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Dowdy v. Astrue

United States District Court, Second Circuit

July 10, 2013

DERIL DOWDY, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Represented by counsel, Deril Dowdy ("Plaintiff" or "Dowdy"), brings this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") Benefits. The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g).

Presently before the Court are the parties' competing motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Therefore, this Court hereby grants the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings and denies Plaintiff's motion.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On January 29, 2007, Dowdy filed an application for DIB and SSI benefits, claiming that he was disabled beginning on December 1, 2005, due to arthritis and gout. Administrative Transcript ("Tr.") at 220, 225. Dowdy's claim was denied on May 2, 2007. Tr. at 101-103. At his request, an administrative hearing was scheduled for February 4, 2009. Tr. at 134. Plaintiff appeared without representation before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Theresa C. Timlin. Tr. at 37-67. On July 2, 2009, ALJ Timlin issued a decision, finding that Dowdy was not disabled during the alleged period of disability. Tr. at 112. On October 30, 2009, the Appeals Council reviewed the decision and remanded the case to an ALJ with instructions to further evaluate the severity and effects of Plaintiff's obesity and to obtain evidence from a vocational expert. Tr. at 114-118.

On May 18, 2010, Dowdy, represented by attorney Michael Ranieri, testified at an administrative hearing in Rochester, New York, before ALJ John P. Costello. Tr. at 68-100. Dowdy testified at the hearing, as did vocational expert Peter A. Manzi, Ed. D. ("Manzi" or "the VE").

On July 26, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Dowdy was not disabled during the period alleged. Tr. at 31. On April 25, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making ALJ Costello's decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. at 1-4. This action was filed on June 25, 2012.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

At the time of the hearing, Dowdy was a 45-year-old individual with an 11th grade education. His past relevant work was in shipping, receiving, factory production, and cleaning. Tr. at 226. Dowdy claims he became disabled on December 1, 2005, due to gouty arthritis, diabetes, and obesity, resulting in joint pain and stiffness that render him unable to work. Tr. at 57, 123-125. Dowdy was last insured on December 31, 2008. Tr. at 221.

Since October 2006, Plaintiff has been treated at Rochester General Hospital's Outpatient Clinic (the "outpatient clinic"). Additionally, according to Rochester General Hospital's records, he went to its Emergency Department five times in 2006 and four times in 2007 due to gout flare-ups. Tr. at 273.

On September 14, 2006, Plaintiff was seen at the Rochester General Hospital's Emergency Department (the "emergency room") complaining of pain and swelling due to a gout flare-up. Tr. at 287-290. He reported that he had been prescribed Indocin in the past for pain relief. Tr. at 290.

A month later, on October 16, 2006, Adviteeya Dixit, M.D. began treating Plaintiff Dowdy at the outpatient clinic. Tr. at 310. Dowdy reported that his pain had subsided since his last gout flare-up, and Dr. Dixit noted that the swelling had resolved. Plaintiff reported that he had not been taking his prescribed medication Allopurinol since November 2005. Dr. Dixit noted that Plaintiff drank two beers per day and had used cocaine in December 2005.

That same month, Dowdy went to the emergency room reporting foot pain. Tr. at 288. The report of that visit indicates that Plaintiff had not been taking his daily medication. The attending physician opined that it was likely that gout was causing the tenderness, mild swelling, and unusual warmth in his right foot. In November 2006, Dowdy returned to the emergency room due to a gout flare-up that he claimed had moved from his left wrist to the elbow. Tr. at 286. Plaintiff stated that Indocin "always help[ed]" but complained that he ran "out" because "[the physicians] never [gave] [him] enough." He also reported increased alcohol intake and was advised to limit this behavior.

On November 3, 2006, Dowdy had x-rays taken due to complaints of pain in his left wrist, forearm, and elbow. Tr. at 291-292. X-rays of Plaintiff's left wrist revealed "no evidence of a fracture or dislocation." Tr. at 286, 291. X-rays of his left elbow showed "joint effusion...as well as infection [and] inflammation." Tr. at 292.

In December 2006, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Dixit for a follow-up at the outpatient clinic. Tr. at 312. Dowdy complained of pain in his left wrist and right knee due to gout. The pain in his left knee was resolved, but he had run out of medication. He had no erythema or deformity in his joints, and he had full range of motion. Tr. at 313-314. Dr. Dixit recommended diet and exercise to control Plaintiff's glucose intolerance. Dowdy was prescribed Colchicine and Allopurinol and was advised to stop taking Indocin due to an absence of acute symptoms. Tr. at 315. He was also advised to quit smoking.

On February 19, 2007, Plaintiff went to the emergency room reporting pain in his right ankle as the result of a gout flare-up. Tr. at 392-417. The attending physician prescribed Vicodin for the pain and recommended he continue taking his prescribed gout medications.

On March 8, 2007, consultative physician Harbinder Toor, M.D., conducted an internal medicine examination. Tr. at 296-300. Dr. Toor noted Plaintiff's history of chronic pain in multiple joints due to a history of gouty arthritis. At the time, Dowdy was taking Hydrocodone, Allopurinol, Colchicine, and Indomethacin for treatment.

At the time of Dr. Toor's examination, Dowdy was 5'10" tall and weighed 222 pounds. Tr. at 296-297. Dr. Toor also noted that Dowdy occasionally smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, drank beer, enjoyed doing puzzles, and occasionally used marijuana and cocaine.

Dr. Toor found that, despite Plaintiff's reports of pain in his shoulders, elbows, ankles, he had normal and full movement in these joints. Tr. at 298. His joints were stable, and there was "no redness, heat, swelling, or effusion." Id . Dowdy told Dr. Toor that he could cook, clean, do laundry, shower and dress himself. Tr. at 296-297.

In a medical source statement, Dr. Toor opined that the gout and resulting pain caused "mild limitation for pushing, pulling, lifting, standing, walking, bending, or twisting of the [spine]" as well as "mild limitation for doing fine motor activities like tying shoelaces, zipping a zipper, buttoning a button, picking up coins, grasping, or gripping with both hands ...


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