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Wynn v. Astrue

May 8, 2009

MATTEA WYNN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") that Mattea Wynn ("plaintiff") is not disabled under the Social Security Act ("the Act") and, therefore, is not entitled to a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The parties have both filed motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). (Dkts. #4, #6, #10).

For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's motion is granted, the plaintiff's motion is denied, and the Commissioner's determination is affirmed.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on October 6, 2005, claiming disability since December 10, 2004 on the basis of wrist, shoulder, elbow and neck problems, diabetes and high blood pressure. The application was denied. (T. 11, 55-58, 82). Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on February 25, 2008 before administrative law judge ("ALJ") John P. Costello. On March 27, 2008, ALJ Costello issued a determination that plaintiff was not disabled. (T. 11-22). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on July 16, 2008. (T. 4-7).

Record evidence of plaintiff's medical history includes the following. On December 3, 2004, while employed as an inspector for an automotive parts manufacturer, plaintiff began reporting to her employer's medical unit for complaints of pain in her left forearm. (T. 214). Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with left trapezius muscle fatigue and spasm, and right hand tendinitis. (T. 214).

On December 10, 2004, plaintiff stopped working and was seen by her treating orthopedist, Dr. Matthew Tomaino, who noted that plaintiff had a "long-standing shoulder injury, then the subject of a Workmen's Compensation claim. Dr. Tomaino diagnosed bursitis (irritation or inflammation of the bursa, causing pain and/or undue friction in the shoulder joint upon movement), gave plaintiff an unspecified injection and recommended physical therapy. He noted that plaintiff nonetheless retained "good strength and [range of] motion." (T. 248). On February 14, 2005, Dr. Tomaino noted that plaintiff had a weight-lifting restriction of five pounds. (T. 246, 315, 411).

On March 23, 2005, Dr. Tomaino performed surgery on plaintiff's left wrist for de Quervain's tendinitis (inflammation of tendons in the wrist). (T. 227-229). At a follow-up visit on March 30, 2005, Dr. Tomaino found that plaintiff had recovered full flexion of the wrist and had good neurovascular status, but that plaintiff's range of motion needed to improve. On March 30, 2005, and during a follow-up visit on April 8, 2005, Dr. Tomaino stated that plaintiff should be kept on "total disability" for the time being. (T. 244, 245).

On April 29, 2005, Dr. Tomaino found that plaintiff was "doing fairly well," and opted for Worker's Compensation purposes to "drop[ plaintiff] down to a partial disability of sedentary duty only. This is a marked disability until May 26th, when she will [undergo surgery on her right wrist and] then again return to total disability... probably until September 1st." (T. 242).

On May 26, 2005, plaintiff underwent a right wrist arthroscopy (minimally invasive surgery), joint debridement (removal of redundant cartilage and/or inflamed tissue), and partial synovectomy (removal or some or all of a joint's synovial membrane). (T. 226, 230-231). At a follow-up visit on June, 8, 2005, Dr. Tomaino found that plaintiff was recovering from the surgery well. (T. 240).

On July 14, 2005, plaintiff had surgery on her right elbow and wrist for tennis elbow, tendinitis, and basal joint arthritis. (T. 222-225).

On August 8, 2005, plaintiff was seen by Dr. Tomaino, and requested to return to work in order to qualify for a pension. Dr. Tomaino noted that although plaintiff was "[d]oing okay at this early juncture," it was too soon to know whether plaintiff would be able to return to work without restrictions. (T. 238).

On September 19, 2005, Dr. Tomaino opined that plaintiff was partially disabled, but might be able to perform sedentary work with no repetitive motions. (T. 237).

During a follow-up visit on October 31, 2005, Dr. Tomaino stated that he planned to "keep[ plaintiff] out on total disability. It is my opinion that when she reaches maximal medical improvement, she will be unable to return to her [present job] and should consider availing herself of the resources of [the New York Office of Vocational and Educational Services ...


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