The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nolan, Magistrate Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This is an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
Ricard Brown's claim for social security disability insurance
benefits. This matter is before the Court on the parties' Cross
Motions for Summary Judgment. The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons explained below, the Court
DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANTS
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Mr. Brown filed an application for disability insurance
benefits on March 12, 1996 alleging that he became disabled on
June 2, 1994 as a result of a motor vehicle accident. (R.
179-81.) His claim was denied initially and on reconsideration.
(R. 79-91.) On November 6, 1997, Mr. Brown appeared with counsel
and testified at an administrative hearing before Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ") Lyle Lipe. (R. 29-78.) Randall Strahl testified
as a vocational expert. (Id.) On February 13, 1998, ALJ Lipe
issued a decision finding that Mr. Brown was not disabled because
he could perform a significant number of jobs in the national
economy. (R. 16-27.) On February 25, 1998, Mr. Brown filed a
Request for Review. (R. 13.) The Appeals Council denied Mr.
Brown's Request for Review, on September 20, 1998, leaving the
ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 9.)
Mr. Brown was born on September 14, 1961 and was thirty-six
years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. 106.) Mr. Brown
has a high school education and his most recent employment, from
1987 to 1994, was as a truck driver. (R. 139.) Prior to working
as a truck driver, Mr. Brown worked as a stockman, and before
that he was in the United States Army. (Id.)
B. Medical Evidence and Testimony
On June 2, 1994, Mr. Brown was in an accident in his truck, and
was admitted to the hospital complaining of chest, abdominal,
neck, and lower leg pain. (R. 179.) The x-rays did not show there
to be any acute injuries to Mr. Brown, however the x-ray of his
lower back did indicate some degeneration of two intervertebral
discs. (R. 182-84, 186.) Computerized tomography (CT) scans of
Mr. Brown's abdomen and cervical spine did not exhibit any
substantial abnormalities. (R. 185.)
On June 7, 1994, Dr. Reddy*fn2 examined Mr. Brown for the
cause of his complaints of pain in various parts of his body. (R.
293.) Dr. Reddy diagnosed Mr. Brown with a sprained dorsal and
lumbosacral spine, contusions and abrasions and possible internal
derangement of the right knee, a sprained left ankle, and
contusions on the left leg. (R. 294.) On July 5, 1994 a magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) scan of Mr. Brown's right knee indicated
minimal joint effusion and no other abnormalities. (R. 299.) An
MRI scan of Mr. Brown's lumbar spine, taken August 22, 1994,
indicated a small, right-sided disc herniation at L5-S1. (R.
On November 9, 1994, Mr. Brown was examined at Hinsdale
Orthopedic Associates because of right-sided flank pain which
radiated down to his lower extremities. (R. 194.) This
examination indicated that Mr. Brown was able to sit comfortably,
and that he was able to walk unaided by his crutch without a
limp. (Id.) There was no evidence of fasciculation or atrophy
in the upper or lower extremities. (Id.) He had normal motor
power, and there was no evidence of ulceration or injury in the
lower extremity. (Id.) The flexation and extension x-ray showed
excellent alignment of the vertebra with no abnormalities or
slippage. (Id.) Dr. Reddy also noted the Mr. Brown brought with
him a previous MRI which showed excellent disc hydration in all
discs except for L5 which showed early mild degenerative changes,
but no disc herniation, no root impingement, and no stenosis.
(Id.) The doctor summarized the MRI as "normal." (Id.) Mr.
Brown complained of pain in his right knee, however, the
examination did not reveal any abnormalities. (R. 195.)
Mr. Brown was diagnosed with a contusion of the back, and no
surgical intervention was recommended based upon the normal
examination and normal evaluation. (R. 195.) The doctor
recommended that Mr. Brown engage in a work-hardening program for
two weeks and then return to his regular job duties with no
restrictions. (Id.) The doctor noted at the end of his report
that Mr. Brown became "quite hostile" when told the MRI had
revealed no disc herniation and requested that the MRI be
reviewed in his presence. (Id.)
On December 8, 1994, Dr. Reddy indicated in a letter that Mr.
Brown had a very small right-sided herniated disc which was
improving with physical therapy. (R. 308.) He recommended
continued physical therapy for his back. (Id.) The letter notes
that Mr. Brown was continuing to have problems with his right
knee. (Id.) The examination indicated constant clicking over
the patellofemoral joint, range of motion about forty degrees of
flexion, a thickened tender synovial band along the medial
parapatellar region, and weak quadricep power. (Id.) The MRI on
the right knee was negative, however, the letter notes that an
MRI might not show some of the problems which would be picked up
by arthroscopy of the knee. (Id.) He recommended arthroscopic
surgery of the right
knee as soon as possible, (R. 309.), and, on February 16, 1995,
Dr. Reddy performed arthroscopic surgery on Mr. Brown's right
knee. (R. 290-91.)
In early April 1995, Mr. Brown underwent a functional capacity
evaluation to assess his ability to come back to work. (R.
196-218.) The rehabilitation specialist, Nancy Sons, found that
Mr. Brown would be able to tolerate the work hardening program
easily. (R. 196.) She found that his evaluation was performed in
an exaggerated manner with high pain reports, non-anatomical pain
drawings, and very exaggerated pain behaviors and postures.
(Id.) She found his lifting capacity to be below light physical
demands, but that he could "certainly upgrade to a greater
lifting capacity and certainly a higher level of physical fitness
without causing any injury to himself." (Id.)
On July 10, 1995, Mr. Brown was admitted to South Suburban
Hospital with complaints of lower back pain. (R. 224.) Dr.
Patrick Sweeney, an orthopedic surgeon, performed surgery on Mr.
Brown's back, and the diagnosis was discogenic pain in L4-5, L5,
and S1, and central disc herniation in L5-S1. (R. 256-59.)
On February 6, 1996, Mr. Brown underwent another functional
capacity assessment to determine his work level capabilities. (R.
261-69.) Sue Arends, a physical therapist, conducted the
evaluation, and found that the results accurately reflected Mr.
Brown's capabilities. (R. 261.) During the assessment, Mr. Brown
demonstrated the ability to lift in the light work category at
the above the shoulder and desk chair levels. (Id.) He was
unable to perform a chair/floor lift. (Id.) He was able to
crawl and kneel, but the assessment recommended that he only
perform those activities on an occasional basis. (Id.) He
demonstrated a forty-five minute sitting tolerance, and a sixty
minute standing tolerance. (Id.) He did not demonstrate any
difficulties with walking. (Id.) The assessment recommended
that Mr. Brown perform work in the light work category at the
above shoulder and desk/chair levels only. (R. 262.) Sitting and
standing durations should be limited to forty-five and sixty
minute durations respectively. (Id.) Dr. Sweeney released Mr.
Brown to work on February 12, 1996, pursuant to the restrictions
in the February 5, 1996 functional capacity evaluation. (R. 260.)
On April 17, 1996, Dr. Sweeney reported to the Bureau of
Disability Determination Services that Mr. Brown could walk
unassisted and that he had slightly reduced range of motion in
his lumbosacral spine. (R. 316-17) He also indicated in his
report that Mr. Brown could sit for periods of forty-five
minutes, stand for periods of sixty minutes, lift twenty pounds
or less, ...