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Edmonds v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

February 8, 2017

LONNIE EDMONDS PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          F. KEITH BALL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court regarding the appeal by Lonnie Edmonds of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Edmonds's application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (ASSI") benefits. In rendering this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court has carefully reviewed the Administrative Record [8] regarding Edmonds's claims (including the administrative decision, the medical records, and a transcript of the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")), Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment [11], Memorandum Brief [12], and Defendant's Motion for an Order Affirming the Commissioner's Decision [13] with supporting memorandum [14]. The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, and the District Judge has entered an Order of Reference [10]. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73.

         For the reasons discussed in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court finds that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. Accordingly, Plaintiffs appeal is denied, and Defendant's Motion for an Order Affirming the Decision of the Commissioner [13] is hereby granted as set forth in this Opinion.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 14, 2010, Edmonds filed for DIB and SSI, asserting an onset date of October 1, 2009. [8] at 290, 326.[1] Edmonds was born on May 8, 1962, and he was forty-eight years of age as of the date of his application. Id. at 321. Thus, he was considered a “younger person” under the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). During the pendency of his application, he turned 50 years old, and he became classified as a “person closely approaching advanced age.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(d). Edmonds attended school until twelfth grade in regular classes, but he did not graduate, and he never achieved a GED. [8] at 153. In his request for disability, Edmonds alleged that he is disabled due to a broken pelvic bone, stomach problems, chest pain, and knee problems. Id. at 326. Edmonds last worked in October 2009 as a chicken catcher, id. at 401, and he worked primarily in the chicken industry from 1983 to 2009. Id. at 331.

         The Social Security Administration denied Edmonds's application initially and upon reconsideration. Id. at 241, 252. Edmonds requested a hearing, which was held on September 5, 2012. Id. at 145. On December 28, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Edmonds was not disabled. Id. at 221. After an appeal, the Appeals Council remanded the case to the ALJ for reconsideration on December 3, 2013. Id. at 236. After two more hearings on April 15 and September 16, 2014, id. at 31-60, 80-125, with consideration of additional medical evidence, the ALJ issued the unfavorable decision on appeal in this case on October 14, 2014. Id. at 9.

         II. MEDICAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff's medical records are comprised primarily of emergency room visits and consultative examinations performed during the application for benefits process. According to the records, in January 2010 he told a consultative physician, Dr. William M. Lewis, that he was unable to work because of pain in old pelvic fractures, shortness of breath, and his right knee giving out. Id. at 401. After examining Edmonds, Dr. Lewis gave the following diagnoses: hypertension, cigarette smoker, dizziness of unknown cause, osteoarthritis of the right knee, sacroiliac and posterior iliac crest pain since a fracture greater than ten years prior to the examination, and status postop laparotomy for stab wound to the abdomen. Id. at 403.

         On May 30, 2010, Edmonds sought emergency care when a log rolled onto his left foot. Id. at 448. X-rays taken at that time showed no abnormality, but the examining doctor fitted him with an orthopedic splint, gave him pain medication, and concluded that Edmonds had fractured his left foot. Id. at 447, 449. Three days later, complaining of pain and swelling in his left foot, Edmonds sought care from the University of Mississippi Medical Center (“UMMC”). Id. at 409. X-rays at that time showed closed fractures of the left fourth metatarsal, left first cuneiform, and left second cuneiform. Id. at 411. He was discharged with instructions to follow up with the University orthopedics clinic two weeks later. Id. He testified that doctors fitted him with a boot that he wore about six months, and that he took it off on his own when it improved. Id. at 161.

         A January 26, 2011, consultative x-ray of his left knee showed mild to moderate arthritis, a “bony protuberance arising off the outer margin of the superior portion of the medial femoral condyle, ” and a small calcification that reflected a chronic MCL injury. Id. at 430.

         On May 2, 2011, Edmonds was treated for closed fractures of his right fibula and tibia. Id. at 443-445, 451, 459. The medical records indicate that Edwards sustained the injuries when he fell off a horse, but Edwards testified that he was trampled by some horses and cows. Id. at 163-166. One day later, he underwent surgery in which doctors at UMMC inserted a plate to reduce the fractures and aid in healing. Id. at 519-522. The records indicate that he sought follow-up care from UMMC, and June 9, 2011, doctor's notes indicate that he was “doing well overall.” Id. at 533.

