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Woodrow v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 20, 2017



          CONBOY, MCKAY, BACHMAN & KENDALL, LLP Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION Office of Regional General Counsel Region II Attorneys for Defendant.

         OF COUNSEL:




         Russell Seward Woodrow ("Plaintiff") commenced this action on January 5, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). See Dkt. No. 1.


         Plaintiff's date of birth is August 7, 1960, and he was forty-eight years old on January 3, 2009, the alleged onset of his disability. See Dkt. No. 9, Administrative Transcript ("T."), at 268. Plaintiff is seeking a closed period of disability from February 23, 2011 through December 31, 2013. See Id. At the disability hearings, Plaintiff testified that his daily activities were limited to listening to music at a low volume and playing computer games. See Id. at 78-79. He was not resting or napping during the day, and he was not suffering from any side effects from his medications. See Id. at 47, 76. Plaintiff read the newspaper and watched television every day. See Id. at 299.

         Plaintiff is able take care of his personal needs on a daily basis, except that he shaves once a week. See Id. at 76, 296-97. He walked with the assistance of a cane and estimated that he could walk 160 feet total, stopping halfway to rest. See Id. at 77. Plaintiff was able to do laundry, wash dishes, and cook in a crock pot or grill. See Id. at 78. His father assisted him with grocery shopping by lifting the bags. See Id. During this period of disability, Plaintiff was not able to participate in hunting and fishing due to his impairments. See Id. According to Plaintiff, he does not leave the house or socialize except to go to his doctor's appointments. See Id. at 79. However, Plaintiff had a girlfriend in this period of time, and he maintained a relationship with her. See Id. at 87. He also transported her to do laundry and grocery shop. See Id. at 87.

         At his first hearing, Plaintiff testified that he is not able to work because he suffers from pain in his back and legs. See Id. at 70. The pain, as described by Plaintiff, was present twenty-four hours a day. See Id. at 296. He also had difficulty seeing in the morning when he woke up, which required the use of medications. See Id. at 72, 84. Plaintiff suffered from shortness of breath, which required the use of an inhaler, and, at the time of the second hearing, Plaintiff was also using a nebulizer twice a day. See Id. at 44. In his own assessment, Plaintiff can lift less than ten pounds, sit for 15-20 minutes, and stand for a couple of hours with a cane. See Id. at 76-77. At the second disability hearing, Plaintiff testified that his "whole body goes numb and [he] falls down, " and he was then only able to sit for five minutes before he had to stand and could only stand for twenty minutes. Id. at 41-42, 49. In addition to his alleged physical impairments, Plaintiff claimed that he suffer from "a lot of mental problems, " including panic attacks and depression. 74-75. In his testimony, Plaintiff stated that he was not able to finish things that he starts, his memory was failing him, and he does not have any energy. See Id. at 75. Plaintiff notes that he is able to follow written and spoken instructions. See Id. at 302.

         Plaintiff was married but separated from his spouse since 2007. See Id. at 67. He shared a residence that is owned by his roommate, and he received rent checks and food stamps from social services. See Id. at 68. Plaintiff has a driver's license, and he was able to drive himself independently when he went out. See Id. at 298-99. His roommate paid for Plaintiff's car insurance and allowed him to use one of his vehicles. See Id. at 82. Plaintiff was able to pay bills, count change, and manage his savings account. See Id. at 299. Plaintiff has an adult daughter and grandchildren, and he saw his grandchildren periodically. See Id. at 49, 83-84. Plaintiff completed his education in ninth grade, and he did not ever obtain a high school equivalency degree. See Id. at 84. He has not completed any vocational training. See id.

         Most recently, Plaintiff was a drillers assistant, working in mines, for Boart Longyear Company. See Id. at 242-44, 273. He worked in that position from 1995 through 1999 and from 2001 through 2008, along with other jobs. See Id. In that position, Plaintiff worked twelve-hour shifts and had to lift a maximum of 250 pounds. See Id. at 69. Also in Plaintiff's past relevant work history, he worked in quarries and a paper mill. See Id. at 70, 242-44. In those positions, Plaintiff also performed a lot of lifting. See Id. Plaintiff had not ever had a sedentary job. See id. at 70. Plaintiff worked until January 3, 2009 when he stopped due to his impairments. See Id. at 272.

         On February 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability and DIB. See Id. at 238-41, 268. The application was initially denied on June 24, 2011. See Id. at 91, 126-29. Plaintiff then requested a hearing by an administrative law judge. See Id. at 130. A hearing was conducted on September 27, 2012 before Administrative Law Judge John P. Ramos (the "ALJ"). See Id. at 62-90. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision to Plaintiff, dated October 23, 2012. See Id. at 98-117. Plaintiff filed a request for review of a hearing decision with the Appeals Council. See Id. at 184. The Appeals Council issued an order remanding Plaintiff's claim back to the ALJ to obtain evidence from a vocational expert to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on Plaintiff's occupational base. See Id. at 122-24. A second hearing was held via video-teleconference, on September 4, 2014, before the ALJ. See Id. ...

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