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Carmelo Coglitore v. Michael J. Astrue

June 29, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge:


Plaintiff Carmelo Coglitore ("Coglitore") brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his eligibility for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The Commissioner has moved for judgment on the pleadings affirming his final decision. Coglitore has cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings. For the following reasons, the Commissioner's motion is granted and the plaintiff's motion is denied.


The following facts are taken from the administrative record and are undisputed. Coglitore was born in 1948 in Limina, Italy and has a high school education. He has worked primarily as a mason and construction worker, specializing in the cutting and setting of stone, tile, and marble. On October 9, 2008, Coglitore submitted an application for DIB for the period beginning June 15, 2000 and ending December 31, 2005. To be eligible for DIB, an applicant must be insured. As a worker earns wages and pays taxes, he can accumulate "quarters of coverage" under the SSA during which he receives insured status and qualifies for DIB. Coglitore's quarters of coverage, and thus his insured status, expired on December 31, 2005.

Per his own admission, Coglitore was self-employed for much of the time between June 15, 2000 and December 31, 2005. In 2004 Coglitore was working 35 hours per week with the assistance of his sons and earning between $300 and $350 per week. Coglitore alleges, however, that he was disabled during this period due to lower back pain, diabetes, a history of sepsis and pneumonia, hypertension, high cholesterol, depression and anxiety, Dupuytrens Contracture, right palmar and digital fasciectomies, and a history of contusion of the left elbow.

I. Medical Record

A. Medical History Prior to Coglitore's Onset Date In October 1999, Coglitore was admitted to Montefiore Medical Center presenting with fever, chills, and generalized malaise. He was diagnosed with pneumonia, sepsis, and diabetes. Coglitore reports that he was first diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 20, and that since then he has been treated for diabetes with insulin. Coglitore was administered antibiotics and discharged in satisfactory condition after four days.

B. Medical History Following Coglitore's Onset Date The first medical record pertaining to Coglitore's reported period of disability dates from April 27, 2005. On that date, Coglitore visited Dr. Roy Kulick, an orthopedist, for complaints relating to thickening in the palms of both hands and increased contracture in the right hand. Coglitore reported having no pain. On the right hand, Dr. Kulick noted a metacarpal phalangeal ("MP") joint contracture of thirty degrees and a proximal interphalangeal ("PIP") joint contracture of forty degrees on the small finger and a PIP joint contracture of twenty degrees on the ring finger. On the left hand, the long, ring, and small fingers all exhibited MP joint contractures of twenty degrees. The PIP joints of the ring and small fingers had contractures of 10 degrees. Both hands had full flexion. Dr. Kulick suspected Dupuytren's contracture, a thickening and contracting of the tissue underneath the skin of the palms and fingers. He recommended a palmar fasciectomy on the right hand, a procedure that involves the excision of the diseased tissue.

On October 1, 2005, Coglitore underwent palmar and digital fasciectomies on his right hand, performed by Dr. Kulick. Full release of the contracture was achieved.

In a follow-up visit three weeks after the procedure, Dr. Kulick noted that the "transverse incision is almost healed" and that the patient's hand function was "quite good." On December 12, 2005, Coglitore complained of some discomfort in his forearm when making a fist with force, but Dr. Kulick found no tenderness upon palpitation and suspected mild tendinitis. Dr. Kulick also examined the patient's left hand and informed him that a left-hand fasciectomy was likely to be necessary in the future. As of this date, however, Coglitore has elected not to undergo a left-hand fasciectomy.

On December 21, 2005, Coglitore presented with left elbow pain and swelling in the emergency room of Montefiore Hospital. He alleged that he was hit in the elbow by the side mirror of a passing car. An x-ray revealed calcification of the blood vessels and a large olecranon spur, a bony projection that forms along the joint margins of a bone in the forearm that projects behind the elbow. Coglitore was diagnosed with an elbow contusion and prescribed Motrin.

Coglitore reports having experienced depression and anxiety prior to December 31, 2005. There is no evidence in the record that he ever sought medical attention for these issues. Coglitore also alleges that he has suffered lower back pain since June 2000, although he admits he had no trouble walking, standing, or sitting prior to December 31, 2005.

C. Medical History Following the Expiration of Coglitore's Coverage Period

This Court has considered the medical history submitted for the period after the expiration of Coglitore's insured status, although it is not directly relevant to the determination in this case. Coglitore continued his follow-up appointments with Dr. Kulick in 2006. During an April 3rd appointment, Coglitore reported that he had "returned to his regular work," but he felt some pain in his hand when gripping a hammer. Dr. Kulick found no tenderness in the affected area.

On February 1, 2007, Coglitore saw Dr. Francis Porreca, a vascular surgeon, for edema in his left foot and ankle. He also noted that in November 2006 he had experienced a sudden onset of pain and swelling in his left calf and ankle, but the pain had since subsided. Dr. Porreca suspected acute calf vein thrombophlebitis, which involves the inflammation of a vein as a result of a blood clot, and recommended the use of a support stocking.

On August 21, 2008, Coglitore visited Dr. Lyzette Velasquez, a neurologist, for chronic pain in his right hip and lower back radiating forward toward his right thigh. The pain had begun the year before, but had worsened significantly in the prior few months. Dr. Velasquez diagnosed lumbar radiculopathy, also known as sciatica, with stenosis, which is a narrowing of the blood vessels. Coglitore was administered epidural steroid injections and physical therapy, but neither treatment was effective in alleviating his pain. In a clinic note dated August 3, 2009, Dr. Velasquez stated that Coglitore has been unable to work as of 2008 due to his lower back condition.

On January 20, 2009, Coglitore sought the medical opinion of Dr. Nathaniel L. Tindel, an orthopedic surgeon, for his back pain. Dr. Tindel found that the patient suffered from degeneration of spinal discs, right lumbar radiculopathy (commonly known as sciatica), and lumbar spinal stenosis, which involves a narrowing of the spinal canal resulting in the compression of ...

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