         After Edmonds's first hearing on September 5, 2012, the ALJ ordered consultative x-rays. On September 26, 2012, x-rays were obtained of Edmonds's right and left knees, and his spine at the Madison River Oaks Medical Center. Id. at 541. The radiologist found “[m]ild tricompartmental degenerative change” present about both knees. Id. In addition, the radiologist noted a healing fracture on the right proximal fibula, but also commented that the area was only partially imaged. Id. The doctor recommended formal imaging of the fibula. Id. The x-rays of the lumbar spine revealed “a number of chronic changes, but no acute pathology” was identified. Id. at 546. On the same date, a CT of the head without contrast was performed and indicated “no acute intracranial abnormality.” Id. at 544.

         Dr. Robert E. Tatum performed consultative orthopedic examinations of Edmonds on October 6, 2012, and May 10, 2014. Id. at 553, 580. In October 2012, Dr. Tatum's impression was that Edmonds's history of a fractured pelvis was a mild impairment to him, although he had some arthritic complaints. Id. at 555. Dr. Tatum gauged Edmonds's right knee problem, status post-surgery, to be a moderate impairment “with respect to bending, standing, stooping, lifting, reaching, pushing, pulling, kneeling, crouching, etc.” Id. The doctor also found that the right knee problem affects Edmonds's “ability to reach, push, pull, stand, lift, etc.” Id. As an orthopedist, Dr. Tatum noted Edmonds's complaints of chest pain and recommended further evaluation of the complaints. Id.

         As a part of the exam, Dr. Tatum completed a “Medical Source Statement (Physical).” Id. at 549-552. Dr. Tatum found that Edmonds could occasionally lift and carry (including upward pulling) a maximum of twenty (20) pounds for a total of about one-third of an eight-hour workday. Id. at 550. The doctor stated that Edmonds could frequently lift and carry a minimum of ten (10) pounds for a total of about two-thirds of an eight-hour workday. Id. Dr. Tatum found that Plaintiff could stand and walk a total of three hours in an eight-hour work day, for thirty (30) minutes without interruption. Id. He also concluded that Edmonds did not need the use of a cane to ambulate. Id. The doctor described that Edmonds could sit for a total of five hours and forty-five (45) minutes without interruption. Id. at 549.

         Dr. Tatum found that Edmonds's postural activities were affected by his physical condition. The physician concluded that Edmonds should balance and crawl only occasionally during the day. And he determined that Edmonds should never climb, stoop, crouch, or kneel. Id.

         Dr. Tatum found that Edmonds's physical functions were also limited by his impairments. Edmonds's reaching, pushing/pulling, and seeing were described as occasionally limited. Id. at 549, 551. The doctor determined that Edmonds's handling (gross manipulation) and fingering (fine manipulation) were frequently limited by his impairments. Id. The doctor marked that Edmonds's feeling (skin receptors) were constantly affected by his condition. Id. at 551. The doctor found that Plaintiff's hearing and speaking were not affected by his impairments. Id. He commented that the patient has moderate osteoarthritis in hands, shoulders, and knees, supported by clinical findings of decreased range of movement in hands, knees, and hips, as well as crepitation in right greater than left knee, and right greater than left shoulder, with tenderness in his joints. Id.

         The doctor also concluded that the following environmental restrictions were caused by his impairments: heights, moving machinery, and temperature extremes. Id. at 552. Dr. Tatum found no environmental restrictions regarding dust, odors, fumes, pulmonary irritants, noise, humidity, and vibration. Id. Dr. Tatum determined that the limitations, to the degree listed in the report, are normally expected from the type and severity of the diagnoses in the case. Id. The doctor stated that the diagnoses in the case were confirmed by objective findings. Id. He also stated that he did not base his opinion on the patient's subjective complaints. Id.

