives with his wife and three-year old son in a building without an elevator. Because he lives on the second Page 3 floor, plaintiff is required to walk up and down short flights of stairs to enter or exit his apartment building. Id. at 92.

  Plaintiff testified that he last worked as a hotel manager for about a year in 1994. Id. at 23-24. His duties included answering phones, informing people as to room availability and capacity, and ordering cleaning materials for the building. Id. Plaintiff testified that he had previously worked as a security guard, which required him to sit in a booth and walk around the perimeter of a building to make sure everything was in order. Id. at 25. However, in his application, plaintiff wrote that his injuries first bothered him on August 9, 1994, and he stopped working due to those injuries on January 21, 1997. However, he also checked "NO" to the question, "Did you work at any time after the date your illnesses, injuries or conditions first bothered you?" Id. at 52. Consequently, the record is somewhat inconsistent as to when plaintiff stopped working.

  Plaintiff's daily/weekly activities, as listed in his application, include grocery shopping, occasional cooking and cleaning, going to group therapy four times a week and another therapy program six times a week, visiting his mother every Sunday, and occasionally taking his son to the park to watch him play. Id. at 66. Plaintiff wrote that he travels using the trains and busses. Id. at 67. Plaintiff testified to subjective Page 4 pain, stating that he could only bend, stand or walk for about two to three minutes before he felt pain. Id. at 30. In addition to his physical disabilities, plaintiff testified to his depression and chemical dependency, for which he takes medication and goes to therapy. Id. at 29, 32.

  C. Medical Evidence

  1. Treating Physicians

  a. Dr. Philome Gracia

  Dr. Philome Gracia, an internist at the Narco Freedom Clinic, examined plaintiff on July 21, 2000. Id. at 97-105. Dr. Gracia diagnosed plaintiff as being ambulatory with right knee pain. Dr. Gracia further diagnosed chronic opiate dependence and post-traumatic stress disorder. He recommended the continuation of methadone treatment as well as treatment with Elavil and Celebrex. Id. at 100-01.

  b. Dr. Kenneth Alper

  Dr. Kenneth Alper, a psychiatrist, examined plaintiff on September 27, 2000. Plaintiff acknowledged a past suicide attempt, past criminal convictions, and past heroin use. Plaintiff also informed Dr. Alper that he was attending a group program at the International Center for the Disabled (XVICD"), where he was being treated by Dr. Bihari. Additionally, he was being treated by Dr. Hyder at "New ...


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