The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge
Denise Bell ("Bell" or "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 her application for disability benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381--1383f. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
Bell applied for DIB and SSI on or about December 22, 2008, alleging disability beginning on March 30, 2008. R. 103-111. The claim was initially denied on April 29, 2009. Id. Bell filed a timely request for an administrative hearing on May 1, 2009. R. 67-68. On May 14, 2010, a hearing was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before Administrative Law Judge Joseph F. Leary (the "ALJ"). R. 24. Bell, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing. R. 27-44. Mary Beth Kopar ("Kopar"), an impartial vocational expert ("VE"), also testified at the hearing. R. 44-45. In a decision dated June 7, 2010, the ALJ found that Bell was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. R. 9-23.
On July 14, 2010, Plaintiff sought administrative review of the ALJ's decision by filing a request for review with the Appeals Council. R. 4-5. The Appeals Council denied the request for review on June 6, 2011, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner in this case. R. 1-3. Bell then filed this civil action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.
III. STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Bell was born on July 22, 1951, making her almost fifty-seven (57) years of age at the alleged onset of her disability. R. 110. She alleged that she was disabled due to degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, diabetes, and asthma. R. 11. Bell attended St. Margaret Nursing School where she earned a CAN, and later earned an associate's degree in medical coding. R. 28-30. Bell testified that she suffers from back pain, and she is unable to work because she "can't sit for long periods of time," and the cold weather and/or air conditioning make her back hurt. R. 32.
Bell alleges that, when she was going to nursing school, she fell down some steps. R. 30. She went to emergency room and was told she bruised her tail bone. Id. Bell was given Motrin, and the pain eventually went away. R. 30-31. About a year or so later, Bell began experiencing back pain, and her doctor, Cynthia Ayers ("Dr. Ayers"), sent her for an MRI. R. 31, 189. On November 3, 2006, Bell had an MRI which showed asymmetric disc bulging at L3-L4, with mild degenerative changes at L4-L5 and L5-S1. R. 189. The MRI of Bell's pelvis indicated a normal sacrum. R.190. There is no indication that Bell received any follow-up treatment for her back.
The record indicated that Bell's next examination occurred on March 22, 2009, nearly one (1) year after her application for social security benefits, when Abdul Q. Khan M.D. ("Dr. Khan"), a state agency consultant, conducted a disability exam. R. 199. Dr. Khan found that Bell's description of pain in the left lower back that radiated down her left lower extremity did not correlate with the MRI findings. R. 202. Bell was able to move all four (4) extremities well, she walked with a normal gait, spine, flexion and extension were normal, and her strength was 5/5 bilaterally. Id. Dr. Khan further found that Bell had no range of motion restrictions in her spine, hip, shoulders, elbow or wrist. R. 206-207. The Medical Source Statement of Claimant's Ability to Perform Work-Related Physical Activities completed by Dr. Khan indicated that Bell had no limitations on lifting, carrying, standing, walking, sitting, pushing or pulling. R. 204-205.
Bell was examined by Robert G. Liss, M.D. ("Dr. Liss") of the Orthopedic Associates of Pittsburgh on April 1, 2009. R.213. Dr. Liss found that Bell's gait and station were normal. Id. She had full lumbar range of motion with increased pain on extension, lateral tilt and rotation. Id. Bell had a negative straight leg raise and full painless range of motion of both hips. Id. Dr. Liss noted normal lower extremity reflexes and sensation. Id. Dr. Liss also reviewed Bell's MRI and found it "fairly normal" with minor degenerative changes. Id. Dr. Liss prescribed a brace, physical therapy and referred Bell to the Pain Clinic. Id.
On April 6, 2009, Bell went to Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy for treatment of her back pain. R. 219. The Physical Therapist assessed Bell with mechanical low back pain due to degenerative changes of the lumbar spine, and recommended a P/T plan. R. 220. The short term goal was to decrease Bell's back pain and increase her range of motion. Her prognosis was good. Id.
On April 7, 2009, Bell went to the pain clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. R. 227-229. Bell was evaluated by Todd A. Pepper, D.O. ("Dr. Pepper"), who found that Bell was able to rise from a seated position without difficulty, her gait was normal and she had full range of motion in the lumbar spine in both flexion and extension, with some pain with extension. R. 228. Dr. Pepper found that Bell's straight leg raise test was negative, she had full range of motion in her hips, and she had 5/5 muscle ...