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Mangum v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 13, 2015

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



Plaintiff Victor Mangum filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to obtain judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner"), denying his claims for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") based on a finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act (the "Act"). The parties have cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings. Because the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, Defendant's motion is granted, and Plaintiff's motion is denied.


A. Plaintiff's Physical Ailments

Plaintiff, who was born in 1958, applied for DIB and SSI in December 2010. (SSA Rec. 22, 97-106, 118, 139). Plaintiff, who worked as a driver, alleges that he became disabled as of July 23, 2010, the date of a motor vehicle accident he sustained while working (the "July 2010 Accident"). ( See id. at 161, 362, 376). Plaintiff, who was wearing his seatbelt while driving, was "tboned on [the] passenger side" by another vehicle. (Id. at 455). Plaintiff alleges he is disabled due to a herniated disc, asthma, and an enlarged prostate. (Id. at 97-108, 123).[2] Plaintiff has also suffered from pain in each of his knees since the July 2010 Accident. (Id. at 45, 290, 499).

B. Plaintiff's Medical Records

1. Treatment for Asthma

Plaintiff received treatment at the Metropolitan Hospital Center clinic from March 2010 through September 2011 for asthma, allergic rhinitis, and cough. (SSA Rec. 469, 472-504).[3] From March 2010 through February 2011, Plaintiff was treated by Dr. Kiran Shah. (Id. at 469, 472-88). Dr. Shah prescribed various medications to alleviate Plaintiff's respiratory issues, including Singulair ( id. at 477), Prednisone ( id. at 488), and Albuterol ( id. ). On March 28, 2011, Dr. Olatunji Alese continued to treat Plaintiff for "moderate persistent" asthma and allergic rhinitis. (Id. at 489). Dr. Alese noted "clear breath sounds, no wheezes, good bilateral airflow." (Id. ). On April 25, 2011, Dr. Oana Cristina Badescu examined Plaintiff, repeating her colleague's observation of "clear breath sounds, no wheezes, good bilateral airflow, " and characterizing Plaintiff's condition as "mild persistent" asthma and "allergic rhinitis." (Id. at 499-500). Dr. Badescu also noted that Plaintiff "uses [Albuterol] more often than before, sometimes even daily." (Id. at 500). Plaintiff reported no emergency room visits for asthma. (Id. at 50, 138).

2. Treatment for Knee Pain

Plaintiff had surgery on one of his knees in the mid-1980s. (SSA Rec. 370). It is unclear, however, whether doctors operated on his left or right knee, and the record contains conflicting accounts. ( Compare id. at 522 ("Surgery on his right knee for a sports injury in 1985."), id. at 523 ("A postoperative scar is noted at the right knee."), and id. at 592 ("The patient is status post right knee surgery in 1985."), with id. at 55 ("He had... orthoscopic surgery on his left knee."), id. at 162 ("In 1983 or 1984, he was hospitalized... for left knee surgery[.]"), id. at 359 ("[H]e had surgery performed on his left knee in 1984[.]"), id. at 370 ("He had surgery in his left knee sometime between 1983 and 1986."), and id. at 376 ("Past medical history is significant for... left knee arthroscopy[.]")). Regardless, after the July 2010 Accident, the record is clear that Plaintiff began to complain of pain in his left knee. ( See id. at 167-74, 290, 292, 324-28, 337-53, 362, 410, 510, 514, 520, 531, 536). Plaintiff attended physical therapy sessions, but was not prescribed medication in connection with his left knee pain. ( See id. at 167-74, 324-28, 362).[4]

In early 2011, Plaintiff underwent nerve conduction studies, which he alleges caused an injury to his right knee. ( See SSA Rec. 370, 436-37, 489).[5] After this procedure, Plaintiff reported pain and swelling when seen by doctors. ( See id. at 376, 428, 436-37, 442, 612). Plaintiff's pain was partially relieved by taking Advil, and he received no further treatment for his right knee pain. ( See id. at 45, 321, 612).

