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Girolamo v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 28, 2014

CHRISTOPHER THOMAS GIROLAMO, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Christopher Thomas Girolamo ("Plaintiff" or "Girolamo"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3) of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") improperly denied his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI").

Currently 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, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion to the extent that the Commissioner's decision is reversed and the matter remanded for further administrative proceedings consistent with this Decision and Order.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On July 22, 2010, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging disability as of June 1, 2009, which were denied. Administrative Transcript [T.] 149-150, 151-154, 63-69, 71-75. At Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was conducted on September 2, 2011 before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), at which Plaintiff, who appeared with a representative, testified as did a vocational expert ("VE"). T. 8-39, 134-141. On October 12, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period. T. 44-56.

The Appeals Councils denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 25, 2013, making the ALJ's Decision the final decision of the Commissioner. T. 1-5. This action followed.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's Statements & Hearing Testimony

Plaintiff was age 39 at the time of the hearing. T. 10, 15. Plaintiff has an associate's degree, and prior work experience as a dark room finisher and a rotary dye cutter operator. T. 19, 170.

Plaintiff underwent spinal fusion surgery in 2003, returned to work after, and continued working until 2009. T. 19, 24-25, 169. Plaintiff was laid off in June 2009 and collected unemployment benefits while he looked for work that did not require prolonged sitting or standing. T. 20, 32. According to Plaintiff, his back pain, "spinal headaches, " and depression preclude him from working. T. 22, 24-26, 169, 177, 180.

Plaintiff arrived at the hearing with a cane that he had been using for about one year, and testified that he uses a cane to move about outside his home. T. 16-17. He takes hydrocodone, oxycodone, and ibuprofen for pain and Zoloft for depression. T. 17-18, 171. Plaintiff testified that he takes six or seven hydrocodone pills a day and that the side effects from his medications are constipation, moodiness, and difficulty focusing. T. 18, 28-29, 183-184.

With respect to his daily activities, Plaintiff testified that he wakes up, makes coffee, lets his dog out, does limited driving to pick up his kids, and reads. T. 21, 177, 185. Plaintiff's brother and sister help him with household chores and his 13-year-old son helps him with groceries and dog walking. T. 21-22, 177-178.

Medical Evidence Related to Plaintiff's Physical Health

In November 2009, Plaintiff saw Dr. Matthew J. Fleig of Ridgeway Family Medicine ("Ridgeway"), complaining of wrist and back pain. Dr. Fleig instructed Plaintiff to take Aleve for his wrist pain and to continue to take Vicodin for his back pain. T. 255.

In March 2010, Plaintiff underwent an X-ray of his lumbosacral spine, which showed L5-S1 fusion and mild narrowing of the remaining disc spaces and minimal degenerative spurring throughout the lumbar spine. T. 318.

In April and May 2010, Plaintiff underwent therapy at Healthquest Chiropractic & Progressive Rehab. Throughout this time, Plaintiff reported that his low back pain was minimal to mild. T. 346-361, 363. In June 2010, Plaintiff reported that his low back pain and right hip ...


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