United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH BALL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
cause is before the Court regarding the appeal by Thalus Mark
Ladner of the Commissioner of Social Security's final
decision denying his application for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Act, 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). In rendering this Memorandum
Opinion and Order, the Court has carefully reviewed the
Administrative Record  regarding Ladner's claims
(including the administrative decision, the medical records,
and a transcript of the hearing before the Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ")), Plaintiff's Brief , and
Defendant's Motion to Affirm  and Memorandum .
Plaintiff did not file a rebuttal. The parties have consented
to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge, , , and the District Judge has entered an
Order of Reference . 28 U.S.C. § 636(c);
reasons discussed in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the
undersigned finds that the Commissioner's decision should
Social Security Administration denied Ladner’s claims
initially and on reconsideration.  at 61,
71-77. In his application, Ladner alleged that he
was disabled as of December 4, 2014, because of a back
injury, degenerative spinal stenosis, the need for bilateral
hip replacement surgery, and arthritis. Id. at 62.
At a March 20, 2017, hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”), Ladner amended his onset date to
December 1, 2015. Id. at 10. After considering the
record, the ALJ determined that Ladner was not disabled from
December 1, 2015, through the date of the decision, May 24,
2017. Id. at 21. The ALJ concluded that Ladner could
return to his past relevant work as a probation officer.
Id. at 19. Alternatively, and with the aid of a
vocational expert, the ALJ identified other jobs Ladner could
perform. Id. at 20. The Appeals Council denied
Ladner’s request for review on April 5, 2018,
id. at 1, and this appeal followed.
WORK AND MEDICAL HISTORY
was born on August 10, 1977, and was thirty-nine years old at
the time of the ALJ’s May 24, 2017, decision.
Id. at 20. He finished the twelfth grade and
completed one semester of college. Id. at 14. When
he stopped working in November 2015, he was employed as a
security guard. Id. His other past relevant work
experience includes work as a probation officer, a deputy
sheriff, and a rough neck. Id. at 19. Ladner’s
earnings record shows that he will remain insured through
December 31, 2019. Id. at 11.
review of the medical records will aid in the consideration
of the case. Ladner experienced a work-related back injury in
June 2012, while he was working as a probation officer.
Id. at 14. After a course of conservative treatment,
including lumbar injections, Ladner underwent total
laminectomies at ¶ 4 and L5 and a discectomy at left
L4-5 in March 2015. Id. In June 2015, Ladner’s
treating neurosurgeon released Plaintiff from his care and to
work without restrictions. Id. at 14, 549, 638.
in July 2015, his neurosurgeon also referred him to a
rheumatologist for diagnosis and treatment. Id. at
15. Ladner tested mildly positive for rheumatoid arthritis.
Id. at 486, 497, 520. After trying other
medications, the doctor treated Ladner with Humira.
Id. at 15. The record indicates that by June 2016,
Ladner was 50 percent better. Id. at 497. At
examinations in June and October 2016, the doctor found no
peripheral edema. Id. at 487, 498. However, an
August 2016 x-ray of his pelvis showed severe dysmorphic
changes in both hips. Id. at 435. Findings also
included “severe flattening of the bilateral femoral
heads, likely related to previous osteonecrosis” and
“bilateral acetabular dysplasia.” Id.
sought treatment from a pain management physician from August
2016 to January 2017. Id. at 15; 430-472. An August
2016 MRI of his lumbar spine concluded that Ladner was
“status post bilateral laminectomy at L4-L5 with left
posterior disc extrusion and associated spurs producing
apparent impingement of the left L5 nerve root with
displacement but no definite compression of the right L5
nerve root.” Id. at 372. The report went on to
state that Ladner was “status post bilateral L5-S1
laminectomy with posterior central disc protrusion but no
definite neural impingement.” Id. In January
2017, Ladner reported lower back pain that occasionally
radiated into both buttocks, both hips, and both legs, with
marked severity, that was made worse with physical activity.
Id. at 430, 433. Overall, he reported that his pain
was worsening, but there had been moderate improvement with
physical therapy, some pain management, muscle relaxants, and
other over-the-counter medications. Id. at 430.
Ladner reported that his activities of daily living,
self-care, social activities, and recreation had been
impacted considerably, but the doctor noted that he did not
use any assistance device for ambulation. Id. Ladner
also reported that he did light household chores, cut the
grass, wrote checks, drove, and shopped for groceries.
Id. Ladner stated that he needed pain medications so
that he could work comfortably. Id. An examination
at that time revealed arthralgias, myalgias, joint stiffness
and limb pain, but no limb swelling. Id. at 433.
After examining Ladner and interpreting x-rays of his pelvis,
the doctor concluded that Ladner had Perthe’s disease
of the hips, failed back syndrome, sacroiliitis, and lumbar
facet syndrome. Id. at 435.
May 24, 2017, decision, the ALJ evaluated Ladner's
impairments using the familiar sequential evaluation
process and found that he has the severe
impairments of status post L4-5 and L5-S1 laminectomies, hip
osteonecrosis, left hip bursitis, lumbar facet arthropathy,
and rheumatoid arthritis, citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(c). Id. at 13. The ALJ specifically
considered whether Ladner met the requirements of Listing
1.04, Disorders of the Spine, and found that he did not.
Id. After considering the evidence, the ALJ
concluded that Ladner has the RFC to perform light work,
except that “he can lift twenty pounds occasionally and
ten pounds frequently; sit for six hours in an eight-hour
workday; stand and/or walk for no more than four hours in an
eight-hour workday with walking on even surfaces only; and
push and pull as much as can lift and carry.”
Id. The ALJ went on to state that Ladner can
“climb ramps and stairs occasionally, never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, stoop frequently, kneel
frequently, crouch frequently, and never crawl. He can never
work at unprotected heights and occasionally work near moving
mechanical parts.” Id.
part of his decision, the ALJ considered the opinions of
several medical professionals, both examining and
non-examining, and accorded them various weights. See Id
. at 16-17. The ALJ also considered any limitations and
recommendations by Plaintiff’s treating physicians.
Id. at 17. The ALJ accorded great weight to the
April 2015 opinion of a consultative examiner and the May and
June 2015 opinions of non-examining Department of Disability
Services physicians. See Id . at 16, 62, 71, and
355. He gave great weight to Ladner’s pain management
doctor’s recommendations regarding workplace safety and
lifting. Id. at 17. However, he gave little weight
to the opinion of Ladner’s neurosurgeon, who stated
that Ladner could return to work with no restrictions.
Id. The ALJ gave little weight to the August 2015
opinion of a PERS Disability examiner/physician who found
Ladner to be permanently disabled because her opinion was
based on Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and her
findings were vague. Id. at 17, 676-679. The ALJ
gave little weight to the opinion of an examining physical
therapist because the physical therapist determined that
Ladner could lift and carry greater weight than did the ALJ.
Id. at 17, 360.
concluded that Ladner is capable of performing his past
relevant work as a probation officer, a skilled job with a
specific vocational preparation level of seven, performed at
a light level of exertion. Id. at 19. Alternatively,
with the aid of a vocational expert, the ALJ identified other
jobs that Ladner could perform. Id. at 20-21. The
ALJ identified the jobs of gate guard, booth cashier, and
storage facility clerk, all considered light with varying
skill and vocational preparation levels. Id. Thus,
the ALJ found that Ladner was not under a disability from
December 1, 2015, to May 24, 2017, the date of the decision.
Id. at 21.