United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ANTHONY L. HANSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Social Security Commissioner, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BERT W. MILLING, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
In this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff seeks judicial review of an adverse social security ruling which denied a claim for disability insurance benefits (Docs. 1, 12). The parties filed written consent and this action has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings and enter judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 ( see Doc. 23). Oral argument was waived in this action (Doc. 22). Upon consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be REVERSED and that this action be REMANDED for further administrative action not inconsistent with the Orders of this Court.
This Court is not free to reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983), which must be supported by substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The substantial evidence test requires "that the decision under review be supported by evidence sufficient to justify a reasoning mind in accepting it; it is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance." Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 918 (11th Cir. 1984), quoting Jones v. Schweiker, 551 F.Supp. 205 (D. Md. 1982).
At the time of the most recent administrative hearing, Hanson was fifty years old, had completed a high school education (Tr. 52), and had previous work experience as a delivery truck driver, concrete truck driver, and an automobile parts clerk (Tr. 74). Plaintiff alleges disability due to a history of deep vein thrombosis (hereinafter DVT ) and degenerative changes of the right knee (Doc. 12 Fact Sheet).
Hanson filed a protective application for disability benefits on April 28, 2010 (Tr. 167-70; see also Tr. 23). Benefits were denied following a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who determined that although he could not return to his past relevant work, there were specific light work jobs that Plaintiff could perform (Tr. 23-31). Hanson requested review of the hearing decision (Tr. 18-19) by the Appeals Council, but it was denied (Tr. 1-5).
Plaintiff claims that the opinion of the ALJ is not supported by substantial evidence. Specifically, Hanson alleges that: (1) The ALJ did not properly consider the opinions of the treating physicians; (2) the ALJ did not properly consider his complaints of pain and limitation; (3) the ALJ's residual functional capacity (hereinafter RFC ) determination is unsupported by the evidence; and (4) the ALJ did not pose a proper hypothetical to the Vocational Expert (hereinafter VE ) (Doc. 12). Defendant has responded to-and denies-these claims (Doc. 18). The relevant evidence of record follows.
On December 23, 2008, Dr. C. H. Wilson, IV, an Orthopaedic Surgeon, examined Hanson for recurring right knee pain; the doctor noted that Plaintiff was in no acute distress and had right knee range of motion (hereinafter ROM ) from 0 to 85 degrees (Tr. 292-93, 350; see generally Tr. 288-95). Hanson had diffuse pain and mild to moderate effusion with no warmth or redness associated with the knee joint; x-rays revealed no acute abnormality. Plaintiff was recommended for physical therapy with restrictions from stooping, climbing, or prolonged standing. On February 20, 2009, the Orthopaedist noted that Hanson had made good progress, having full ROM in his knee with no effusion and minimal pain; his diagnosis was right knee degenerative changes (Tr. 290). Plaintiff was encouraged to continue his knee exercises and conditioning. On April 28, 2010, Wilson noted that ROM was 0 to 130 degrees with mild pain; Hanson was told to use ice on his knee (Tr. 291). On May 28, 2010, Dr. Wilson's notes indicate that Plaintiff's pain had resolved and that he had only minimal tenderness (Tr. 289).
On September 1, 2010, Dr. William Gewin, an Internist specializing in pulmonary disease, reported that Hanson had pain and swelling in his right leg, similar to previous episodes of DVT (Tr. 296-99, 349). The Doctor noted swelling, in spite of his use of a compression stocking, but indicated that Plaintiff was in no acute distress. Venous Doppler studies showed right leg compression that appeared chronic.
Records from Dr. Glenn Esses, a Vascular Surgeon, on September 2, 2010, reveal his examination of Hanson for right leg heaviness, pain, and swelling (Tr. 313-17, 348). Plaintiff was unable to wear his compression stocking because of his symptoms. The Doctor noted that he had been treating Hanson for about ten years for DVT. Hanson was admitted to Mobile Infirmary Medical Center for five nights for recurrent pain in the right thigh and lateral thigh region (Tr. 300-12). Though there was no evidence of DVT, there was evidence of chronic debris noted throughout the right lower extremity; there was also evidence of severe venous reflux throughout the deep veins in the extremity (Tr. 309).
On November 4, 2010, Orthopaedic Wilson noted that Hanson's pain was confined to the medial joint line of the right knee; ROM was 0 to 130 degrees (Tr. 318-19). Plaintiff was given a steroid injection.
Emergency Room records from Mobile Infirmary demonstrate that Hanson was seen on December 3, 2010, complaining of neck pain and right upper extremity tingling following a motor vehicle collision (Tr. 337-47). He was in no distress and was non-tender over the cervical spine and neck muscles; Hanson had full ROM in both upper extremities. There was no tenderness to palpation of any joints or muscle group. Plaintiff was given some nonsteroidal pain meds and muscle relaxants.
On February 4, 2011, Hanson returned to the Emergency Room with complaints of intermittent sharp chest pain with shortness of breath (Tr. 322-36). Chest x-rays revealed no active pathology; an EKG was normal. He was admitted to the hospital for four nights (Tr. 371-95). A CT scan showed no pulmonary embolus. Hanson was told to stop smoking (Tr. 385). Plaintiff was discharged in improved, but stable, condition with a guarded prognosis; the discharge diagnosis was atypical chest pain.
On December 29, 2010, Dr. Gewin completed a clinical assessment of pain indicating that Hanson's pain distracted him from adequately performing work (Tr. 320). Gewin was unable to assess how pain medications affected Hanson's performance.
On January 7, 2011, Dr. Esses completed a physical capacities evaluation indicating that Hanson was capable of sitting, standing, or walking for one hour each at a time and during an eight-hour day (Tr. 321). Hanson was capable of lifting and carrying up to five pounds frequently and twenty-five pounds occasionally; he would have no trouble using his hands for simple grasping, pushing and pulling of arm controls, and fine manipulation. Hanson was not able to use either leg for pushing and pulling of leg controls. Esses further indicated that Plaintiff could occasionally bend, squat, crawl, and reach, but could never climb. On that same date, the Doctor completed a pain form in which he indicated that Hanson's pain distracted ...