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Green v. Colvin

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 13, 2013

LEO E. GREEN Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY[1] Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Represented by counsel, Leo E. Green ("Plaintiff" or "Green"), brings this action pursuant to Title II 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 Benefits ("DIB"). 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 December 29, 2009, Green protectively filed an application for DIB, claiming that he was disabled beginning on May 15, 2008, due to back, shoulder and leg problems, occasional numbness in his hands, as well as a learning disability. Administrative Transcript ("Tr.") at 132, 143, 148, 196. Green's claim was initially denied on February 24, 2010. Tr. at 58-69. At his request, Green, represented by attorney Michael Ranieri, testified at an administrative hearing on November 17, 2010 in Corning, New York, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") John P. Ramos. Tr. at 24-54.

On December 23, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Green was not disabled during the period alleged. Tr. at 19. On May 24, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making ALJ Ramos' decision the Commissioner's final decision. Tr. at 1-4. This action was filed on July 20, 2012.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

At the time of the hearing, Green was 46 years old with a high school education. His past relevant work was as a car wash attendant, factory assembly and quality control worker. Tr. at 157. Green claims he became disabled on May 15, 2008, due to arthritis, back, shoulder, leg and feet pain, as well as neck pain that radiates throughout his arms and legs, causing numbness that renders him unable to work. Tr. at 148.

Individualized Education Program ("IEP") reports from Plaintiff's 1982-1983 school year indicate that Green was a special education student due to information processing deficits. Tr. at 51, 389-403. He had problems with reading and writing and required the assistance of a tutor to graduate from high school. On November 3, 1982, Plaintiff's school psychologist at Wheatfield-Chili High School, Susan Howard, completed a psychological evaluation of Plaintiff. Tr. at 405-406. Plaintiff had a full scale IQ score of 83, placing him, according to Ms. Howard, in the low average range of intelligence. Tr. at 404.

Plaintiff moved to Florida. Then, on September 25, 1998, while driving an automobile and stopped at a red light, he was rear-ended by a pickup truck. Tr. at 249-259. As a result of the automobile accident, Green was taken to Northside Hospital and Heart Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida where x-rays were taken of his cervical spine and lumbosacral spine which appeared to be normal. Tr. at 253.

On October 5, 1998, Plaintiff presented at ChiroMed Chiropractic Center with complaints of headaches, as well as pain and stiffness in the neck and low back due to the car accident. Tr. at 249, 260. Upon examination, David M. Wieland, D.C. (Doctor of Chiropractic), found that there was "considerable spasm and exquisite tenderness to palpitation" of muscles in the cervical spine and upper extremities, as well as restricted range of motion of Green's cervical spine. The ranges of motion in the upper extremities were normal. Dr. Wieland diagnosed post-traumatic headaches, soft tissue injury of Plaintiff's cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine, secondary joint dysfunction, back pain with lumbar nerve root irritation, myofascial pain and possible cervical and lumbar disc injury. Tr. at 262.

On October 12, 1998, Richard Leverone, D.C., examined a magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI") of Green's cervical spine, observing minimal degenerative change, including minimal disc height narrowing at C5-6. Tr. at 240-243. There were alignment abnormalities, such as "significant reduction of hyperextension and hyperflexion and minimal scoliosis." Tr. at 242.

Plaintiff subsequently underwent daily chiropractic treatment at the ChiroMed Chiropractic Center in Tampa, Florida, including spinal mobilization and physiotherapy, which he tolerated well. Tr. at 263-275. On October 23, 1998, an MRI of Plaintiff's cervical spine from Rocky Mountain Chiropractic Radiological Center revealed arthrosis at C5-6 without neurologic compression, posterior bulging at C6-7, reversed cervical lordosis, and no evidence of disc herniation or spinal stenosis. Tr. at 416. Dr. Wieland, D.C. authorized Green to return to full time work on October 26, 1998 with no restrictions or limitations. Tr. at 246. Dr. Wieland continued to treat Green with chiropractic adjustments from October 6, 1998 through February 2, 1999. Tr. at 263-304. Plaintiff consistently complained of headaches and pain in the neck, mid and lower back.

On three occasions during November, 1998 to January, 1999, neurologist Shrinath S. Kamat, M.D. at Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., examined Plaintiff. Tr. at 417-420, 424-425, 432-433, 434-436. Dr. Kamat found normal (5/5) muscle strength in all extremities except for the left hand, where muscle strength was slightly decreased, and there was decreased sensation in the left arm. There was tenderness in the cervical and lumbar spine and decreased range of motion. Dr. Kamat diagnosed post-traumatic headaches, pain in the left arm, cervical, lumbosacral and midthoracic sprain due to the car accident.

On March 3, 1999, Dr. Kamat noted that Plaintiff reported 70-75% improvement of his overall condition with the complete resolution of his low and mid back pain and decreased intensity of pain around his neck and left shoulder. Tr. at 434-436. Lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling exacerbated Plaintiff's stiffness around the neck and left shoulder. He had difficulty lifting over 50 pounds. Dr. Kamat opined that Green had lost 8% of his whole person as a result of the injuries he sustained in the automobile accident and had reached maximum medical improvement for his condition, considering he was not a surgical candidate.

On June 23, 2001, an MRI of Green's cervical spine showed joint hypertrophy; congenitally narrowed spinal canal from C3-4 through C5-6; and cervical lymphadenopathy. Tr. at 320. Green was referred to an orthopedic physician, Roberto Dominguez, M.D., at the Florida Knee and Orthopedic Center in Clearwater, Florida. Tr. at 305-308. On July 10, 2001, he presented with neck and low back pain that, he claimed, radiated, and he denied numbness or tingling in his upper and lower extremities. Dr. Dominguez examined Plaintiff, observing diffused stiffness in the cervical spine. The ranges of motion in the cervical spine and lumbosacral spine were within functional limits. Dr. Dominguez opined that Plaintiff had congenital cervical spinal stenosis, acute exacerbation of the cervical sprain, and lumbar sprain. He recommended ...


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