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Laye v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division

August 19, 2014

JOHN LAYE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

Plaintiff John Laye brings this action pursuant to Title II of Section 205(g) and Title XVI of Section 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his claim for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") prior to March 10, 2012, when Plaintiff's age category changed. See also, 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 405(g) and 1383(c). Based on the court's review of the record and the briefs submitted by the parties, the court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.

I. Proceedings Below

Plaintiff filed for disability, DIB, and SSI on July 23, 2010. Plaintiff's applications were denied on November 29, 2010. (Tr. 69-80, 122). Plaintiff then requested (Tr. 81-82) and received a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Debra H. Goldstein ("ALJ") on April 23, 2010. (Tr. 34-54). In her decision dated May 10, 2012, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under Section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act since July 23, 2010, the date Plaintiff filed his applications. (Tr. 122). The ALJ did, however, determine Plaintiff to be disabled under Section 1614(a)(3)(A) beginning March 10, 2012 and continued to be disabled through the date of her decision. (Tr. 22). After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 1), that decision became the final decision of the Commissioner and therefore a proper subject of this court's appellate review. Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's determination that he was not disabled between July 23, 2010 and March 10, 2012.

At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was fifty years old and had a high school education. (Tr. 21). He claims November 30, 2009 as the onset date of his current disability. (Tr. 15). Plaintiff disclosed that he was involved in a serious motor vehicle collision on July 16, 2007. (Tr. 39). Plaintiff alleges pain in his pelvis, [1] his right leg is smaller than his left, and he has foot drop in his right foot. (Tr. 40, 245-246, 265). Following the accident, Plaintiff was given a wheelchair, then progressed to a walker, then a crutch, and now uses a cane. (Tr. 45, 248). Plaintiff was also given a brace to help him walk. (Tr. 40, 265). Plaintiff rated the pain in his pelvis and ankle as an eight on a zero to ten scale. (Tr. 40, 42).

With regard to his domestic life, Plaintiff reported that he can no longer walk long distances, stand for no more than ten minutes, and sit for no more than twenty minutes. (Tr. 43). Plaintiff alleges he spends anywhere from four to six hours laying down each day. (Tr. 43). Plaintiff no longer drives, and recently moved in with his brother, who does all the household chores.[2] Plaintiff stated he currently takes 600 mg. of Ibuprofen for pain, and medicine for his prostate[3] and blood-pressure. (Tr. 45-47).

Plaintiff has performed past relevant work as a cutoff saw operator, lumbar stacker handler, and industrial cleaner. (Tr. 50). All of these jobs required at least medium physical demands. His role as a cutoff saw operator is considered to be semiskilled while his other jobs are considered unskilled positions. (Tr. 50). When asked if he had worked any in the past few years, Plaintiff responded he had not. (Tr. 48-49).

During his alleged period of disability following his motor vehicle collision, Plaintiff was seen and treated by multiple physicians: Drs. Rena Stewart, Stephen Ikard, Jeff Brown, Larry Skeleton, and Judy Travis. (Tr. 39-46, 257, 259, 263, 265, 277, 289-290, 306-307, 310-311, 321-323, 326-329). Immediately following the collision on, Plaintiff was taken to the Druid City Hospital Regional Medical Center and underwent surgery for a descending thoracic aortic tear. Plaintiff also suffered hydropneumothorax on the right side. (Tr. 211). On July 20, 2007 Plaintiff was discharged to the University of Alabama-Birmingham ("UAB") Medical Center. While at the UAB Medical Center, Plaintiff was ventilated and received a nasogastric feeding tube. He also underwent percutaneous pinning of the right sacroiliac joint. (Tr. 247).

On August 22, 2007, Dr. Rena Stewart performed Plaintiff's first follow-up examination. Dr. Stewart diagnosed Plaintiff with pelvic ring injury with right sacroiliac screw fixation. Plaintiff continued to show signs of sciatic nerve palsy and reduced power to the right foot. Plaintiff was placed in a boot for equinus of the right ankle. (Tr. 265).

Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Stephen Ikard at the University Orthopedic Clinic on August 23, 2007. (Tr. 257). Dr. Ikard reported the following:

[O]n examination, [Plaintiff] is in a wheelchair, nonweightbearing. He has intact gentle flexion-extension of the hip, with rotation as well. Knee has good flexion-extension. He can dorisflex and plantar flex the foot, ankle and toes. He has some mild weakness to dorsiflexion of the foot perhaps but he can dorsiflex the ankle and dorsiflex the toes. He has obvious function of the peroneal nerve. There is some weakness that he cannot dorsiflex acutely all the way but he is being stretched.

(Tr. 257).

Plaintiff returned to see Dr. Stewart on October 12 and November 29, 2007. During the first of two visits with Dr. Stewart, the record notes, "[Plaintiff] continues to have profound foot-drop which is from time of injury." (Tr. 263). During his return visit on November 29, 2007, Dr. Stewart noted, "[Plaintiff] is having some improvement of his foot drop which was present at the time of injury and has continued to wear his 3d boot and very clearly understands to get his heal down in the boot... which has improved his dorsiflexion." (Tr. 259). Plaintiff showed a 2/5 power of dorsiflexion and EHL.[4] Also, it is important to note that Dr. Stewart informed Plaintiff he would no longer be eligible for Charity Care because he had entered into a lawsuit. (Tr. 259).[5] Dr. Stewart instructed Plaintiff that he may begin to advance weight bearing to weight bearing as tolerated "as [he was] concerned [Plaintiff] would not receive therapy." (Tr. 259).

On June 18, 2008, Plaintiff visited Jeff Brown, D.P.M., for pain and swelling in the left ankle. Dr. Brown noted Plaintiff's right foot drop, but the examination focused on his left foot, finding the pain is made ...

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