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Buczynski v. Astrue

June 2, 2009

GLORIA BUCZYNSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, Sean J., J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Gloria Buczynski, commenced the instant action on June 27, 2008 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claims for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §401 et seq. Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on June 17, 2004, alleging that she was disabled since January 1, 2001 due to back surgery and disk disease (Administrative Record, hereinafter "AR", at 13, 62-64, 114). Her application was initially denied, and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") (AR 47). A hearing was held on July 7, 2006, and following this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time through the date of the decision, and therefore was not eligible for DIB benefits (AR13-20). Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied (AR 5-7), rendering the Commissioner's decision final under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The instant action challenges the ALJ's decision. Presently pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, we will deny Plaintiff's motion and grant Defendant's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on October 1, 1962, and was forty-three years old on the date of the ALJ's decision (AR19, 62, 641). She has a 10th grade education and earned a GED and has past relevant work history as a screw machine operator, a plastic toy assembler, and an injection molding machine operator (AR 19, 115, 656-67).

On April 16, 1996, Dr. Zerbonia found Plaintiff to have a small avulsion fracture in her foot due to a twisting injury (AR 367). On October 7, 1996, Dr. Gallagher examined Plaintiff's right ankle after she fell down the steps and found a barely discernable small avulsion fracture and determined that it had healed satisfactorily, although, if pain persisted there was the possibility of other avulsion fractures (AR 366).

Plaintiff stated that her back injury occurred on January 14, 1998, when she was shoveling metal shaving out of her machine at work and she felt a sharp pain in her back that had progressively gotten worse and spread to her legs (AR 187, 193).

On January 22, 1998, an exam of Plaintiff's lumbar spine by Dr. John Gallagher was sent to Dr. John Kalata indicating that the exam showed no evidence of fracture, dislocation or bony destruction and all the disc spaces were well maintained (AR 150). Plaintiff was referred to physical therapy (AR 152, 169).

On April 24, 1998, Plaintiff underwent an evaluation of her femoral artery which found there was good flow present and a minimal amount of plaque (AR 363). On March 24, 1999, Dr. Ayos found Plaintiff's chest x-ray was normal and showed no heart or lung abnormalities (AR 362).

On May 8, 1998, Physical Theripist Laura Conley reported to Dr. Thomas that Plaintiff was having improvement and noted decreased pain intensity with the use of a cortizone shot and moist heat, rating her pain levels to be at 2/10 and 4/10, however, at worst they increased to 8/10 (AR 153). On June 11, 1998, Ms. Conley reported that Plaintiff had sporadically attended physical therapy sessions and Plaintiff reported her pain level to be at 5/10 (AR 152).

On June 12, 1998, Dr. Thomas reported that Plaintiff complained of favoring her right leg; however, a lumbar MRI failed to show any significant disc herniation and there was no clear cut evidence of objective disc injury (AR 170).

On February 18, 1999, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Viscusi who found that there was not any objective findings to go along with Plaintiff's subjective complaints of back pain and that her veracity was somewhat questionable in light of the physical examination (AR 183). He concluded that she was able to return to a medium duty position with lifting limited up to 50 pounds (AR 183).

On March 8, 1999, Dr. Flitter saw Plaintiff and recommended microsurgical discectomy due to the severity of her pain (AR 293). On April 1, 1999, Plaintiff underwent decompression surgery performed by Dr. Flitter (AR 185-86). Certified Physician Assistant Harry Stauffer found Plaintiff to have an antalgic gait, difficulty climbing on and off the exam table and difficulty walking on her heels and toes, and his impression was right lumbosacral radiculopathy (AR 188). Plaintiff's diagnosis of right lumbosacral radiculopathy was confirmed by Dr. Flitter in the examination of a specimen of frayed cartilaginous tissue that was determined to be degenerating cartilage from disk L5-S1 (AR 190).

On October 21, 1999, Plaintiff stated to Dr. John Lyons that the surgery had helped the back pain, she did not have pain on the left side and the right side was improving, however, there was no difference to her legs (AR 193). Plaintiff complained of pain in her thighs and numbness occurring in the right leg more than the left (AR 194). Dr. Lyons determined Plaintiff to have degenerative disc disease with a fair to guarded prognosis (AR 200-201). Dr. Lyons' opinion was that Plaintiff's symptoms were not consistent with being caused by external mechanical trauma, but rather were consistent with biologic deterioration (AR 201-202).

On January 18, 2000, Dr. Flitter noted that Plaintiff wanted to try return to light duty work despite her increasing leg pain (AR 257). Dr. Flitter examined Plaintiff on April 10, 2000, and determined that her pain was not sufficiently severe at that point to consider additional surgery (AR 246). On November 28, 2000, Plaintiff complained of back and right lower extremity pain and Dr. Flitter found her to resist straight leg raising and have diminished Achilles reflex on the right side (AR 216). On December 9, 2000, Dr. Flitter examined Plaintiff and noted that her MRI was essentially unremarkable and she had mild tenderness in the lumbar spine but no spasm (AR 213).

On July 4, 2000, Plaintiff presented to the emergency department of Saint Vincent Health Center complaining of chest pain (AR 351). A chest exam was performed and Dr. Myers reported that no active chest disease was detected (AR 352).

On November 17, 2000, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Marcus who examined Plaintiff's left foot and found no fracture or dislocation from an object dropped on her toe (AR 349). Dr. John Kalata examined Plaintiff on July 7, 2001, and noted that Plaintiff's chief complaint was low back pain (AR 328). Dr. Kalata reported that Plaintiff walked very slowly, exhibited a limp and favored her left side (AR 328). On physical exam, Dr. Kalata found Plaintiff's deep tendon reflexes were 2/4, forward bending was at 45§, backward at 5§, laterally at 10§ and rotationally at 30§ (AR 330). Dr. Kalata stated that her answers appeared to be truthful (AR 328). He diagnosed Plaintiff with ...


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