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Wilson v. Colvin

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

July 18, 2017



          Michael T. Parker United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Robert Keith Wilson brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration denying Wilson's claim for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The matter is now before the Court on the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [20]. Having considered the pleadings, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [20] should be DENIED, the Commissioner's final decision should be AFFIRMED, and this action should be DISMISSED.


         On December 20, 2012, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income payments under the Social Security Act, alleging disability as of April 15, 2012, due to “numbness from nose to toes, neuropathy, depression, headache, ” dizzy spells, memory loss, and acid reflux. See [15] at 57. Plaintiff's claim was denied initially on May 16, 2013, and upon reconsideration on August 9, 2013. Id. at 103. Thereafter, he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Id. at 8. On September 23, 2014, a hearing was convened before ALJ Laurie H. Porciello. Id. at 29. The ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff and Ray Burger, a vocational expert. Id. at 30. On February 19, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. Id. at 13. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision, and on April 15, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final Agency decision. Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff filed the complaint appealing that decision in this Court on August 17, 2016. See [1]. The Commissioner answered the complaint, denying that Plaintiff is entitled to any relief. See [14]. Plaintiff has now moved for Summary Judgment [20]. The parties briefed the issues in this matter pursuant to the Court's Order [18], and the matter is now ripe for decision.


         Plaintiff was 41 years old at his alleged disability onset date. See [15] at 37. He completed two and a half years of college and previously worked as a table game dealer in a casino. Id. According to Plaintiff, he has a history of back pain and spasms, leg pain, and pain and numbness in his hands and feet related to polyneuropathy, [1] cervicalgia, [2] cervical radiculopathy, [3] lumbago, [4] lumbar radiculopathy, [5] and bulging discs in the lumbar spine with nerve root compression at ¶ 3. Id. at 326-337. Additionally, he claims to have neuralgia, [6] restless leg syndrome, hypertension, headaches, depression, and insomnia. Id.

         Between November and December 2010, Plaintiff sought treatment from Timothy J. Murphy, D.C., a chiropractor, for lower back pain, left side sciatica, and possible discopathy. Id. at 240-44. In December 2010, Plaintiff spoke to Dr. Joseph D. Hull at Primary Care Medical Center PLLC and complained of sciatica and pain radiating down his hip to his thigh and knee. Id. at 245-53. Between January and April 2012, Plaintiff sought treatment from Dr. Edward Aldridge at Oncall Medical Clinic for back, foot, and neck pain and bilateral arm numbness radiating down to the fingers. Id. Dr. Aldridge diagnosed Plaintiff with back pain and depression. Id.

         In January and April 2012, Dr. Hull assessed idiopathic peripheral neuropathy and recommended that Plaintiff see a neurologist. Id. at 286. In February 2013, Plaintiff complained of ongoing numbness in his extremities and short term memory issues, and Dr. Hull assessed hypertension, polyneuropathy, and organic periodic limb movement sleep disorder. Id. at 281. Dr. Hull referred Plaintiff to neurologist Dr. Diane Ross. Id.

         On June 3, 2013, Plaintiff saw Dr. Ross with complaints of numbness and tingling. Id. at 22, 328. He described the numbness and tingling as a severe dull aching. Id. He stated the pain was a sharp, stabbing, piercing, shooting, and burning sensation. Id. Dr. Ross found that Plaintiff had decreased perception to light touch and observed his gait to be “reeling, ” slow, and unsteady. Id. She diagnosed him with progressive idiopathic neuropathy due to alcohol use and a displacement of a lumbar disc without myelopathy. Id.

         On July 24, 2013, Dr. Ross completed a residual functional capacity form and stated that Plaintiff had progressive idiopathic neuropathy, persistent insomnia, polyneuropathy, lumbago, B complex deficiency, alcoholic polyneuropathy, and lumbar disc displacement. Id. at 23; 342. Dr. Ross noted the Plaintiff's polyneuropathy, back pain, and leg weakness prevented him from standing for six to eight hours and recommended minimal standing time. Id. at 23; 343-44. Dr. Ross reported that he could rarely reach above his shoulders, reach down to waist level, reach down towards the floor, or carefully handle objects. Id. at 23; 344. She opined that Plaintiff could not bend, squat, or kneel and could only turn parts of his body with difficulty. Id. at 23; 345. She stated that Plaintiff could not drive because he could not feel the pedals and could not sit for long periods of time. Id. Dr. Ross also opined that Plaintiff's pain was daily, severe, and unlikely to change. Id. at 23; 345-46.

         X-Rays of Plaintiff's lumbar spine showed mild degenerative changes, but the disc spaces were adequate and there were no acute abnormalities. Id. at 23; 319. A magnetic resonance imaging scan (“MRI”) of his lumbar spine showed L3-4 left lateral disc protrusion, compressing the existing L3 nerve root; L5-S1 subligamentous disc protrusion, without focal neural compression; and bilateral L4-5 annulus tears. Id. at 23; 338.

         On April 24, 2013, Dr. Harold Todd Coulter examined Plaintiff on a consultative basis. Id. at 23; 321. Plaintiff stated that he was not able to sit or stand for 15 minutes at a time. Id. Dr. Coulter noted that Plaintiff walked into the examination room without assistance, sat comfortably across from the examiner, and was able to get on and off the examination table. Id. at 23; 322. Dr. Coulter observed that all range of motion measurements were found to be within normal limits. Id. at 23; 323. On physical examination, there was no evidence of a positive Tinel's[7] or Phalen's[8] sign or any relevant testing. Id. Additionally, Dr. Coulter stated that there was no evidence of any paravertebral muscle spasm, tenderness, crepitus, effusion, or deformity. Id. Motor strength was 5/5 in the upper extremities and his grip strength was 5/5. Id. No weakness or atrophy was noted by Dr. Coulter. Id. Dr. Coulter found Plaintiff capable of lifting and carrying 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently and did not find any other limitations. Id.

         State agency consultant, Dr. Madena Gibson, reviewed Plaintiff's medications and medical records as of May 15, 2013. Id. at 23; 57. She found Plaintiff capable of performing medium exertional work with occasional climbing of ramps and stairs but no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. Id. at 23; 64. Additionally, she found Plaintiff capable of occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling, but she stated that Plaintiff should avoid exposure to hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights. Id. Dr. Robert Culpepper, a consultative physician, affirmed Dr. Gibson's opinion on August 9, 2013. Id. at 23; 103.


         In Harrell v. Bowen, the Fifth Circuit detailed the shifting burden of proof that applies to disability determinations:

         An individual applying for disability and SSI benefits bears the initial burden of proving that he is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act. Once the claimant satisfies his initial burden, the [Commissioner] then bears the burden of establishing that the claimant is capable of performing substantial gainful activity and therefore, not disabled. In determining whether or not a claimant is capable of performing substantial gainful activity, the [Commissioner] utilizes a five-step sequential procedure set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(f) (1988):

1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found disabled regardless of the medical findings.
2. An individual who does not have a ‘severe impairment' will not be found to be disabled.
3. An individual who meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of the regulations will be considered disabled without ...

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