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GREER v. BARNHART

May 28, 2002

JOHN GREER, PLAINTIFF
V.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morton Denlow, U.S. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff John Greer ("Claimant" or "Greer") seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), Jo Anne Barnhart, denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act, Titles II and XVI, 42 U.S.C. § 416, 423, 1381a. Greer claims the Commissioner's decision to deny him benefits should be reversed because it is contrary to law and not supported by substantial evidence. Both parties now move for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, this Court affirms the Commissioner's decision, denies Greer's motion for summary judgment, and grants the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment.

I. RELEVANT FACTS

Greer was born on May 15, 1955. (R. 79). He graduated from high school and received vocational training in home entertainment repair. (R. 31, 128). He stopped working in December 1997 after he was terminated for engaging in a dispute with a customer. (R. 33, 38-39). Greer's previous work experience included appliance repairman, unskilled laborer, warehouseman, and flooring installer. (R. 67-68, 146).

A. Greer's Hearing Testimony

On March 31, 1999, Greer testified before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert T. Karmgard at a Social Security Administration ("SSA") Hearing. Greer testified he was unable to work since December 18, 1997 because of pain in his hips, knees, ankle, back, and shoulders. However, Greer also explained he was terminated in December 1997 from Victory Distributors for engaging in a dispute with a customer. (R. 38-39).

Greer underwent surgery in 1969 and had pins put in both hips. (R. 39). Over the past 25 years, he claimed he experiences daily pain in both hips and his left hip slips out of the joint. (R. 47). He received cortisone shots in both hips five years ago, but that only alleviated the pain for a couple of days. (R. 48). Greer has experienced pain in his knees since 1985 or 1986 and wears an elastic brace on his right knee and a styrofoam brace on his left knee. (R. 48-49). Greer also expressed some difficulty with his right ankle. (R. 55). Greer asserted his back pain stems from his hip and knee problems and started in 1986 or 1987. (R. 58). Lastly, Greer claimed, in 1992 or 1993, he believes he dislocated both shoulders because he sometimes cannot raise his arms over his head; however, he has not discussed this alleged problem with his doctor. (R. 39-40).

Cook County Hospital ("CCH") gave him a cane in March 1998. (R. 46). Greer can walk one to two blocks with the cane and a half a block to a block without the cane. (R. 57-58). He had no trouble taking the train to the hearing, but had to stop four times along the way because the walking caused him pain. (R. 51). Greer claimed sitting in one place also causes him pain. (R. 52).

At the time of the hearing, Greer was five feet, six and one half inches tall and weighed between 225 and 230 pounds. (R. 32). He has high blood pressure and takes medication to control it. (R. 50). The high blood pressure causes him headaches lasting all day, five to six times a week. (Id.). Because of his high blood pressure, his doctors told him to refrain from alcohol. (R. 56). He has trouble sleeping because of the pain and was prescribed Amitriptyline which makes him drowsy, yet over the past two months, it was not working. (R. 53). His other medications do not make him drowsy. (R. 63).

On a typical day, Greer watches television and may sit on the porch. (R. 46). His landlord does the cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping, although, at times he accompanies her to the store and does his own cooking. (R. 54-55). He carries his own groceries and the heaviest item he can lift is a half gallon of milk. (R. 59-60).

B. Medical Evidence

The medical evidence in this case consists of records from Greer's visits to CCH and Fantus Clinic, reports of consulting physicians A.P. Knott and Alvaro Rios, the report of Radiologist Samuel T. Gerber, reports of non-examining reviewing physicians F. Paul LaFata and Charles Kenney, and the musculoskeletal defects or fractures questionnaire completed by Dr. Kopplin.

1. Cook County Hospital

On March 8, 1996, Greer was diagnosed with bilateral hip osteoarthritis and hypertension and given medication after Greer was seen at CCH Emergency Room with complaints of bilateral hip pain. (R. 156-57). While Greer was tender in both hips, his hip range of motion was normal. (R. 157). On July 1, 1996, Greer was evaluated at Fantus Health Center and reported "my hips need fixing bad." (R. 155). The examining doctor determined Greer's hip range of motion was decreased, ordered x-rays, and advised him to lose weight. (R. 155). In October 1996, the doctor reported Plaintiff's hip x-rays showed bilateral degenerative joint disease. (R. 153). Greer was scheduled for surgery on May 20, 1997; however, on May 5 he cancelled stating he did not have the time or money for surgery, but he would consider surgery later. (R. 149-50).

2. Dr. Knott — Consulting Examination

Greer's first consultative examination, at the request of the state disability examiners, occurred on February 6, 1998, by Dr. A.P. Knott. (R. 158). Greer informed Dr. Knott he did not use an assistive device. (Id.). Dr. Knott examined Greer and found he could dress and undress and slowly get on and off of the examination table. (R. 159). Greer's gait was abnormal because both feet are everted to 20 degrees — Greer explained he walks this way to balance himself. (Id.). He could not walk on his heels and toes and was unable to squat. (Id.). Greer had a full range of motion in all joints of his upper extremities and normal fine finger dexterity and gross manipulation. (R. 160). He also had full range of motion in all joints of the lower extremities except his hips, ankles, and knees. (R. 161). Dr. Knott diagnosed Greer with 1) degenerative arthritis of both hip joints, moderate to severe, 2) degenerative arthritis of both knees, 3) hypertension, treated and not controlled, control advised. (Id.).

3. Dr. Gerber — Radiologist

On March 12, 1998, Radiologist Samuel T. Gerber, M.D. submitted an x-ray report on Greer's knees and hips. The x-ray of Greer's knees showed a slight narrowing of the right and left medial knee joint compartments and a spur at the superior anterior aspect of the right and left patella. (R. 163). The x-ray of his hips showed evidence of his ...


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