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Jasen v. Commissioner Of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

August 29, 2017


          DECISION & ORDER



         Plaintiff Michael Anthony Jasen (“Jasen”) brings this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner”) denying his application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits and Disability Insurance Benefits (“SSI/DIB”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the disposition of this case by a United States magistrate judge. (Docket # 16).

         Currently before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docket ## 14, 18). For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with applicable legal standards. Accordingly, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and Jasen's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied.


         I. Procedural Background

         Jasen applied for SSI and DIB[1] on April 19, 2013, alleging disability beginning on June 30, 2000 due to foot issues, insomnia, and arthritis. (Tr. 149, 170).[2] On June 12, 2013, the Social Security Administration denied Jasen's claim for benefits, finding that he was not disabled. (Tr. 81-82). Jasen requested and was granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge James G. Myles (the “ALJ”). (Tr. 15-16, 105-09). The ALJ conducted a hearing on October 21, 2014. (Tr. 34-66). Jasen was represented at the hearing by his attorney Jeffrey E. Marion, Esq. (“Marion”). (Tr. 34, 89). In a decision dated October 28, 2014, the ALJ found that Jasen was not disabled and was not entitled to benefits. (Tr. 17-33).

         On February 3, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Jasen's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-6). Jasen commenced this action on March 8, 2016, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. (Docket # 1).

         II. Relevant Medical Evidence [3]

A. Treatment Records

         Treatment records indicate that Jasen received treatment for diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and joint pain from Diana Thangathurai (“Thangathurai”), MD, at Lifetime Health Medical Care (“Lifetime”) on November 6, 2013. (Tr. 227-30). Thangathurai assessed that Jasen suffered from diabetes mellitus, joint pain, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and depression. (Id.). Thangathurai ordered bloodwork. (Id.). The treatment notes indicate that Jasen was taking various medications, including Metformin HCL, Simvastatin, Glipized, Zoloft, and Ibuprofen. (Id.).

         On October 17, 2014, Jasen attended another appointment with Thangathurai for treatment for hypertension and diabetes. (Tr. 236-41). Thangathurai reported that Jasen's diabetes was poorly controlled and recommended that he follow a low carbohydrate diet, lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. (Id.). Thangathurai increased Jasen's dosage of Glipizide to twenty milligrams in the morning and one tablet at night. (Id.). She also increased his dosage of Januvia to 100 milligrams. (Id.).

         Thangathurai indicated that Jasen's hypertension was chronic and recommended that Jasen follow a “low salt diet, exercise 30-60 [minutes] most days of the week, [and] maintain [a] healthy weight.” (Id.). Thangathurai also diagnosed Jasen with an onset of white blood cell disease (“WBC disease”) and advised him to repeat labs in four weeks. (Id.).

         B. Medical Opinion Evidence

         1. Harbinder Toor, MD

         On May 13, 2013, state examiner Harbinder Toor (“Toor”), MD, conducted a consultative orthopedic examination of Jasen. (Tr. 231-34). Jasen complained of chronic pain in the lower back, knees, ankles, and feet due to possible arthritis, and vision problems. (Id.). Jasen described his back pain as generally constant, dull and achy, although he noted that it was sometimes sharp in the lower back. (Id.). He indicated that his pain sometimes radiated to his lower leg. (Id.). He estimated the degree of pain in his knees, ankles and feet to be a level eight out of ten, and complained of occasional swelling in the right ankle. (Id.). Jasen reported difficulty standing, walking, squatting, bending and lifting. (Id.).

         Jasen reported that he was able to prepare meals daily, do laundry weekly, and clean monthly. (Id.). He indicated that he was able to care for his personal hygiene and to shop twice a week. (Id.). Jasen reported that he enjoyed watching television and light reading. (Id.).

         Upon examination, Toor noted that Jasen had a normal gait and did not appear to be in acute distress. (Id.). He was able to perform the heel and toe walk with difficulty, and could squat to fifty percent of full range. (Id.). He used no assistive devices and had no difficulty changing for the exam or rising from his chair, although he did have difficulty getting on and off the exam table. (Id.).

