United States District Court, E.D. New York
KENNETH B. PROCHASKA, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
CHARLES E. BINDER, ESQ., Law Offices of Harry J. Binder and Charles E. Binder, P.C., New York, NY, for the Plaintiff.
LORETTA E. LYNCH, ESQ., United States Attorney Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn, NY, for the Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
FREDERIC BLOCK, Senior District Judge.
Kenneth Prochaska ("Prochaska") seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Both parties move for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's motion is denied and Prochaska's motion is granted insofar as the Court remands the case for further proceedings.
In April 2010, Prochaska began experiencing lower back pain that shot down to his left foot. At the time, he was employed as a construction worker. Because of his pain, he filed an application for DIB on March 15, 2011, alleging disability since April 24, 2010. The Social Security Administration denied his claim. Upon Prochaska's request, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing and denied his claim. Following an appeal of the ALJ's determination, the Appeals Council denied his request for review, rendering final the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. Prochaska timely sought judicial review.
The relevant evidence proffered at the hearing before the ALJ is summarized below.
A. Medical Evidence
1. Treating Physician Dr. Ranjana Mehta
On April 12, 2010, Prochaska saw Dr. Ranjana Mehta for lower back pain that shot down to his left foot. After x-rays revealed mild degenerative changes and lumbarization at the level of S1, he was diagnosed with lumbosacral radiculopathy. On May 14, 2010, an "MRI" showed degenerative changes most notable for a disc extrusion at L5-S1 causing impingement of the descending left S1 nerve root and severe right neural foraminal narrowing and lumbarization of the S1 vertebral body. He also had muscle spasm on examination. Dr. Mehta then saw him on August 11, 2011, and again on October 19, 2011, reporting no change in his condition.
Dr. Mehta completed a Multiple Impairment Questionnaire dated February 22, 2012, stating a diagnosis of lumbago and herniated nucleus pulposus with radiculopathy of S1 down the left leg. In this report, he cited to MRI findings that supported his diagnosis, stated that Prochaska's prognosis was poor, and noted that Prochaska was not a malingerer. His clinical findings included muscle spasm, ambulation with a cane, a distressed appearance, and an inability to sit for long periods of time. He further opined that Prochaska was able to sit less than one hour total and stand/walk less than one hour total in an eight-hour workday. He concluded that the symptoms and limitations described within the questionnaire were present since 2010. Dr. Mehta opined, in essence, that Prochaska could not perform even sedentary work.
2. Evaluating Physician Dr. Edmee Henriquez
On December 16, 2010, Dr. Edmee Henriquez evaluated Prochaska on referral from Dr. Mehta. Dr. Henriquez diagnosed chronic back pain and recommended neurology and orthopedic surgery evaluations. He saw Prochaska on two other occassions, on June 27, 2011 and on July 19, 2011. During both visits, Prochaska's pain remained at a 7 on a 10point scale.
3. Treating Neurologist Dr. Henry Moreta
Dr. Henry Moreta began treating Prochaska on May 11, 2010. An examination revealed moderately severe left paralumbar sacroiliac notch tenderness, and positive straight leg raising at 30 degrees on the left. Neurological abnormalities included weakness of the left gastrocnemius (graded at 4/5), decreased pinprick sensation in a left S1 distribution, absent left ankle jerk, and an abnormal gait. Dr. Moreta saw Prochaska again on May 18, 2010, found his ...