United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MORRIS L. BARNES, Plaintiff,
NANCY BERRYHILL,  Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
F. BIVINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Morris Barnes (hereinafter “Plaintiff”), seeks
judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying his claim for a period of disability,
disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security
income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and 1381, et
seq. On May 25, 2017, the parties consented to have the
undersigned conduct any and all proceedings in this case.
(Doc. 15). 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.
filed his applications for disability, disability insurance
benefits, and supplemental security income on March 23, 2010,
alleging disability beginning on April 16, 2009, based on
“left knee problems.” (Tr. 129-130, 377).
Plaintiff's application was denied and upon timely
request, he was granted an administrative hearing on March
16, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge Linda Helm
(hereinafter “ALJ”). (Id. at 89).
Plaintiff attended the hearing with his counsel and provided
testimony related to his claims. (Id. at 91-121). A
vocational expert (“VE”) also appeared at the
hearing and provided testimony. (Id. at 121-127). On
June 18, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision finding
that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Id. at 42-53). In
an opinion dated August 28, 2013, the Appeals Council
remanded this matter and instructed the ALJ to obtain
additional evidence regarding Plaintiff's left knee
impairment, such a consultative orthopedic examination and
source statement, further evaluate Plaintiff's subjective
complaints, and give further consideration to Plaintiff's
maximum residual functional capacity during the entire period
at issue. (Id. at 158-160).
remand, a second hearing was held on March 13, 2014.
Plaintiff attended the hearing with his counsel and provided
additional testimony. A medical expert and vocational expert
also attended the hearing and offered
testimony. (Id. at 58-65, 82-85). The ALJ
issued an unfavorable decision on June 10, 2014.
(Id. at 21-36, 42-88). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on February 5, 2016.
(Id. at 1). Therefore, the ALJ's decision dated
June 10, 2014, became the final decision of the Commissioner.
exhausted his administrative remedies, Plaintiff timely filed
the present civil action. (Doc. 1). Oral argument was
conducted on June 1, 2017, before the undersigned Magistrate
Judge (Doc. 17), and the parties 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).
Issue on Appeal
the ALJ erred in assigning little weight to the opinions of
Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Otis Harrison,
was born on April 11, 1972, and was thirty-nine years of age
at the time of his administrative hearing on March 16, 2012.
(Tr. 89, 96, 377). Plaintiff alleges that he became disabled
on April 16, 2009, based on “left knee problems.”
(Id. at 129-130, 377).
completed the eleventh grade and pursued his GED; however, he
left the program after getting a job. (Id. at
98-99). Plaintiff's past work includes shipyard welder,
construction laborer, ripsaw operator, and production
assembler. (Id. at 82, 101-105, 122). In 2006,
following partial medial meniscectomy surgeries on his left
knee, he returned to work as a heavy laborer. (Id.
at 58, 106). In April 2009, following a boating accident in
which he reinjured his left knee, Plaintiff's employer
placed him on light duty and sent him for an MRI.
(Id. at 100, 105, 451).
to Plaintiff, he cannot work now due to pain, swelling, and
arthritis in his left knee, which causes him to barely be
able to walk. (Id. at 106). Plaintiff testified that
he takes Lortab and uses creams and a stretch machine for his
knee pain. (Id. at 106-107). Plaintiff received
worker's compensation payments for his knee and a lump
sum settlement of $125, 000. (Id. at 105).
decision issued on June 10, 2014, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has the severe impairments of degenerative joint
disease of the left knee, diabetes mellitus, and
obesity. (Tr. 23). The ALJ further found that,
while Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments
could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms,
the Plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of these symptoms were not
entirely credible. (Id. at 25-26). The ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has the residual functional
capacity to perform a reduced range of light work, subject to
the following restrictions: Plaintiff can lift/carry no more
than twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; he
can stand/walk no more than thirty minutes at a time and no
more than two hours in an eight-hour workday; he needs to be
able to use a cane for prolonged walking; sitting is
unrestricted with the usual breaks; he can never climb
ladders, scaffolding, or ropes, kneel, crawl, or work around
unprotected heights or in temperature extremes; and he can
only occasionally climb stairs and ramps, bend, stoop,
crouch, and operate moving equipment. (Id. at 25).
Utilizing the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff cannot perform his past relevant
work; however, he can perform the jobs of bench assembler,
surveillance system monitor, and call-out operator.
(Id. at 36).
medical records reflect that Plaintiff reported injuring his
left knee in a boating accident in April 2009 and that he was
treated by the Industrial Medical Clinic of Mobile.
(Id. at 450-455). He was initially diagnosed with
lumbar region strain and left knee strain. (Id.).
Plaintiff was placed on restricted duty, which included no
climbing, no squatting on the left knee, and no lifting over
20 pounds. (Id.). An MRI of Plaintiff's left
knee revealed previous medial meniscectomy, tear of lateral
meniscus, chrondromalacic change of the patella, mild change
of degenerative joint disease, and small structure in the
suprapatellar bursa. (Id. at 454).
was seen by Dr. Clayton Lane, M.D., on April 28, 2009, and
reported left knee pain. (Id. at 455). On exam, Dr.
Lane observed that Plaintiff had moderate tenderness over the
lateral joint line, negative Lachman, negative drawer,
negative patellar grind, and positive McMurray's
laterally. (Id.). Dr. Lane diagnosed Plaintiff with
left knee pain and left knee anterior horn lateral meniscus
tear and prescribed Mobic and physical therapy three times a
week. (Id.). During Plaintiff's May 12, 2009
visit, he reported that physical therapy made his pain worse.
(Id. at 457). Dr. Lane prescribed Lortab and noted
that Plaintiff would be scheduled for an arthroscopic partial
lateral meniscectomy with chondroplasty of the patellofemoral
joint. (Id.). On May 20, 2009, Dr. Lane performed
arthroscopic partial medial and lateral meniscectomies with
microfracture patella to address the meniscus tear and assess
the chondral damage. (Id. at 458). Plaintiff was
placed in a hinged knee brace, and his range of motion was 0
to 30. He was set up with a home CPM for range of motion and
was instructed to remain completely non-weight bearing.
(Id. at 458-59).
Lane's treatment records dated May 28, 2009 reflect that
Plaintiff reported 8/10 pain and was placed in a hinged knee
brace 0 to 20 degrees range of motion. Additionally, Dr. Lane
prescribed physical therapy three times a week for six weeks
and noted, “I am keeping him out of work.”
(Id. at 461). By July 2009, diagnostic imaging of
Plaintiff's left knee showed no evidence of fracture or
other pathology, and Dr. Lane's treatment notes dated
July 7, 2009, reflect that Plaintiff had an “excellent
range of motion, ” although he reported
“catching” under the kneecap with a certain
motion. (Id. at 463). During Plaintiff's July
28, 2009 visit, he had 0 to 140 degrees of knee flexion but
experienced pain under the patella with that range of motion.
(Id. at 464). He also had mild crepitus but no
significant locking or mechanical black to motion. X-rays
showed no evidence of loose body or fracture. (Id.).
Dr. Lane prescribed Lortab 7.5 and four additional weeks of