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Bump v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 31, 2015

BYRON BUMP, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

PETER A. GORTON, ESQ., LACHMAN, GORTON LAW FIRM, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

KAREN T. CALLAHAN, ESQ., SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Office of Region General Counsel Region II Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Byron Bump commenced the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1384(c)(3), seeking judicial review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner")'s final decision to deny Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI"). See Dkt. No. 1.

On April 20, 2009, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act. See Dkt. No. 9, Administrative Transcript ("T."), at 174-82. After his application was denied, id. at 49-50, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which was held on July 22, 2010, id. at 116-52. On August 18, 2010, ALJ F. Patrick Flanagan issued a decision denying the requested relief, id. at 51-64, which became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Appeals Council's denial of review, id. at 70-72.

On September 21, 2011, Plaintiff brought an action in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's determination. Id. at 68-69, 80. By Order of Consent, the case was remanded pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to reconstruct the administrative record and to hold a de novo hearing. Id. at 82-83. Following rehearing on August 7, 2012, id. at 1008-36, ALJ Flanagan issued a decision dated September 21, 2012, again denying Plaintiff's requested relief, id. at 32-48. Plaintiff timely filed a request for review by the Appeals Council on October 4, 2012, id. at 28, which was denied on October 10, 2013, id. at 9-11, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

Plaintiff commenced the present action by filing a complaint on November 6, 2013, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's most recent determination. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges disability as a result of "severe impairments, including impairments to his back, shoulder, joints, feet, and hands and further including coronary artery disease, sleep disorder, deficits in intellection function, mental impairments, and headaches/migraines." Dkt. No. 11 at 3.

Presently before the Court are Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings, see Dkt. No. 11, and Defendant's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, see Dkt. No. 12.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff was born on November 27, 1972, and was thirty-nine years old at the time of the second administrative hearing on August 7, 2012. See T. at 174, 1008. Plaintiff is married and lives with his wife and only child in an apartment owned by Plaintiff's mother in Fort Greene, New York. See id. at 123-24. Plaintiff did not complete his high school education, and has since enrolled in the Binghamton Adult Educational Program to obtain a GED. See id. at 124-25, 1032. From 2000 until 2001, Plaintiff worked full time for Indian Valley Industries at a paper recycling plant as a forklift operator. See id. at 125, 186. In 2002, Plaintiff began working full time at Scotsman Press as a pressman's assistant. Id. at 125-26, 186-88. Plaintiff contends that he was required to "change[] the paper rolls, dump [and] fill[] the inks, clean[] the in fountains off, jack[] papers, a lot of heavy, a lot of extreme heavy lifting and a lot of standing." Id. at 126.

On July 19, 2007, Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, New York ("Wilson Memorial") after complaining of severe chest pain. See id. at 378. Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital the same day in a stable condition and was instructed "not to work for two days" and to "avoid stimulants (such as cigarettes...)." Id. at 379. Plaintiff ultimately stopped working and sought medical leave beginning on August 1, 2007. See id. at 126, 195-96.[2]

On November 7, 2007, Plaintiff was referred for and underwent a cardiac catheterization and angioplasty after continued self-reports of chest pain despite negative reports from two separate stress tests. See id. at 376. Plaintiff was diagnosed with 80% proximal stenosis of the left anterior descending ("LAD") coronary artery and treated with primary stenting, followed by post stent balloon dilation. See id. at 369. Plaintiff was discharged the following day in a stable condition and was diagnosed with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, hypothyroidism, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and arthritis. See id.

On January 24, 2008, Plaintiff visited United Medical Associates in Binghamton, New York, again reporting chest pain and shortness of breath. See id. at 366-67. Notably, Plaintiff denied suffering from "headaches, " as well as "leg pain, muscle weakness, or movement limitations." Id. at 367. Following an esophagogastroduodenoscopy ("EGD"), Dr. Bank, Plaintiff's treating physician, stated that the reported symptoms were "out of proportion to [the] endoscopic findings" and were likely attributable to Plaintiff's use of aspirin. Id. at 364.

Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff briefly returned to work at Scotsman Press in March of 2008 as part of its inserting departing. See id. at 127. Plaintiff contends that he was required to lift "bundles [of fliers] over, tie them up, then put them into a rack... [and] [t]hen drag the rack." Id. Plaintiff further contends that the rack, when full, weighed approximately 100 pounds. Id. Plaintiff again sought medical leave after experiencing reoccurring "chest pains" and "shortness of breath." Id. at 128, 210. Specifically, on March 12, 2008, Plaintiff was admitted to Wilson Memorial for "moderate" chest pain and subsequently discharged the following day to the hospital's Chest Pain Center for observation. Id. at 334. On March 19, 2008, Plaintiff underwent a second cardiac catheterization to alleviate a proximal stenosis of the LAD coronary artery. See id. at 328-29.

On July 28, 2008, Plaintiff underwent psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder. See id. at 496. Dr. Long, the treating physician, recommended that Plaintiff continue with anger management therapy. Id. Plaintiff also underwent a consultative examination, conducted by Dr. Magurno, in which Plaintiff was diagnosed with a "possible rotator cuff tear" in his right shoulder; back, knee, wrist, and ankle pain; "recurrent chest pain;" and "[t]obacco abuse." Id. at 504. Dr. Magurno further opined that Plaintiff "most likely had too many injuries to fully recover." Id.

In September 2008, Dr. Sonthineni conducted a neurological examination of Plaintiff, and stated that Plaintiff suffered from"decreased sensory perception" and "vascular headaches." Id. at 585. In December 2008, following an MRI, Dr. Sonthineni affirmatively diagnosed Plaintiff with migraines and obstructive sleep apnea. See id. at 581. Dr. Sonthineni noted at that time that "[Plaintiff] is well oriented, " "[h]as no memory impairment, " and is "[n]ot in any acute distress." Id. at 580. Dr. Sonthineni reaffirmed this diagnosis during a subsequent appointment with Plaintiff in February 2009. See id. at 578-79.

In July 2009, Plaintiff sought a consultative rheumatology examination, complaining of wrist, knee, shoulder, ankle, neck, and back pain. See id. at 722. Plaintiff attributed the joint pain to his "20-year history of training horses where he sustained different injuries... fall[ing] off the horse." Id. Dr. Llinas-Lux, the treating physician, noted that Plaintiff had "good range of motion in the neck[, ]... hips, knees, and ankles." Id. at 723. Dr. Llinas-Lux also noted that Plaintiff had maximum strength in both his upper and lower extremities. See id.

Plaintiff underwent a second consultative psychiatric evaluation in September 2009, in which the treating physician, Dr. Moore, diagnosed Plaintiff with impulse control disorder, depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder. See id. at 600. Dr. Moore ruled out posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning. Id. Dr. Moore also stated that his symptoms "could cause problems with making appropriate work decision and maintaining a regular work schedule." Id. at 599.

Plaintiff also met with Dr. Magurno for a consultation, who diagnosed Plaintiff with sleep apnea, intermittent lower back pain, joint pain, coronary artery disease, and hypertension. See id. at 594. Dr. Magurno noted, however, that Plaintiff had maximum strength in his upper and lower extremities and that his joints were stable and nontender. See id. at 593.

According to Plaintiff's September 2009 Physical Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") Assessment performed by a non-examining state agency medical consultant, Plaintiff had no push and/or pull limitations, could occasionally lift up to ten pounds, and could frequently lift less than ten pounds. See id. at 603. The Physical RFC also stated that Plaintiff could stand for at least two hours in an eight hour day, and could sit for at about six hours in an eight hour day. See id. In Plaintiff's Mental RFC Assessment, the agency consultant ultimately concluded that Plaintiff could "perform simple, entry level work where he would not work closely with others." See id. at 610-11.

In February 2010, Plaintiff met with Dr. Grier, complaining of "[a]ll over body pain.'" Id. at 647. Dr. Grier opined that Plaintiff "has significant psychological disease including intermittent explosive disorder, " but that "[a] gentlemen of his age with really no known diagnosis... is very unlikely fully disabled." Id. at 648. Dr. Grier further noted Plaintiff's desire to obtain disability, given that Plaintiff arrived to the appointment with a disability form, and that Plaintiff's "primary care physician does not believe that he is medically disabled and will not fill the forms out." Id. at 647. Dr. Grier recommended that Plaintiff follow up with him after obtaining a functional capacity evaluation ("FCE") to determine his "workability." Id. at 648. In May 2010, Dr. Zander, after examining Plaintiff, also concluded that "[he] did not believe [Plaintiff] was significantly ...


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