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Tisdale v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 7, 2020

MARQUIS TISDALE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION & ORDER

          LAWRENCE J. VILARDO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On June 25, 2018, the plaintiff, Marquis Tisdale, brought this action under the Social Security Act (“the Act”). He seeks review of the determination by the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) that he was not disabled. Docket Item 1. On February 7, 2019, Tisdale moved for judgment on the pleadings, Docket Item 9; on May 21, 2019, the Commissioner responded and cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings, Docket Item 14; and on June 10, 2019, Tisdale replied, Docket Item 15.

         For the reasons stated below, this Court grants Tisdale's motion in part and denies the Commissioner's cross-motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 9, 2014, Tisdale applied for Supplemental Security Income. Docket Item 69. He claimed that he had been disabled since October 31, 2011, due to a back injury as a result of a car accident, subsequent back surgeries, and numbness in his legs. Id. at 69-70.

         On December 24, 2014, Tisdale received notice that his application was denied because he was not disabled under the Act. Id. at 69-76 He requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), id. at 91, which was held on February 7, 2017, id. at 27. The ALJ then issued a decision on May 2, 2017, confirming the finding that Tisdale was not disabled. Id. at 14-21. Tisdale appealed the ALJ's decision, but his appeal was denied, and the decision then became final. Id. at 4.

         II. RELEVANT MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         The following summarizes the medical evidence most relevant to Tisdale's claim. Tisdale was examined by several different providers, but only the opinion of Rita Figueroa, M.D., is of significance to the claim of disability here.

         A. Rita Figueroa, M.D.

         On December 5, 2014, Dr. Figueroa, an internist, evaluated Tisdale. Docket Item 6 at 268. She observed that Tisdale was “in no acute distress, ” had a normal gait, could “walk on his heels and toes without difficulty, ” did not need “help changing for [the] exam or getting on and off [the] exam table, ” and was “[a]ble to rise from [his] chair without difficulty.” Id. at 269. Tisdale told Dr. Figueroa that he “cook[ed] once to twice a week” but did “no laundry because he [could not] do any bending.” Id. He also told her that he could not “pick up heavy things” or “stand for long.” Id.

         Dr. Figueroa diagnosed Tisdale with chronic back pain and lumbar radiculopathy. Id. at 270. Ultimately, she concluded that Tisdale “has marked limitations for bending, lifting, and carrying” and a “[m]oderate limitation to prolonged walking.” Id. at 271.

         III. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         In denying Tisdale's application, the ALJ evaluated Tisdale's claim under the Social Security Administration's five-step evaluation process for disability determinations. See 20 C.F.R § 416.920(a)(2). At the first step, the ALJ determines whether the claimant currently is engaged in substantial gainful employment. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). ...


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