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Jordan v. Astue

September 10, 2009

LESTER J. JORDAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sean J. McLaughlin United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

McLAUGHLIN, SEAN J., J.

Plaintiff, Lester J. Jordan, ("Plaintiff"), commenced the instant action 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 his claims for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq, and § 1381 et seq. Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on August 23, 2004, alleging disability since July 13, 2003 due to a heart condition, allergies, arthritis and mental health issues (Administrative Record, hereinafter "AR", 19; 67-68). His applications were denied and he requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") (AR 36-40; 43; 380-384). A hearing was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") on August 23, 2007 (AR 389-421). Following this hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not entitled to a period of disability, DIB or SSI under the Act (AR 19-27). His request for review by the Appeals Council was denied (AR 5-8), 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, I will deny the Plaintiff's motion and grant the Defendant's motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on August 22, 1949 and was 58 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision (AR 395). He is a college graduate with a degree in Human Relations (AR 399). His last position held was as an employment counselor with Northern Tier Community Action Corporation until he was laid off for lack of work on July 14, 2003 (AR 136).

Plaintiff bases his disability claim, in part, on alleged heart problems. Historically, the Plaintiff underwent coronary bypass graft surgery on March 26, 1998, performed by Richard Petrella, M.D. (AR 144-165). Dr. Petrella noted that post surgery he had "done well" and when seen for follow-up on May 21, 1998, Plaintiff had no complaints (AR 166). Physical examination revealed that his heart rhythm was regular, his lungs were clear and his incisions were well healed (AR 166). Dr. Petrella released the Plaintiff to full activity (AR 166). Following his bypass surgery, Plaintiff reported feeling "quite well" (AR 169).

A routine stress test conducted on March 12, 1999 was reported as normal (AR 234). Plaintiff had a fifty percent left ventricular ejection fraction and there was no evidence of wall motion abnormality (AR 233).

A chest x-ray conducted November 26, 2003 showed post operative changes after cardiac surgery, but the heart was not enlarged and there was no failure noted (AR 212). The mediastinum, pleural surfaces and bony structures were unremarkable (AR 212).

On January 20, 2004, the Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for complaints of chest, arm and back discomfort (AR 169). Chest x-rays showed an enlarged heart and post operative changes, but there was no failure (AR 211). Dr. Petrella concluded on the basis of a cardiac catherterization that all of his bypass grafts were patent (AR 167; 173-175). He was diagnosed with acute non-Q-wave myocardial infarction, native vessel coronary disease, mild LV dysfunction, hyperlipidemia and GERD (AR 167). Because the etiology of the infarction was not clear, Dr. Petrella recommended that the Plaintiff be treated medically (AR 167). Dr. Petrella enlisted the help of social services to assist the Plaintiff with the cost of his medications (AR 172).

Kamran Saleh, M.D., the Plaintiff's primary care physician, completed a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Employability Assessment form on January 27, 2004 (AR 181-182). Dr. Saleh opined that the Plaintiff was temporarily disabled from January 20, 2004 until January 20, 2005 due to chronic heart problems and high cholesterol (AR 181-182).

When seen by Dr. Saleh in February 2004 and May 2004, treatment records show that the Plaintiff had no complaints (AR 178-179). On September 10, 2004 Plaintiff complained of arthritic pain and decreased energy (AR 177).

A stress test conducted on September 22, 2004 was reported as normal (AR 339). While the Plaintiff complained of some shortness of breath there was no arrhythmias, EKG changes, or chest pain noted (AR 339). There was no evidence of exercise induced ischemia (AR 339). The nuclear portion of the stress was reported as normal with an ejection fraction of forty-eight percent with poor septal motion (AR 339). A myocardial scan conducted that same date also showed poor septal wall motion but was otherwise "unremarkable" (AR 340).

Plaintiff was examined by Dilbagh Singh, M.D., a consulting examiner, on November 12, 2004 (AR 235-238). Plaintiff relayed a history of heart attacks and quadruple bypass surgery (AR 235). He reported that he lost his job and was unable to take his medications as prescribed for approximately six months which led to his heart attack in 2004 (AR 235). On physical examination, Dr. Singh noted that the Plaintiff was alert and oriented and did not complain of any chest pain or radiation (AR 236). He reported that Plaintiff's heart sounds were normal with no gallop or murmur noted (AR 236). There was no edema or calf tenderness in his extremities, with minimal ankle and leg edema noted (AR 236). His gait and station were normal and his range of motion was grossly normal (AR 238). Plaintiff was neurologically intact and stable (AR 236). Dr. Singh noted that his mood, behavior, memory, orientation, concentration and hygiene were normal, and he was able to communicate clearly, relate to office staff and follow directions (AR 238). Dr. Singh assessed the Plaintiff with a history of coronary artery disease, obesity and arthralgia per the Plaintiff's statements (AR 236).

On November 30, 2004, a state agency reviewing physician*fn1 completed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form and concluded that the Plaintiff could lift twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand and/or walk six hours in an 8-hour workday; sit for six hours in an 8-hour workday; was unlimited in his ability to push and/or pull; and had some postural and environmental limitations (AR 240-241; 243). The state agency reviewing physician opined that ...


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