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Eric C. Reiche v. Michael J. Astrue

August 4, 2011

ERIC C. REICHE, PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Eric C. Reiche ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1381 - 1383f ("Act"). This matter comes before the court on cross motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 10, 14). The record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI with the Social Security Administration on August 7, 2008, claiming an inability to work due to disability beginning April 5, 2008. (R. at 155 -- 67)*fn1 . Plaintiff was initially denied benefits on October 16, 2008. (R. at 104 -- 13). A hearing was scheduled for November 30, 2009, and Plaintiff appeared to testify represented by counsel. (R. at 10). A vocational expert also testified. (R. at 10). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued her decision denying benefits to Plaintiff on December 30, 2009. (R. at 88 -- 99). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on September 14, 2010, thereby making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 3 -- 7).

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this court on November 15, 2010. (ECF No. 3). Defendant filed his Answer on January 18, 2011. (ECF No. 5). Cross motions for summary judgment followed. (ECF Nos. 10, 14).

III. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

The facts relevant to the present case are limited to those records that were available to the ALJ when rendering her decision. (R. at 7). All other records newly submitted*fn2 to the Appeals Council or this court will not be considered, here, and will not inform the decision of this court. See Matthews v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 589, 592, 594 -- 95 (3d Cir. 2001).*fn3

A. General Background

Plaintiff was born on June 19, 1987, and was twenty-two*fn4 years of age at the time of his administrative hearing. (R. at 13). Plaintiff graduated high school and completed two years of college. (R. at 15). Prior employment included work as a cashier/ laborer at a Goodwill donation center, and as a cashier/ laborer at a Dollar General. (R. at 17 -- 18). He was last employed for approximately nine months in 2007 - 2008, and has had no sources of income since that time. (R. at 14, 18 -- 19). He resided with a friend because his family could not afford to support him. (R. at 14). Plaintiff subsisted on food stamps, and received medical benefits from the state. (R. at 14). Plaintiff did not know how to drive, and depended upon his mother for transportation. (R. at 14 -- 15). Plaintiff took prescription medication for blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. (R. at 21 -- 22).

B. Treatment History

Plaintiff was seen by pediatric cardiologist Prapti Kanani, M.D. approximately every six months for diagnosed bicuspid aortic valve, mitral valve prolapse, dilated aortic root and ascending aorta, mild aortic insufficiency, and connective tissue disorder*fn5 . (R. at 271 -- 80, 343 -- 48, 351 -- 55, 358 -- 75, 441 -- 443). Despite suffering from a significantly dilated aorta, Dr. Kanani found that medication therapy was preventing Plaintiff's conditions from progressing appreciably. (R. at 271 -- 80, 343 -- 48, 351 -- 55, 358 -- 75, 441 -- 443). It was noted throughout his treatment with Dr. Kanani -- extending from January 27, 2005 through December 10, 2009 -- that Plaintiff rarely experienced chest pains, and had no symptoms of shortness of breath, palpitations, or syncope. (R. at 271 -- 80, 343 -- 48, 351 -- 55, 358 -- 75, 441 -- 443). When Plaintiff did experience chest pain, it was often attributed to anxiety. (R. at 271 -- 80, 343 -- 48, 351 -- 55, 358 -- 75, 441 -- 443). Dr. Kanani often noted that Plaintiff suffered from depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, and had difficulty with management of these conditions due to an inability to afford medication. (R. at 271 -- 80, 343 -- 48, 351 -- 55, 358 -- 75, 441 -- 443). Plaintiff did see a therapist. (R. at 271 -- 80, 343 -- 48, 351 -- 55, 358 -- 75, 441 -- 443). Plaintiff was typically cleared by Dr. Kenani to engage in low dynamic recreational sports, but could not participate in isometric, contact, or competitive sports, or any activity which could result in direct hits to his chest. (R. at 271 -- 80, 343 -- 48, 351 -- 55, 358 -- 75, 441 -- 443).

By May 13, 2008, Dr. Kanani concluded that the severity of Plaintiff's condition warranted a discussion with pediatric surgeons regarding surgical intervention. (R. at 279). Plaintiff was evaluated by pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Peter Wearden, M.D. on June 25, 2008 with respect to potential surgical intervention for his heart condition. (R. at 283 -- 84). Dr. Wearden was troubled by Plaintiff's intermittent chest pain, but did not feel Plaintiff was a candidate for surgery at that time. (R. at 283 -- 84). Due to the risk associated with the required operation, it was determined that Plaintiff's condition should be monitored until his condition began to worsen before proceeding with surgery. (R. at 283 -- 84).

In March of 2007, Plaintiff visited his primary care physician, Scott Tyson, M.D., seeking a medical excuse for missing work due to intermittent back pain. (R. at 263). Dr. Tyson noted Plaintiff's history of back pain and physical therapy for treatment. (R. at 263). Dr. Tyson prescribed Naprosyn for Plaintiff's pain. (R. at 263).

Plaintiff sought treatment at a pain clinic for his back pain on November 25, 2008. (R. at 329 -- 31). At that time, Plaintiff was seen by Lisa Weidner, M.D. for a lumbar epidural injection. (R. at 329 -- 31). Prior to the procedure, Plaintiff was diagnosed with lumbar spondylolithesis at ...


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