3. Treatment for Back Pain

The most prominent of Plaintiff's ailments - and the ailment at the crux of his disability claim - is the back pain he attributes to the July 2010 Accident. Following the accident, Plaintiff reported feeling "jittery, " but was "ambulatory at [the] scene" of the accident. (SSA Rec. 455). He reported "pain in lower right belly and in low back immediately after accident, but pain resolved" afterwards. (Id. ). Plaintiff received treatment at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. (Id. at 451-55). He "denie[d] any head, neck or back pain." (Id. at 453). Medical staff noted his "chief complaint" was that he was "all shaken up." (Id. ). He was diagnosed with "musculoskeletal tenderness, " and discharged the same day. (Id. at 451-52).

On August 2, 2010, Plaintiff began physical treatment for his back and knee pain with West Coast Physical Therapy. (SSA Rec. 167). Plaintiff reported "on and off pain" in his lumbar spine and "throbbing pain" in his left knee. (Id. ). Plaintiff was treated with electric stimulation, therapeutic exercise, and heat. (Id. at 168). Plaintiff continued his physical therapy sessions, two to three times per week, through August 29, 2011. (Id. at 167-92).

On the same day he began physical therapy, Plaintiff visited Peter Morgan, a chiropractor, for treatment of his back and knee injuries. (SSA Rec. 510). Plaintiff reported severe left knee pain, low back pain that radiated down into his left leg, and moderate pain in his "mid back." (Id. ). Plaintiff reported that he had difficulty walking, standing, driving, and performing normal daily activities. (Id. ). Dr. Morgan noted that Plaintiff walked with an altered and guarded gait. (Id. ).

On August 4, 2010, upon a referral from Dr. Morgan, Plaintiff received treatment from Dr. Emilio Salazar, M.D. (SSA Rec. 290). Dr. Salazar's clinical impression was "[l]eft knee sprain" and "[l]umbar radiculopathy." (Id. at 292).[6]

On August 12, 2010, Dr. Morgan conducted a nerve conduction study. (SSA Rec. 210). Plaintiff reported low back pain and stiffness, and the test revealed lumbar radiculopathy, disc herniation, and decreased range of motion in the lumbar spine. (Id. ).

On August 17, 2010, Plaintiff underwent an x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging ("MRI") exam of his lumbar and thoracic spine. (SSA Rec. 213-16). The x-ray of the thoracic spine revealed disc space narrowing in the upper and mid thoracic spine. (Id. at 213). The x-ray of the lumbar spine revealed straightening of the lordotic curve consistent with musculospasm. (Id. at 214). The MRI of the thoracic spine, reviewed by Dr. Satish Chandra, M.D., revealed disc herniation, radiculopathy, and disc desiccation throughout. (Id. at 216. The MRI of the lumbar spine revealed disc herniation, radiculopathy, straightening of the lumbar spine, fluid in the facet joint indicating acute facet inflammation at L4-L5, and a disc bulge at L5-S1. (Id. at 215).

On September 15, 2010, Dr. Salazar performed a physical examination and reviewed the MRI results. (SSA Rec. 297). Dr. Salazar noted that the pain in Plaintiff's mid and lower back was improving with physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments. (Id. ). Dr. Salazar further noted "no limitation in range of motion." (Id. ). With respect to Plaintiff's MRI results, Dr. Salazar reported "disc herniation at T7-8 and levoscoliosis [i.e., leftward curvature]" of the cervical spine, and "facet inflammation at L5-S1" of the lumbar spine. (Id. ).

On September 27, 2010, Plaintiff visited Dr. Richard Seldes, M.D., for an orthopedic consultation. (SSA Rec. 354). Dr. Seldes performed a physical examination, and noted a clinical impression of "T-spine disc herniation" and "Lumbosacral spine disc bulge." (Id. ). Dr. Seldes also noted pain and spasm upon palpation. (Id. ). Dr. Seldes diagnosed a disc herniation in the thoracic spine and disc bulge in the lumbosacral spine ( id. ), and prescribed Celebrex for pain ( id. at 355).

