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Polly A. Rainey v. Michael J. Astrue

August 31, 2012


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



Polly A. Rainey ("Plaintiff"), commenced the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. Plaintiff filed her application on October 31, 2007, alleging disability on that date due to problems with her legs and feet, spurs in both heels, polio symptoms, muscle spasms, leg and knee weakness, a pinched nerve in her neck, vertigo and high blood pressure (AR 72; 140-142).*fn1 Her application was denied and she requested and was granted an administrative hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") (AR 72-79).

Following a hearing held on February 19, 2010 (16-54), the ALJ concluded, in a written decision dated April 6, 2010 that Plaintiff was not entitled to a period of disability or DIB under the Act (AR 60-68). Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied (AR 1-6), rendering the Commissioner's decision final under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed her complaint challenging the ALJ's decision, and presently pending before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion will be denied and the Commissioner's motion will be granted.


Plaintiff was 51 years old on the date of the ALJ's decision and has a general equivalency diploma (AR 24; 68). She has past relevant work experience as a cook, personal care attendant and housekeeper (AR 24; 48).

The medical records reveal that Plaintiff was seen by Frederick Tomassi, D.P.M. on March 15, 2005 for complaints of lower leg cramping and heel pain (AR 240). Plaintiff reported a history of polio as a child (AR 240). Dr. Tomassi diagnosed Plaintiff with atypical plantar fasciitis, prescribed arch supports, and prescribed Valium for her complaints of leg cramping (AR 240). On March 21, 2005, an x-ray of Plaintiff's feet revealed the presence of bilateral calcaneal spurs (AR 245).

On April 6, 2005, Plaintiff underwent a treadmill cardiolite EKG stress test which yielded normal results (AR 253-254). Plaintiff was able to exercise to 7 METS and had no significant chest pain (AR 253). An EKG dated April 6, 2005 showed normal sinus rhythm (AR 252-253).

An x-ray of Plaintiff's cervical spine dated May 28, 2005 was reported as negative (AR 251).

Plaintiff received routine medical treatment at Elk Valley Medical Center from May 25, 2006 through December 12, 2006 (AR 267-274). These records reflect a past medical history for hypertension, restless legs, plantar fasciitis, and poliomyelitis (AR 267; 269; 271-272). Plaintiff was treated for elevated blood pressure (AR 271; 274); an ear infection (AR 271-273); bronchitis (AR 269-270); thumbnail fungus; and right abdominal pain (AR 267-268).

Plaintiff was evaluated by Wade Shaffer, D.C., on January 19, 2007 for her complaints of neck pain, and she was diagnosed with vertebral subluxation of the C1-2 area with associated muscular hypertonicity (AR 258-259). Dr. Shaffer recommended chiropractic adjustment therapy and stated that Plaintiff's prognosis was "good" (AR 259). Plaintiff underwent chiropractic adjustment therapy from January 26, 2007 through April 4, 2007 (AR 296).

On September 7, 2007, Plaintiff returned to Elk Valley and complained of dizziness, vision changes and nausea after starting atenolol for blood pressure control (AR 262). She reported that she had been working full-time as a home health aide and was planning to return to school to obtain LPN training (AR 262). Her musculoskeletal examination was normal, and her neurological examination revealed normal reflexes and no motor dysfunction (AR 263). Her blood pressure medication dosage was decreased (AR 263).

On November 13, 2007, Plaintiff complained of chronic foot pain (AR 260). She had no neurological complaints and denied having any fatigue or weakness (AR 261). It was noted that her chronic restless leg issues were controlled with Valium at bedtime (AR 260). She was assessed with inter alia, bilateral foot pain, "probably plantar fasciitis" (AR 261).

Plaintiff returned to Elk Valley on January 17, 2008 and was seen by Wes Hilbert, M.D. (AR 332). Plaintiff reported a history of scoliosis and polio (AR 332). She complained of bilateral leg pain, bilateral foot pain exacerbated by standing for long periods of time, and intermittent knee pain (AR 332). She indicated she wore orthotics for her foot pain (AR 332). Plaintiff reported that she was working full-time as a home health aide (AR 332). On physical examination, Dr. Hilbert found her feet were tender on palpation (AR 333). She was assessed with limb pain and calcaneal spurs, and referred to a podiatrist (AR 333). X-rays of Plaintiff's feet dated January 17, 2008 showed no acute fracture or significant degenerative changes, but bilateral plantar calcaneal spurs and mild calcification were seen (AR 335).

On January 28, 2008, Mary Ellen Wyszomierski, M.D., a state agency reviewing physician, reviewed the medical evidence of record and concluded that Plaintiff could occasionally lift twenty pounds, frequently carry ten pounds, stand and/or walk for a total of six hours in an 8-hour workday, sit for about six hours in an 8-hour workday, and was unlimited in pushing and pulling activities (AR 289-295). She further found Plaintiff could occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, but should avoid even moderate exposure to hazards such as machinery and heights (AR 291-292). She noted that Plaintiff's self-described daily activities were significantly limited and that she alleged weakness in her arms and legs (AR 294-295). Dr. Wyszomierski observed, however, that Plaintiff's motor examination was normal and she was able to perform light housekeeping and drive (AR 295). She further observed that although Plaintiff reported using a cane, her recent musculoskeletal examination was normal, her gait was normal, and there was no evidence she required one (AR 295).

On February 26, 2008, Plaintiff returned to Elk Valley and reported that she was working full-time (AR 339). She was to follow-up with a podiatrist for her heel spurs, and her thyroid medication was adjusted (AR 340).

On March 18, 2008, Dr. Hilbert completed a form for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare noting that Plaintiff had hypertension, hypothyroidism, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis and restless leg syndrome (AR 346). He opined that she was "employable", in that her physical and/or mental condition was such that "she [could] work" (AR 346). He based his assessment on Plaintiff's physical examination, a review of her medical records, and diagnostic tests and procedures (AR 346).

On March 25, 2008, Plaintiff reportedly felt better taking synthroid, and Dr. Hilbert found her hypertension and vertigo were controlled with medication (AR 342-343).

On October 28, 2008, presented to Dr. Hilbert for a physical examination for paperwork related to insurance (AR 347). Plaintiff's neurological examination "demonstrated no dysfunction" (AR 348). Dr. Hilbert found her balance, gait, stance and reflexes were all normal (AR 348). On November 18, 2008, Plaintiff reported that she was working full-time, and no new complaints were noted (AR 351). Dr. Hilbert found her hypertension was controlled on her current dosage of medication (AR 352).

Plaintiff returned to Dr. Hilbert on March 4, 2009 and complained of foot and back pain, paresthesia*fn2 and weakness in her upper extremities bilaterally, paresthesia in both hands, right shoulder and periscapular pain, and weakness in her lower extremities bilaterally, and diffuse myalgia*fn3 and weakness (AR 358). She reported she was working full-time as a home health aide (AR 359). On physical examination of Plaintiff's cervical spine, Dr. Hilbert found tenderness on palpation of the paraspinal and suprascapular muscles, and pain was elicited on motion (AR 359). Her cervical spine motion was normal, and no instability or weakness was found (AR 359). An examination of Plaintiff's thoracic spine and lumbar spine were normal, and her straight leg raising test was negative (AR 359). Plaintiff's neurological examination revealed no evidence ...

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