United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
JOHN F. MCGINNIS, JR.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
R. Sánchez, C.J.
John F. McGinnis, Jr. asks this Court to review the denial of
his application for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and
supplemental security income (SSI) prior to June 13, 2009 by
Defendant the Social Security Administration. McGinnis claims
he was disabled beginning on June 14, 2004 due to
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, cervical
radiculopathy, and carpal tunnel syndrome. McGinnis asks the
Court to reverse the Administration's decision and order
a finding of disability beginning on June 14, 2004, or, in
the alternative, remand for a new administrative hearing to
resolve alleged errors in the administrative law judge's
States Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin issued a Report and
Recommendation (R&R) recommending McGinnis's
requested relief be denied and the Administration's
decision be affirmed. McGinnis objects to the R&R,
arguing the ALJ's errors in determining his residual
functional capacity (RFC) warrant reversal and remand. For
the reasons set forth below, McGinnis's objections will
be overruled, the R&R will be approved and adopted, and
the decision of the Administration will be affirmed.
November 21, 2006, McGinnis filed for DIB and SSI, alleging
disability beginning February 12, 2003. Administrative Record
(A.R.), 59-60. On April 17, 2007, McGinnis's applications
were denied by the state agency and he requested a hearing
before an ALJ. Id. at 61- 72. On October 3, 2008, a
hearing was held. Id. at 18-57. On December
1, 2008, the ALJ decided McGinnis was not disabled as of the
alleged onset date. Id. at 7-17. McGinnis requested
review of the ALJ's decision, which the Appeals Council
denied on July 27, 2010. Id. at 1-5. McGinnis filed
an action for review in this Court, McGinnis v. Soc. Sec.
Admin., Civil Action No. 11-5957 (E.D. Pa. filed Sept.
21, 2011), and the Administration moved for remand to,
inter alia, “reevaluate the weight given to
the consultative examiners, Drs. Abraham and Person.”
See A.R., 296-97. On May 22, 2012, this Court
remanded the case to the Administration for additional
administrative proceedings. Id. at 295. The Appeals
Council referred the case to an ALJ for an additional
hearing. Id. at 319-22.
December 18, 2012, the second administrative hearing was
held. Id. at 265-88. At the hearing,
McGinnis amended his alleged onset date to June 14, 2004, his
50th birthday. Id. at 269. He alleged disability due
to degenerative disc disease, cervical radiculopathy, and
carpal tunnel syndrome. Id. McGinnis testified he
experienced radiating neck pain. Id. at 277. He
experienced numbness, but no pain, in his hands and he
dropped objects, like the TV remote, keys, and newspapers.
Id. at 277, 283-84. He stated his neck
locked, preventing him from turning it. Id. at 280.
McGinnis's back pain also caused him difficulty sleeping.
Id. at 281. He testified he became exhausted from
the pain “after 15 minutes, ” id. at
283, and expressed difficulty sitting, standing, and bending.
Id. at 284. McGinnis also testified he would not be
able to stand for 6 hours in a workday. Id. at 285.
McGinnis estimated he could lift 5 pounds without being in
pain. Id. McGinnis stated he took Advil, which eased
his pain, but did not resolve it. Id. at 280.
was a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service for
approximately 29 years, ending in February of 2003.
Id. at 135. At the December 18, 2012, hearing,
McGinnis testified he went to the library and to Burger King,
where he talked with friends for three or four hours.
Id. at 272. Once or twice a week, McGinnis went to
the casino, occasionally requiring multi-hour bus trips.
See Id. at 273-75 (testifying he took occasional
trips to Atlantic City or Wilkes Barre). He took monthly
trips to the mall. Id. at 273-74. McGinnis
occasionally cleaned the cellar but did not otherwise work on
his house or in the yard. See Id. at 283. He
testified he did the laundry but got exhausted after 15
minutes. Id. at 283. McGinnis had previously
documented that he prepared food daily and had no problems
with personal care. Id. at 141-42.
Collier-Brown, M.D. treated McGinnis from at least January 4,
2002 to August 30, 2002, and once on September 13, 2005.
See Id. at 176, 181-204. Dr. Collier-Brown received
a January 4, 2002, orthopedist report and EMG/nerve
conduction study. Id. at 176-77, 207-08. Dr.
Collier-Brown also received a March 6, 2002, MRI study.
Id. at 205. Dr. Collier-Brown's notes indicate
an x-ray of McGinnis was taken and he was referred to a hand
specialist. Id. at 201-03.
January 8, 2002, Dr. Collier-Brown indicated in her treatment
notes McGinnis was unable to work. Id. at 203. On
April 12, 2002, Dr. Collier-Brown noted McGinnis could return
to light duty for 2-4 hours a day, could lift no more than
15-20 pounds, and was not ready to return to a mail route.
