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Carr v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division

April 30, 2018

DAVID EARL CARR, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          HON. WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. U.S. District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEVEN WHALEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff David Earl Carr (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), challenging a final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income under the Social Security Act. On April 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Judgment [Docket #17]. On January 30, 2018, the case was assigned to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 for a Report and Recommendation. For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that Plaintiff's Motion [Docket #17] be DENIED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on October 30, 2012, alleging disability as of June 30, 2010 (Tr. 186, 190). After the initial denial of the claim, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, held on April 27, 2015 (Tr. 35). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jim Beeby presided. Plaintiff, represented by non-attorney representative Agnes Foss, testified by teleconference (Tr. 17, 39-55). Vocational Expert (“VE”) J.D. Flynn also testified (Tr. 56-59). On May 7, 2015, ALJ Beeby found that Plaintiff was capable of returning to his past relevant work as a plant manager (Tr. 17-30). On July 21, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff filed for judicial review of the final decision on September 19, 2016.

         II. BACKGROUND FACTS

         Plaintiff, born April 6, 1960, was 55 when ALJ Beeby issued his decision (Tr. 30, 186). He completed high school and took a course in computer design (Tr. 228). He worked previously as an assembler, department lead, die repairman, foreman, inspector, machinist, parts inspector, plant manager, and press operator (Tr. 229). His application for benefits alleges disability resulting from leg pain, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and hip and breathing problems (Tr. 227).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff offered the following testimony:

         Plaintiff, divorced, lived in a single family home with his mother (Tr. 39-40). He held a driver's license (Tr. 40). At the time of hearing, he was not working and did not have any income (Tr. 41). His former work as a plant manager entailed overseeing personnel activity, scheduling, other administrative duties, and “hiring and firing” (Tr. 43).

         Plaintiff smoked around a half pack of cigarettes and a day and drank three to four beers every afternoon (Tr. 46). He denied the use of street drugs (Tr. 46). He experienced nighttime sleep disturbances due to body pain (Tr. 46). Upon arising on a typical day, he would first make coffee, listen to the radio, feed the cat, stretch, and stand or walk (Tr. 47). He would then watch television until 9:30 a.m. when he took coffee to his elderly uncle (Tr. 47). After that, he watched “The Price is Right” with his mother, then took a nap (Tr. 47). He drove his mother to doctors' appointments every few weeks (Tr. 47-48). He spent the rest of the day watching television or listening to the radio, then eating dinner before retiring at 9:00 or 9:30 p.m. (Tr. 48). He was able to care for his personal needs, but was unable to perform household chores (Tr. 48-49).

         Plaintiff was unable to walk or stand for more than 20 minutes (Tr. 49). He was unable to sit for more than 15 minutes at a time or carry more than 15 pounds on an occasional basis (Tr. 49). He was unable to work due to leg pain and pain in the bottom of his feet (Tr. 50). He experienced arthritis since a motorcycle accident in 1982 and underwent a hip replacement in 2005 (Tr. 50). He had treated in the past with a rheumatologist (Tr. 51). He also experienced fatigue and hypertension (Tr. 51-52). He was unable to undergo neurological testing due to the lack of health insurance (Tr. 51).

         In response to questioning by his representative, Plaintiff reported that he used over-the-counter pain medication exclusively for body pain (Tr. 53). He stated opiates made him nauseated (Tr. 53). He coped with nighttime pain by taking Advil or Tylenol and sleeping on a couch (Tr. 53). He was unable to travel by car for more than one hour due to body pain (Tr. 54). He did not use a computer more than once every month (Tr. 54). He was required to use a cart for support while making even short grocery shopping trips (Tr. 55). He did not belong to any social groups (Tr. 55). He and his mother received occasional visits from family members (Tr. 55).

         B. Medical Evidence

         1. Records Related to Plaintiff's Treatment

         August, 2010 treating records by Cynthia Wallace, M.D. note Plaintiff's report of chest pain, fatigue, and congestion (Tr. 329). A chest x-ray from the following month was unremarkable (Tr. 130).

         January, 2013 records state that Plaintiff exhibited a normal gait with normal judgment, orientation, memory, and mood (Tr. 339). He was diagnosed with uncontrolled hypertension (Tr. 339). Treating records from later the same month state that Plaintiff continued to experience high blood pressure despite the use of Metoprolol (Tr. 345). He denied current or chronic pain (Tr. 345). A chest x-ray from the following month was consistent with a diagnosis of COPD (Tr. 349). April, 2013 records note ongoing uncontrolled hypertension (Tr. 354-355). Plaintiff reported that he had quit smoking (Tr. 354). A physical examination was otherwise normal (Tr. 354-355). Notes from the same month state that Plaintiff currently smoked a half pack of cigarettes each day and drank four beers (Tr. 358). Treating records state that respiratory testing from the same month were compromised by anemia (Tr. 371).

         May, 2013 treating records by Dr. Wallace note that Plaintiff's blood pressure was currently 142 /80 (Tr. 401). Notes from the following month state that Plaintiff reported that he had recently “failed” a breathing test and experienced shortness of breath walking to the mailbox (Tr. 403). Respiratory testing was consistent with mild COPD (Tr. 407, 412, 423). Plaintiff was advised to quit smoking (Tr. 412).

         In July, 2013, Dr. Wallace completed a work-related abilities assessment, finding that Plaintiff was limited to lifting 10 pounds on an occasional basis and less than 10 pounds frequently (Tr. 421, 441). She found that Plaintiff was limited to sitting, standing, and walking less than two hours a day and was required to change position every 20 minutes (Tr. 421). She found that Plaintiff would be required to lie down at unpredicted times at least twice a day (Tr. 421). She limited Plaintiff to occasional postural activity and found that his manipulative abilities (except for “feeling”) were limited by his medical condition (Tr. 422). She found that Plaintiff should avoid moderate exposure to temperature extremes, high humidity, and airborne hazards (Tr. 422). She precluded all exposure to perfumes, soldering material, solvents/cleaners, and chemicals (Tr. 422). She found that Plaintiff's condition would require him to miss more than four days of work each month (Tr. 422). Dr. Wallace's treating notes from the same day state that Plaintiff felt “about the same” and continued to experienced fatigue (Tr. 437). He demonstrated 4/5 strength in all extremities (Tr. 437).

         August, 2013 records note that Plaintiff might “need a cervical MRI” but did not have insurance (Tr. 456). September, 2013 records by neurologist Christine Dong, M.D. note that an EMG study showed mild demyelinating peripheral neuropathy of the lower extremities (Tr. 454).

         An April, 2015 liver function test showed abnormal results (Tr. 466). Treating records from the same month note that Plaintiff reported constant foot tingling but no “chronic pain” (Tr. 467). He demonstrated a normal gait, intact judgment, and normal memory (Tr. 469).

         2. ...


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