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Gonzales v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 24, 2014

TONY M. GONZALES, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


SONJA F. BIVINS, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Tony M. Gonzales (hereinafter "Plaintiff") brings this action seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. On April 11, 2014, the parties consented to have the undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case. (Doc. 26). Thus, the action was referred to the undersigned to conduct all proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. Upon careful consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of the parties, it is hereby ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on May 6, 2010. (Doc. 14 at 1; Tr. 123-33). Plaintiff alleges that he has been disabled since April 10, 2009 because he was born with his feet backwards; he suffers from arthritis, leg pain, and swelling; and he has trouble standing. (Tr. 147). Plaintiff's applications were denied and upon timely request, he was granted an administrative hearing before Administrative Law Judge Katie H. Pierce (hereinafter "ALJ") on October 12, 2012. Plaintiff, his attorney, and a vocational expert (hereinafter "VE") attended the hearing. (Id. at 24). On February 7, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 6-19). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 7, 2013. (Id. at 1-3). Thus, the ALJ's decision dated February 7, 2012 became the final decision of the Commissioner. The parties waived oral argument (Docs. 25, 26), and agree that this case is now ripe for judicial review and is properly before this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).

II. Issue on Appeal

Whether the ALJ erred in failing to assign controlling weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician.

III. Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on September 28, 1969, and was 42 years of age at the time of his administrative hearing on October 12, 2011. (Tr. 29). Plaintiff testified at the hearing that has a fourth grade education and does not have a GED. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, he last worked in a prep kitchen with All States Employer. (Id.). Plaintiff testified that he was born crippled and his legs were put in braces while his bones were still soft. (Id. at 30). He further testified that over the years, he has gotten "worse and worse inside [his] bones and through [his] knees", and that in September 2011, a doctor recommended that he have surgery to "reset" his shins; however, he did not have insurance to cover the procedure. (Id. at 30, 33). He also testified that he takes Flexeril and anti-inflammatory medications, which help relieve the swelling and muscle spasms that he experiences. (Id.). Additionally, Plaintiff testified that his left shoulder has been dislocated several times, that doctors told him that he has impingement in his shoulder and arthritis around the bones, that doctors recommended surgery on his shoulder, and that he was not able to afford the surgery. (Id. at 30-31). Plaintiff also contends that two of his fingers on his right hand were cut off years ago and that although they were sewn back to his hand, "[t]hey're just dead." (Id.).

On Plaintiff's function report, he reported that his daily activities include watching television, washing dishes, and cooking. (Id. at 152). He further reported that he has no limitations with regard to his personal care, that he prepares sandwiches, frozen dinners, and canned foods, that he goes outside, watches sports, and plays cards "as much as possible, " that he goes shopping for food, and that he attends church weekly. (Id. at 153-56). Plaintiff also reported that he is able to lift up to 30 pounds and walk one block before needing to rest. (Id. at 157).

In her decision, the ALJ made the following relevant findings:

The claimant has the following severe impairments:
bilateral patellofemoral syndrome, arthropathy, generalized osteoarthritis, and adjustment disorder with depressed mood (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920).[1]

(Id. at 11). With respect to Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ stated as follows:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except the claimant is able to occasionally push/pull leg controls, occasionally push/pull arm controls with the left upper extremity; occasionally reach overhead; never lift and carry overhead; occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, balance, and climb stairs and ramps; never crawl; and never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The claimant can perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks; adapt to minimal ...

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