See Id. at 196. On April 29, 2002, Dr. Collier-Brown
completed a “Medical Examination and Assessment”
for the U.S. Postal Service. Id. at 178-79. Dr.
Collier-Brown limited McGinnis to “no heavy or moderate
lifting/carrying.” Id. She added notes to the
assessment on May 8, 2002, indicating lifting and carrying
should be limited to less than or equal to 15-20 pounds.
Id. at 179. She limited McGinnis to light lifting,
packing, and sorting. Id. She did not indicate any
time limits on McGinnis's restricted duty. Id.
17, 2002, in her treatment notes, Dr. Collier-Brown indicated
McGinnis could return to carrying mail for 1-2 hours a day.
Id. at 193. On July 23, 2002, Dr. Collier-Brown
noted McGinnis's neck was improved and that his left hand
was doing well, “70-80%” back to normal.
Id. at 189. On August 30, 2002, Dr. Collier-Brown
stated McGinnis was carrying mail 2 hours a day without
problems. Id. at 187. She wrote McGinnis could
return to work full duty as of September 4, 2002.
Id. There are no other documented visits with Dr.
Collier-Brown until September 13, 2005. Id. at
183. On that date, she noted McGinnis was dropping things
because of decreased strength/numbness. Id. She also
wrote “[c]annot medically support [permanent]
disability as he has not had [workup], treatment,
specifically [evaluations, ] since ~2002. May get
[significant] relief and improvement [with] treatment.”
March 19, 2007, Jeffrey Perlson, D.O. examined McGinnis for
the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination.
Id. at 213. Dr. Perlson recounted McGinnis's
degenerative spine disease and carpal tunnel diagnoses.
Id. He noted McGinnis complained of neck pain and,
“[t]he paresthesias in both arms are somewhat worse on
the left than on the right and occasionally will awaken him
at night.” Id. Dr. Perlson also cited the EMG
and MRI studies ordered by Dr. Collier-Brown. Id. In
his medical source statement, Dr. Perlson limited McGinnis to
lifting “10 pounds occasionally, 2 to 3 pounds
frequently.” Id. Dr. Perlson recommended no
further weight “on the basis of [McGinnis's]
history.” Id. Dr. Perlson did not limit
McGinnis's standing and walking. Id. Dr. Perlson
recommended modest restrictions on upper extremity pushing
and pulling. Id. As for lower extremity pushing and
pulling restrictions, Dr. Perlson wrote, “[n]o
restrictions whatsoever based on the history of carpal tunnel
syndrome and propensity for pain, weakness and tingling in
the upper extremities and the history of dropping objects at
times.” Id. Dr. Perlson observed
McGinnis's mobility getting on and off an examination
table, walking, squatting, and getting in and out of a chair,
and noted it was not affected. Id. at 217.
approximately February 5, 2008, Ronald Abraham, D.O. examined
McGinnis for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability
Determination. Id. at 227. Dr. Abraham noted
McGinnis's complaints of back, neck, shoulder, and left
arm pain. Id. Dr. Abraham noted McGinnis had
“difficulties reaching overhead, carrying objects,
reaching behind his back, bending, and prolonged sitting
increased pain [sic].” Id. Dr. Abraham
examined McGinnis and reviewed his medical history.
Id. at 228. Dr. Abraham concluded McGinnis had
“chronic cervical dorsal pain underlying cervical
degenerative changes, right C6 radiculopathy, bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome, [and] chronic cervical pain
syndrome.” Id. at 229. In his medical source
statement, Dr. Abraham limited McGinnis's lifting and
carrying to 2-3 pounds frequently and 10 pounds occasionally,
his standing and walking to 30 minutes in an 8-hour day, and
his sitting to 30 minutes in an 8-hour day. Id. at
230. Dr. Abraham limited McGinnis's upper extremity
pushing and pulling. Id. Dr. Abraham indicated
McGinnis could occasionally bend and kneel, but never stoop,
crouch, balance, or climb. Id. at 231. Dr. Abraham
also indicated McGinnis's reaching was impaired.
taking testimony, the ALJ applied the sequential, five-step
process used by the Administration to make a disability
determination. Id. at 333-44. At step four, the
ALJ determined that McGinnis retained the RFC to perform
“light work.” Id. at 334. As defined by
the Administration regulations, “light work, ”
involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with
frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10
pounds. Even though the weight lifted may be very little, a
job is in this category when it requires a good deal of
walking or standing, or when it involves sitting most of the
time with some pushing and pulling of arm or leg controls. To
be considered capable of performing a full or wide range of
light work, [the claimant] must have the ability to do
substantially all of these activities. If someone can do
light work, we determine that he or she can also do ...