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Patricia D. Doman v. Commissioner of Social Security

February 23, 2012


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



In this action, plaintiff Patricia D. Doman seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner" or "defendant") denying her claims for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Court referred the case to United States Magistrate Judge Elizabeth T. Hey. Magistrate Judge Hey issued a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") on November 16, 2011, recommending that plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted in part and denied in part and that the case be remanded to defendant for further proceedings pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Presently before the Court is Defendant's Objection to the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge. The Court approves and adopts the R & R in full and writes only to explain its decision to overrule defendant's Objection.


The background of this case is set forth in detail in the R & R and will be recited in this Memorandum only as necessary to address defendant's Objection.

A. Plaintiff's History

Plaintiff is sixty-two years old. (See R & R 4.) She was incarcerated between May 2003 and February 2007. (Id. at 5.) In the past, she worked as a bookkeeper and did other clerical work, but she has not worked since her release from prison. (Id.) She is five feet, two inches tall, and she weighed 256 pounds at the time of her administrative hearing. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that she is disabled due to "hypertension [and] cardiac problems, diabet[e]s, arthritis, [and a] deteriorated left knee." (Administrative R. ("Tr.") 147.) In her application for benefits, plaintiff asserted that those conditions render her unable to work because they cause "short[ness] of breath, dizziness, [and] weakness" and make it very difficult for her to walk. (Id.) Judge Hey's R & R recounts plaintiff's history of chest and knee pain in great detail. (R & R 5-10.)

The issues before the Court turn on the deterioration of plaintiff's condition after 2006. Plaintiff has had knee pain for some time; for example, she complained of left knee pain on May 12, 2004, after a fall. (Tr. 507.) However, the pain in her left knee increased in 2007, and she began treatment with Dr. Jennifer Taniguchi, an orthopedist, in July of that year. (Id. at 530, 589-90.) Plaintiff began to experience pain in her right knee in October 2007. (Id. at 588.) Dr. Taniguchi diagnosed her with bilateral knee degenerative joint disease, which was severe in plaintiff's left knee. (Id.) Moreover, a June 20, 2008, MRI "showed a medial meniscus tear and degenerative joint disease of the right knee." (R & R 9.)

On August 4, 2008, Dr. Taniguchi performed a full replacement of plaintiff's left knee. Following surgery, plaintiff was treated at a rehabilitation center for twelve days and was then "released with home skilled nursing care." (Id.) On August 29, 2008, plaintiff was readmitted to the hospital with a serious wound infection. (Tr. 580.) She was discharged approximately two weeks later "with a wound vac and skilled nursing care." (R & R 9.) Plaintiff was readmitted to the hospital on September 30, 2008, with a wound infection and chest pain and was released the next day. (Tr. 964-66.) On November 24, 2009, plaintiff broke her left ankle in a fall and experienced knee pain thereafter. (Id. at 1059.) In addition to her knee problems, plaintiff complained of shoulder pain in 2008 and 2009.

At her administrative hearing, plaintiff testified that her daughter has to help her get in and out of the bathtub and put on pants because she "can't bend [her] knee." (Tr. 34.) Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment also includes a May 13, 2010, letter from her primary care physician, Dr. Brown, stating that plaintiff developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, "a complex regional pain syndrome," after her knee replacement. (Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B; R & R 9 n.17.) A July 2009 MRI of plaintiff's lumbar spine "revealed disc bulges at L4-L5 and L5-S1 causing foraminal stenosis," which can cause pain, tingling, and weakness. (R & R 11 & n.23.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI on June 20, 2006, alleging that she was disabled as of May 15, 2003. Four experts-Dr. Horacio Buschiazzo, Dr. Theodore Waldron, Dr. Paul Taren, and Nancy Hennigan-analyzed plaintiff's alleged disabilities and vocational factors in October 2007. Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI were denied on November ...

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