United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lisa Mackey (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social
Security Act (the “Act”). Plaintiff seeks review
of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying her claim
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). (R.
17). See also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). 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.
action arises from Plaintiff's application for DIB dated
March 10, 2014. (R. 136-37). The Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) initially denied
Plaintiff's application on August 15, 2014. (R. 76-81).
Plaintiff subsequently requested and received a hearing
before Administrative Law Judge Ronald Reeves
(“ALJ”). (R. 44, 82). The hearing was held on
March 1, 2016 in Gadsden, Alabama where Plaintiff appeared
and was represented by an attorney. (R. 44). In his decision
dated May 6, 2016, the ALJ determined Plaintiff not disabled
under section 216(i) and 223(d) of the Act. (R. 40).
Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision on May
23, 2016. (R. 24). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request on April 18, 2017, thereby making the ALJ's
determination the final decision of the Commissioner, and a
proper subject of this court's appellate review. (R. 1).
time of the hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-one years old. (R.
64). She completed two years of college and was self-employed
as a cosmetologist from 1990 to February 4, 2014. (R. 47, 74,
157, 203). Plaintiff alleges disability beginning on February
4, 2014 due to injuries she received in a motor vehicle
accident: bilateral femur fracture, right heel fracture,
right knee ligament injury, sternal injury, intestinal lining
tears, severe concussion, and right great toe displacement.
(R. 8, 64, 81).
application for disability benefits, Plaintiff noted that her
daily activities include sitting in a recliner and watching
TV. (R. 162). She states that because she experiences pain
when she lays flat, she must sleep in a recliner.
(Id.). She reports she is unable to prepare or heat
up meals because she cannot stand to reach the microwave. (R.
164). She states she is unable to do any household chores or
yard work but is able to go outside once a week and ride in a
car. (R. 164-65). She indicates she is also unable to
retrieve bills from the mailbox and is afraid to pay bills
while on medication. (Id.). Her hobbies before the
accident included going to her daughter's sporting events
and riding jet skis; however, since the accident, she cannot
participate in those activities. (R. 166).
told the ALJ that she is unable to walk or stand for long
periods of time due to pain in her heel, and that she must
sit down and prop her legs up to relieve the pain. (R. 51).
She has been prescribed a cane and home therapy exercises.
(R. 50, 52).
record contains Plaintiff's medical history from the
alleged onset date of February 4, 2014. (R. 239). She was
involved in a significant vehicle accident. Plaintiff was
initially taken to Redmond Regional Medical Center after the
accident where she was diagnosed with fracture of the
manubrium, right transverse processes of L1 through L5
fractured with minimal displacement, calcaneal fracture,
closed head injury, contusion of abdominal wall, dislocated
toe, right femur fracture, lumbar transverse process
fracture, pulmonary contusion, and lacerations. (R. 249,
254). Plaintiff was transferred from Redmond to Erlanger
Health System on February 4, 2014. (R. 250).
February 5, 2014, Dr. Peter Nowotarski preformed multiple
procedures on Plaintiff, including intramedullary nailing of
the right and left femurs; right and left proximal tibial
tractions pins; open reduction internal fixation; right
tibial plateau; right knee exam under anesthesia; closed
treatment of right calcaneus with manipulation, incision and
drainage; and closure of right thigh laceration. (R. 287,
344). After the procedures, Plaintiff was told to be
non-weight bearing on her right lower extremity while using
the left lower extremity for transfer and pivoting. (R. 290,
348). Plaintiff was transferred to HealthSouth Rehabilitation
Hospital of Gadsden on February 11, 2014, where she stayed
and completed physical therapy until February 20, 2014. (R.
442-56). Plaintiff missed some scheduled physical therapy
returned to Dr. Nowotarski on February 20, 2014. He noted
that she had good control of her left leg, straight leg
raise, and no pain with axial loading with pushing off her
left leg. (R. 326). She was able to extend and flex her hip
and left knee near fully. (Id.). The right knee was
able to flex up to about 70-80 degrees. (Id.). Dr.
Nowotarski stated that there was reduction and fixation of
Plaintiff's bilateral femoral shaft fractures. (R. 327).
February 21, 2014, Plaintiff underwent another procedure on
her fractured calcaneus and was told to be non-weight-bearing
for three months on her right lower extremity and to elevate
her leg. (R. 328-32). Plaintiff was transferred back to
HealthSouth Rehabilitation on February 24, 2014 and was
released on March 7, 2014. (R. 415-29). On March 6, 2014, Dr.
Nowotarski instructed Plaintiff to weight bear as tolerable
on left lower extremity for short distances with a walker and
to remain non-weight bearing on her right side. (R. 279).
March 21, 2014, Plaintiff visited Dr. Brian Perry. Dr. Perry
noted that Plaintiff appeared to be recovering steadily. (R.
313). During an April 10, 2014 examination by Dr. Nowotarski,
he noted that Plaintiff's right knee had about 90-95
degrees of knee flexion and her calcaneal wound had perfectly
healed with reduction in the right calcaneus fracture. (R.
409). Dr. Nowotarski also noted that Plaintiff was giving
poor rehab effort and prescribed her more vigorous physical
therapy. (Id.). Dr. Nowotarski cleared Plaintiff for
full weight bearing gait training on her left femur as well
as twenty-five-pound toe touch on the right side.
a follow up visit to Dr. Nowotarski on May 15, 2014,
Plaintiff reported ambulating around the house with a walker
on her left leg without problems. (R. 491). He also noted
that Plaintiff had no tenderness in left femoral shaft
fracture, full knee extension and flexion, and no pain
through weight bearing on the left foot. (Id.). Dr.
Nowotarski progressed Plaintiff to full weight bearing as
tolerated on her right foot, moved her from a walker to a
cane, and prescribed six to eight more weeks of physical
10, 2014, Dr. Nowotarski noted that over the preceding two
months Plaintiff had progressed to full weight bearing rather
easily. (R. 523). He noted that Plaintiff could move around
well with the cane. (Id.). An x-ray taken of
Plaintiff's calcaneus showed a healed fracture with
excellent alignment. (Id.). On a follow-up visit on
September 18, 2014, Dr. Nowotarski noted that Plaintiff was
able to walk without a limp for short distances with no cane
or complaints. (R. 574). During another follow-up exam on
February 12, 2015, Dr. Nowotarski noted that Plaintiff was
walking without significant pain and without an assistive
device and that she did not require pain medication. (R.
569-70). Dr. Nowotarski instructed Plaintiff that she should
continue normal activities without restrictions. (R. 569).
April 16, 2015, Plaintiff had a follow up visit with Dr.
Nowotarski where he noted that she complained of only a
little pain in her knee but was much improved and happy with
her progress. (R. 567). Dr. Nowotarski told Plaintiff that
she had no restrictions and would require no further follow
up visits. (R. 568).
returned to Dr. Nowotarski on October 12, 2015, complaining
of pain in left femur. (R. 565). On March 10, 2016, Dr.
Nowotarski noted that Plaintiff was worse with weight bearing
on the left leg. (R. 563). Dr. Nowotarski noted prominent
hardware in ...