         In his May 10, 2014, consultative evaluation of Edmonds, Dr. Tatum again noted Edmonds's history of a broken pelvis, characterizing it as a “mild impairment to the claimant who would benefit from being on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.” Id. at 582. The doctor stated that Edmonds's knee problems were a “moderate impairment to the claimant with respect to standing, sitting, squatting, stopping, etc. He likely has some ligament laxity that is noted.” Id. Dr. Tatum described claimant's chest pain as “more mild in nature and likely what the claimant needs is an EKG and/or some lab work to assess for cardiovascular disease.” Id. Dr. Tatum stated that a chest x-ray would be “appropriate, ” related that he could give no further assessment as to cardiovascular issues, and stated that claimant's history of hypertension “also likely plays as well.” Id.

         In addition, Dr. Tatum also completed another “Medical Source Statement (Physical).” Id. at 584. In the May 2014 assessment, Dr. Tatum found that some of Edmonds's conditions had degraded from the October 2012 evaluation, while others had improved. Dr. Tatum determined that Edmonds could occasionally lift and carry (including upward pulling) a maximum of ten (10) pounds for a total of about one-third of an eight-hour workday. Id. at 584. The doctor found that he could not assess Edmonds's ability to frequently lift and carry. Id. On the other hand, Dr. Tatum concluded that Plaintiff could stand and walk a total of four hours in an eight-hours work day, for thirty (30) minutes without interruption, versus the total of three hours that he found in 2012. Id. Dr. Tatum again discussed that Edmonds did not need the use of a cane to ambulate, and he also found that Edmonds could use his free hand to carry small objects, whereas in 2012, the doctor did not complete that part of the form. Id. at 584, 585. The doctor reasoned that Edmonds could sit for a total of six hours, and one hour without interruption, which was an improvement. Id. at 585.

         In 2014, Dr. Tatum found that Edmonds's postural activities were affected by his physical condition. The physician determined that Edmonds should balance, crouch, and kneel only occasionally during the day. He also noted that Edmonds should never climb, stoop, or crawl. Id.

         Dr. Tatum again concluded in 2014 that Edmonds's physical functions were also limited by his impairments. Edmonds's reaching and pushing/pulling were described as occasionally limited. Id. at 585-586. The doctor determined that Edmonds's handling (gross manipulation), fingering (fine manipulation), feeling (skin receptors), seeing, hearing, and speaking were not limited by the impairments. Id.

         The doctor also determined that the following environmental restrictions were caused by his impairments: heights, moving machinery, temperature extremes, and humidity. Id. at 587. Dr. Tatum found no environmental restrictions regarding dust, odors, fumes, pulmonary irritants, noise, and vibration. Id. Dr. Tatum confirmed, once again, that the limitations, to the degree listed in the report, are normally expected from the type and severity of the diagnoses in the case. Id. The doctor stated that the diagnoses in the case were confirmed by objective findings, and he again stated that he did not base his opinion on the patient's subjective complaints. Id.

         In the meantime, Edmonds was involved in an all-terrain vehicle accident on August 31, 2013, in which he suffered a closed “comminuted fracture of the distal radius with palmar displacement and angulation of the distal fracture fragments, ” or a fractured left wrist. Id. at 562. Bullet fragments were also identified within the soft tissue of his left hand. Id. He was initially treated at the Baptist Medical Center - Leake, located in Carthage, Mississippi. Id. Four days later, he sought treatment for worsening pain related to this injury at UMMC. Id. 564-574. Doctors confirmed the fractures with additional x-rays, fitted him with another splint, discharged him with pain medications, and directed him to follow up with the hand clinic in one week. Id. at 566, 570.

         On May 5, 2014, x-rays were taken of Edmonds's left wrist and both knees. Id. at 577-578. Based on the three views taken of the left wrist, the radiologist noted a “cortical irregularity about the distal radial metaphysis consistent with a fracture” and evidence of an old healed fracture of the proximal 4th metacarpal. Id. at 577. The radiologist also noted several small metallic densities along the mid hand, which were previously identified as bullet fragments. Id. at 562, 577.

         III. ...


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