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Braggs v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 14, 2014

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Represented by counsel, Arthur Braggs ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner")[1] denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 405(g), 1383(c).

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and disability insurance benefits on December 1 and December 5, 2009, respectively, alleging that he was disabled commencing on June 30, 2003, due to lower back pain and leg pain. T. 62-63, 111-14, 117-18, 153.[2] Plaintiff's claims were initially denied, and a subsequent hearing was conducted before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on April 5, 2011. T. 33-55, 72-74. Prior to the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged disability onset date to April 2, 2010, and withdrew his claim for disability insurance benefits. T. 37, 184. On May 4, 2011, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's claims for SSI benefits on the ground that he was not disabled. T. 19-29. The ALJ's determination became the final decision of the Commissioner on November 15, 2011, when the Appeal's Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. T. 1-4. This timely action followed. Dkt. #1.

Currently pending before the Court is the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. #10. The sole issue to be determined is whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act from April 2, 2010, to May 4, 2010. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence, and the Commissioner's motion is granted.

III. Factual Background

A. Medical Evidence

1. Treating Physicians

In 1999, Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident and required surgery for a fractured left leg. T. 209-10.

Dr. Richard Curran began treating Plaintiff on April 2, 2010. T. 215. Dr. Curran noted that Plaintiff exhibited tenderness and walked slowly with a cane. The physician diagnosed Plaintiff's condition as left leg pain, and referred him to an orthopedic surgeon to determine the present status of repair and functional level of the left leg. T. 215. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Curran completed a physical residual functional capacity ("RFC") questionnaire based upon his one-time examination of Plaintiff. Therein, Dr. Curran diagnosed Plaintiff with chronic left leg pain with history of leg surgery and noted the following: (1) Plaintiff's symptoms could constantly interfere with attention and concentration needed to perform simple tasks, and he would be incapable of performing low-stress jobs; (2) Plaintiff could not walk a city block, and could sit only about two hours and stand or walk less than two hours in an eight-hour day; (3) Plaintiff could rarely lift and carry less than ten pounds; and (4) Plaintiff would require a job that would allow him to change positions and permit him to take unscheduled breaks. T. 217-19.

Dr. Joseph Falcone, an orthopedist who performed Plaintiff's leg surgery in 1999, saw Plaintiff on July 27, 2010 upon complaints of worsening pain and numbness in the left leg, weakness in his foot and ankle, and back pain. T. 229-30. During that visit Dr. Falcone observed diminished reflexes on the left, weakness in his great toe, and pain upon straight leg raises. Dr. Falcone believed Plaintiff's symptoms were probably due to lumbosacral radiculopathy and ordered an MRI to determine whether plaintiff had a herniated disc. T. 229-30.

An MRI of Plaintiff's lumbar spine performed on August 20, 2010 revealed minor degenerative changes in the lubmar spine without mass effect or displacement of neural structure, no spinal stenosis or foraminal narrowing, and a slight loss of lumbar lordosis and minor scoliosis. T. 224.

Dr. Falcone saw Plaintiff for follow-up on September 9, 2010, and determined that Plaintiff's complaints were likely due to tendonitis, ligament irritation, sprain/strain, and pes enserine bursitis (inflammation of the knee), and recommended physical therapy. T. 228. He noted that Plaintiff's previous x-ray demonstrated that the leg fracture had "completely healed." Id.

On October 28, 2010, Plaintiff saw Dr. Joseph Kowalski for complaints of lower back pain. T. 236. Dr. Kowalski reviewed the xray and MRI, and determined that Plaintiff had no radiculopathy. T. 236.

Plaintiff again saw Dr. Falcone in December 2010, who noted that Plaintiff was making good progress ...

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