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Hargrave v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 21, 2014

KRISTEN ANN HARGRAVE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Kristen Ann Hargrave ("Plaintiff" or "Hargrave"), brings this action under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") improperly denied her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB").

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, I grant the Commissioner's motion, deny the Plaintiff's motion, and dismiss the Complaint.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 7, 2009, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging disability as of June 1, 2006, which was denied. Administrative Transcript [T.] 115-123, 45-46. A hearing was held on February 17, 2011 before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Michael W. Devlin, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified, as did a vocational expert. T. 22-44. On November 28, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period June 1, 2006 to June 30, 2006. T. 8-21.

On April 19, 2013, the Appeals Councils denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. T. 1-4. This action followed.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was born in 1960, testified that she has a high school diploma and an associate's degree. T. 37, 115. She testified that she previously worked as a computer programmer in the 1990s and as a concession stand attendant in 2007 and 2005. T. 26-29, 36-38. She testified that she was unable to work during the relevant time period due to constant back pain that radiated into her legs, asthma, and mental problems. T. 29-35, 37-38. Additionally, she testified that she had a problem with alcohol, but that she had not had a drink in approximately nine years. T. 36.

Plaintiff testified further that she had difficulty walking, trouble sitting, and that it was hard for her to sit for more than a half hour or an hour. T. 32. She testified that, due to her ongoing pain, she generally stays home on the couch, that her pain limits her ability to grocery shop, which her husband usually does because of the inability to stand, walk, and push the cart. T. 35.

Relevant Medical Evidence

Treatment records pre-dating June 1, 2006 show that Plaintiff had a history of chronic low back and radicular pain that was treated with nerve root injections, prescription medication, and physical therapy (including the use of a home TENS unit). Progress notes from 2004 show impressions of lumbar spondylitic disease with recess and central stenosis at L4-L5. T. 342-343, 350-368.

In November 2006, Plaintiff saw James Budd, M.D. for back pain, at which time he noted that Plaintiff was applying for disability. T. 346. Dr. Budd examined Plaintiff and reported that: her lumbosacral spine exhibited muscle spasms; pain was elicited by motion; there was no tenderness exhibited on palpation; no deformity was exhibited; and her straight leg raises were negative. T. 347. Dr. Budd also reported no sensory abnormalities, that Plaintiff's strength was normal, her heel/toe walking was normal, her knee and ankle jerk were normal, and that she had an antalgic gait. T. 347. He noted that Plaintiff was "anxious to find a solution to her disabling back pain" so that she could find work, but that "in the meantime, she clearly is not capable of working in any capacity." T. 347.

In December 2008, Plaintiff saw treating physician Rajendra Singh, M.D., complaining of depression, anxiety and chronic low back pain. Dr. Singh noted that Plaintiff appeared anxious and depressed, and a physical examination of Plaintiff revealed tenderness over the lumbosacral spine and sacroiliac joints. T. 237. Dr. Singh noted that "[a]ll the movements of the spine [are] not painful" and that Plaintiff's straight leg raising test is "up to 30 degrees bilaterally." T. 237. The doctor assessed that "[b]ecause of [Plaintiff's] chronic low back pain, patient is not able to work in any capacity." T. 238. Plaintiff saw Dr. Singh again in January 2009 for leg cramps and chronic low back pain. Plaintiff reported taking Naxopren, Cyclobenzaprine, Nortiptyline and Gabapentin, but that her pain persisted. T. 231. A physical examination at that time revealed tenderness over Plaintiff's lumbosacral spine and sacroiliac joints with pain on forward flexion and lateral bending motions. T. 231. Plaintiff returned to Dr. Singh in February, March, April and October ...


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