         Toor noted that Jasen's cervical spine showed full flexion, extension, lateral flexion bilaterally, and full rotary movement bilaterally. (Id.). Toor found that Jasen's lumbar and thoracic forward flexion, lateral flexion and lateral rotation were limited to thirty degrees and he could extend to zero degrees. (Id.). The straight leg raise was positive bilaterally at thirty degrees in both the sitting and supine positions. (Id.). Toor found no evidence of SI joint or sciatic notch tenderness, spasms, scoliosis, kyphosis, or tender points. (Id.). Toor found full range of motion in the shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, and fingers. (Id.). He also found full range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles bilaterally, but noted some tenderness in the knees and ankles bilaterally. (Id.). Toor assessed strength as five out of five in the upper and lower extremities and found no evidence of sensory deficits. (Id.). Toor found Jasen's hand and finger dexterity to be intact and his grip strength to be five out of five bilaterally. (Id.). Toor also reviewed an x-ray of Jasen's left foot that was negative for abnormalities. (Id.).

         Toor assessed that Jasen suffered from a history of arthritis in the knees, ankles and feet, and a history of possible arthritis in the lower back, and a history of vision problems. (Id.). He opined that Jasen had moderate limitations in standing, walking, squatting, bending and lifting, and that pain interfered with his physical routine. (Id.). Toor opined that Jasen's prognosis was fair. (Id.).

         2. Yu-Ying Lin, PhD

         On May 13, 2013, state examiner Yu-Ying Lin (“Lin”), PhD, conducted a consultative psychiatric evaluation of Jasen. (Tr. 222-26). Jasen reported that he lived with his brother, who had driven him to the evaluation. (Id.). Jasen reported he had obtained an associate's degree and was not currently employed. (Id.). He previously had been employed as a machinist, but had not worked since he was laid off in 2000. (Id.). Jasen reported no previous mental health treatment. (Id.).

         According to Jasen, he experienced difficulty falling asleep and decreased appetite. (Id.). Jasen reported depressive symptoms, including a dysphoric mood, helplessness, loss of usual interest, fatigue, and diminished self-esteem. (Id.). Jasen also reported situational worry, but denied anxiety, suicidal thoughts or homicidal ideation. (Id.). He reported that his major stressor was his financial situation. (Id.). Jasen indicated that he was able to care for his personal hygiene, cook, clean, do laundry, shop, and manage his money. (Id.). Although Jasen reported that he was able to perform these activities without difficulty, he also stated that his brother assisted him when necessary. (Id.). Jasen reported that he had a good relationship with his family and friends and was able to drive and take public transportation. (Id.).

         Upon examination, Lin noted that Jasen appeared casually dressed and well-groomed, had appropriate eye contact and posture, and lethargic motor behavior. (Id.). Lin opined that Jasen had fluent, clear speech with adequate language, coherent and goal-directed thought processes, dysphoric affect, dysthymic mood, clear sensorium, full orientation, and average intellectual functioning with a general fund of information appropriate to his experience.

         (Id.). Lin noted that Jasen's attention and concentration were generally intact. (Id.). Lin found Jasen's recent and remote memory skills to be moderately impaired due to nervousness. (Id.). According to Lin, Jasen recalled three objects immediately and one object after delay, and he completed five digits forward and five digits backward. (Id.).

         Lin opined that Jasen could follow and understand simple directions, perform simple tasks independently, maintain a regular schedule, learn new tasks, make appropriate decisions, and relate adequately with others. (Id.). Lin opined that Jasen was mildly limited in maintaining attention and concentration, mildly to moderately limited in performing complex tasks independently, and moderately limited in appropriately dealing with stress. (Id.). Lin assessed that Jasen suffered from dysthymic disorder and his prognosis was fair. (Id.).

         3. T. Harding, PhD

         On June 10, 2013, agency medical consultant Dr. T. Harding (“Harding”), PhD, completed a Psychiatric Review Technique. (Tr. 77-79). Harding concluded that Jasen's mental impairments were not severe. (Id.). According to Harding, Jasen suffered from mild limitations in his activities of daily living, ability to maintain social functioning, and ability to maintain concentration, persistence or pace. (Id.).

         4. Diana Thangathurai, MD

         On October 17, 2014, Thangathurai completed a “Residual Functional Capacity Assessment - Diabetes.” (Tr. 241). Thangathurai indicated that Jasen suffered from insulin resistant Type II diabetes. (Id.). According to Thangathurai, Jasen could frequently lift five pounds and could sit and stand for fifteen minutes at a time. (Id.). Thangathurai opined ...

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