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Nigro v. Saul

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 18, 2019

ANDREW SAUL,[1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MARIANI, J.



         The plaintiff, Stephen Carl Nigro brought this action 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”).

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge to prepare a report and recommended disposition pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons expressed herein, we recommend that the final decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. Procedural Background

         Nigro is an adult individual born December 19, 1967. Nigro was forty-five years old at the time of the alleged onset of disability-September 15, 2013. (Tr. 44). Nigro's age at the onset date makes him a “younger person” under the Commissioner's regulations whose age generally does not affect his ability to adjust to other work. See 20 C.F.R. §404.1563.

         On October 23, 2014, Nigro protectively filed an application for benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act alleging disability as of September 15, 2013. In his application, Nigro alleged that the following impairments prevent him from engaging in any work: degenerative disc disease (back), osteoarthritis, whiplash, migraine headaches, basal headaches, insomnia, and sciatica. (Tr. 120).

         Nigro's claim was initially denied on February 2, 2015. Thereafter, he filed a timely request for an administrative hearing. His request was granted. Nigro appeared in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on March 2, 2017, at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Susan L. Torres. Nigro was represented by Steve Mahan, Esquire. In addition, impartial vocational expert (“VE”) Brian Bierley appeared at the hearing.

         On June 1, 2017, the ALJ denied Nigro's application for benefits in a written decision. On August 30, 2017, Nigro sought further review of his claims by the Appeals Council of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, but his request was denied on September 12, 2018. This makes the ALJ's June 2017 decision the final decision subject to judicial review by this Court.

         Nigro filed a timely complaint in this Court on November 8, 2018. (Doc. 1). In his complaint, Nigro alleges that the final decision of the Commissioner is not supported by substantial evidence.

         On January 28, 2019, the Commissioner filed an answer, which maintains that the ALJ's decision was made in accordance with the law and is supported by substantial evidence. (Doc. 4).

         This matter has been fully briefed by the parties and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 6, 7).

         I. Factual Background

         At the time of the administrative hearing, Nigro was forty-nine years old and resided in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, which is in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Nigro resided with his wife, and two children ages, 17 and 22. (Tr. 28). Nigro stated that he quit working because of his migraines. (Tr. 12).

         Nigro stated that his wife owns her own cleaning business and he joined her in the business in 2001, after being in warehousing for a long time. (Tr. 13). Nigro contends that he was able to adjust his schedule and take time off to deal with the migraines because he was working for his wife. (Tr. 16).

         Nigro stated that he has suffered with migraines since high school. He describes his migraines as starting in the back of his neck, then the pain radiates to the front of his head making everything sensitive. He then has to go into a dark room and lay down. He contends that lights sometimes trigger a migraine. (Tr. 14). He stated that he gets approximately 13 severe migraines a month, and they can last anywhere from five hours to a couple of days. He takes Imitrex and over-the-counter Excedrin Migraine. He contends that sometimes the medications reduce pain and sometimes they do nothing for the pain. (Tr. 15).

         Nigro stated that he experiences lower back pain and upper neck pain. He stated that he gets shooting pain down the right side of his leg that sometimes causes him to drop to the ground. He takes Flexeril and Percocet for the pain. He experiences pain going up his back into his neck, which then causes a migraine. He stated that, at times, turning the wrong way or bending down and getting up can trigger this pain. (Tr. 18).

         Nigro possesses a driver's license and is able to drive while taking his medications. (Tr. 19). He stated that if he begins to experience the feeling of a migraine while driving, he pulls over. (Tr. 28).

         Nigro stated that he helps with the cooking at home, and mows the lawn with a riding mower. (Tr. 29). He describes a typical day as follows: he wakes up, picks up stuff around the house, makes lunch, and watches television. If he experiences a migraine, then he lays down in a dark room. (Tr. 29).

         In addition to the above listed medications, Nigro stated that he takes gabapentin for nerve damage from shingles and pantoprazole for GERD. He contends that when he takes Flexeril and gabapentin together, they make him tired. (Tr. 20).

         Nigro stated that he goes to Pennsylvania Psych Institute for counseling for depression/anxiety every three months and takes lorazepam for his depression. He also goes to Pennsylvania Counseling Services every two weeks for individual counseling. (Tr. 27).

         II. ...

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