On October 4, 2010, Plaintiff presented to Chester Bogdan, a chiropractor, for an independent chiropractic examination in connection with a Workers' Compensation claim that he submitted after the July 2010 Accident. (SSA Rec. 358). Dr. Bogdan reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and performed a physical examination. (Id. at 359). Plaintiff complained of pain in his middle and lower back and occasional tingling in his hands. (Id. ). Plaintiff was found to have a decreased range of motion in his cervical and lumbar spine, and palpation of the thoracic and lumbosacral spine revealed spasms of the paraspinal muscles. (Id. ). Dr. Bogdan's impression was that Plaintiff "sustained a cervical, thoracic, and lumbosacral spin sprain-strain." (Id. at 360). He added that Plaintiff "may perform his usual daily activities and full occupational duties with no restrictions." (Id. ).

Plaintiff continued chiropractic treatments with Dr. Morgan approximately twice per week from October 28, 2010, through April of 2011. (SSA Rec. 228-47, 408, 541-49, 564-71, 573-91, 603-09). On December 1, 2010, Dr. Morgan noted that palpation of the thoracic and lumbar spine revealed moderate inflammatory changes around the paraspinal muscles. (Id. at 234). His report listed the following conditions: disc herniation; disc bulge; traumatic sacral, thoracic, and lumbar myalgia and myofascitis; posttraumatic vertebral subluxation complex in the thoracic, sacral, and lumbar spine; and a left knee injury. (Id. at 238). Dr. Morgan prescribed chiropractic spinal adjustments, physical and massage therapy, heat and ice therapy, a cervical and lumbar spine traction-posture pump, an orthopedic support pillow, and orthopedic back support. (Id. at 238-39).

In addition to this chiropractic treatment, Plaintiff continued to receive medical treatment from Dr. Salazar in late 2010 and early 2011. On November 3, 2010, Dr. Salazar noted "no limitation" in range of motion and that the pain was "significantly improved." (Id. at 300). Two months later, on January 5, 2011, Dr. Salazar reiterated that Plaintiff's back pain was improving and that he had "no limitation" in range of motion. (Id. at 303).

On January 11, 2011, Plaintiff visited Dr. Leo Varriale, M.D., for an independent orthopedic evaluation in connection with his Workers' Compensation claim. (SSA Rec. 362). Dr. Varriale reviewed Plaintiff's medical records and performed a physical examination. (Id. at 363). Plaintiff complained of low back pain with pain radiating down the left leg, as well as pain in the left knee. (Id. at 362). Examination revealed spasm and tenderness in the lower back and a decreased range of motion. (Id. at 363). Dr. Varriale diagnosed lumbar radiculopathy and recommended epidural injections. (Id. ). Regarding Plaintiff's ability to work, and in connection with Plaintiff's Workers' Compensation claim, Dr. Varriale opined that he was "totally disabled." (Id. at 364). On January 20, 2011, Dr. Varriale issued an addendum to his evaluation, in which he opined that Plaintiff "cannot sit or stand for short periods of time and cannot do any lifting." (Id. at 367). Regarding activities of daily living, Dr. Varriale opined that Plaintiff could not lift, push or pull, or stand for a long period of time. (Id. ).

Plaintiff's visits with Dr. Salazar continued through the spring. On February 16, 2011, Dr. Salazar noted that Plaintiff had "limited" range of motion and "is still in pain[, ] but does not want a steroid injection." (Id. at 308).

On February 18, 2011, Plaintiff visited Dr. Norma Bilbool, M.D., for "nerve conduction studies." (SSA Rec. 311). The results from these studies were "within normal limits, " but Dr. Bilbool noted that the "electrical findings are suggestive of bilateral lumbosacral radiculopathy at the S1 root level." (Id. at ...

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