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Kenneth Mckenzie v. Michael J. Astrue

August 25, 2011


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



Kenneth McKenzie ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") which denied 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").


In July 2007, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and a separate application for SSI. In both applications he claimed an inability to work due to disability beginning August 28, 2002.

(R. at 110 -- 21)*fn1 . Both claims were denied at the initial level of administrative review and, thereafter, Plaintiff filed a timely request for review. An administrative hearing was held on August 26, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge Alma S. DeLeon ("ALJ"). Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. William H. Reed, Ph.D., an impartial vocational expert ("VE") also testified at the hearing. (R. at 21).

On October 13, 2009, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision to Plaintiff in which she found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform light work with restrictions,*fn2 and therefore was not disabled as defined in the Act. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on July 10, 2010, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.

On September 2, 2010, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court in which he seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred when she found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform work at the light exertional level, with restrictions. The Commissioner contends that the decision of the ALJ should be affirmed as it is supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees with the Commissioner and will therefore grant the motion for summary judgment filed by the Commissioner and deny the motion for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff.


General Background

Plaintiff was born June 27, 1959, and was fifty years of age at the time of his administrative hearing. (R. at 27). Plaintiff was six feet, four inches tall, and weighed two hundred eighty two pounds. (R. at 29). Plaintiff has a twelfth grade education. He resided in the home of his deceased aunt. (R. at 28).

Plaintiff has past relevant work as a furniture handler and hotel housekeeper and laundry room worker, which are considered unskilled and very heavy and medium exertion. In 2002, Plaintiff was laid off from his most recent job and he has not worked since that time. (R. at 34). He subsists on public welfare and food stamps and has a state medical insurance card. (R. at 34 -- 35).

A. Medical History

Plaintiff's medical history reflects that he was treated at Aliquippa Community Hospital, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, between November 2002 and August 2008 for various complaints, including neck and back pain that he sustained as a result of a motor vehicle accident in 2003, elbow and knee pain, and cardiovascular complaints, as well as diabetes mellitus and hypertension.

Imaging studies of Plaintiff's heart in November of 2002 revealed relatively normal heart functioning, with an ejection fraction of fifty three percent. (R. at 235). A stress test in the same time period revealed normal blood pressure and heart rate response, and fair functional reserve.

(R. at 237). A later examination of Plaintiff in February of 2007 at Sewickley Valley Hospital, in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, was also normal. (R. at 248).

Following his car accident in November 2003, imaging studies of Plaintiff's head, neck, and spine were conducted which revealed no abnormalities. (R. at 217 -- 18, 225). Imaging of the lumbar spine in May and July of 2009 also yielded normal results. (R. at 456, 459 -- 60). In March of 2004, an imaging study of Plaintiff's right elbow was conducted. (R. at 216). Plaintiff complained of right elbow pain and swelling following a basketball game. (R. at 216). Imaging showed only a bony contusion. (R. at 216). Plaintiff received an x-ray of his right knee following a fall on ice in December of 2004. (R. at 215). The image showed no evidence of fracture and very mild degenerative changes in the knee joint. (R. at 215).

From 2003 through 2009, Plaintiff was treated for his diabetes and hypertension by Gerald M. Goltz, M.D., an endocrinologist. Dr. Goltz noted that Plaintiff checked his blood sugar once or twice per day, although Plaintiff once admitted to checking his levels only occasionally, resulting in blood sugar levels that were "out of whack." (R. at 251 -- 311, 419 -- 45). Blood sugar levels ranged from the 120's to the 400's during Plaintiff's course of treatment with Dr. Goltz. (R. at 251 -- 311, 419 -- 45). Dr. Goltz diagnosed Plaintiff with type II diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome. (R. at 251 -- 311, 419 -- 45). Plaintiff was regularly prescribed medication for management of these conditions. (R. at 251 -- 311, 419 -- 45). By January of 2005, Dr. Goltz indicated that Plaintiff's diabetes was better controlled and that his blood pressure levels were within an acceptable range. (R. at 251 -- 311, 419 -- 45). In August of 2008, Dr. Goltz again indicated that Plaintiff's glycemic balance was relatively improved. (R. at 251 -- 311, 419 -- 45).

K. Narayan Shetty, M.D. , was Plaintiff's primary care physician from 2002 through 2009. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66). During this time, Plaintiff's blood sugar levels ranged from 72 -- 348. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66). Physical examinations during his treatment with Dr. Shetty were largely normal. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66). An echocardiograph of Plaintiff's heart by Dr. Shetty in 2003 revealed relatively normal heart function and an ejection fraction of sixty one percent. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66). A nerve conduction study conducted in February of 2007 to determine the presence of diabetic peripheral neuropathy was negative; however, there was neurological abnormality noted. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66). A stress test administered by Dr. Shetty in February of 2007 indicated poor functional reserve and inappropriate heart response, but Plaintiff's blood pressure was normal. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66). Programmed exercise was thereafter recommended to improve Plaintiff's health. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66). A later stress test in October of 2008 showed a fair functional reserve and a normal heart rate response, but an inappropriate blood pressure response. (R. at 313 -- 58, 446 -- 66).

On August 31, 2009, Dr. Shetty completed a Medical Source Statement of Claimant's Ability to Perform Work-Related Activities. (R. at 468 -- 69). Dr. Shetty noted that Plaintiff could not lift any weight frequently, could only occasionally lift and carry up to twenty pounds, could stand and walk one to two hours of an eight hour work day, sit less than six hours, ...

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