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June 23, 2004.

GORDON L. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MASON, Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, Gordon Harris ("Harris" or "plaintiff"), has brought a motion for summary judgment seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner" or "defendant"), who denied Harris' claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 416(i), 423(d) (2000). Harris now appeals that decision in federal court as permitted by Section 405(g) and Section 1383(c)(3). Defendant, Barnhart, filed a cross motion for summary judgment asking that we uphold the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). For the following reasons, we deny plaintiff's motion and grant defendant's motion, affirming the decision of the ALJ.

Procedural History

  Harris filed an application for DIB and SSI on January 10, 1995, alleging disability since January 15, 1993. (R. 29-32). Harris' application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 33-38, 41-44). On January 15, 1997, ALJ Maren Dougherty conducted a hearing. Harris, Carnell Green, his brother, and Meyer Klein, a Vocational Expert ("VE"), testified. (R. 184-235). At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ ordered Harris to see an orthopedist to evaluate his wrist and to have current x-rays taken. She ordered the record kept open for 30 days to allow for the additional medical examination and x-rays, and to allow the VE and plaintiff's counsel to supplement the record. On March 25, 1999, after receiving and reviewing all of the supplemental information, the ALJ issued an opinion denying Harris' claim. (R. 9-16). The ALJ found that Harris was capable of performing his past relevant job as a security guard, as generally performed in the economy, and, therefore, was not disabled. (R. 16). On June 16, 2001, the Appeals Council denied Harris' request for review. (R. 3-4). Consequently, the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner. See Zurawski v. Halter, 245 F.3d 881 (7th Cir. 2001); Reg. § 416.1481.

  Medical Evidence

  On January 15, 1993, Harris was admitted to the Emergency Room at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Illinois after falling approximately eight feet from a ladder at work. (R. 63). He tried to break the fall with his left hand and landed on his head and back. (R. 63). Harris' x-rays revealed anterior compressions of his L-1, T-11, and T-12 vertebrae, a small minimally displaced fracture of the right facet of his T-12 vertebrae, and a non-displaced fracture of the right side of his L-1 vertebra. (R. 64, 67-68). Harris also fractured his left wrist in two places. (R. 66). A June 3 MRI of Harris' lumbar spine indicated wedge deformity of Harris' T-11, T-12, and L-1 vertebrae. However, there was no evidence of disc herniation, spinal stenosis, or spinal canal narrowing. (R. 98).

  Sometime after January 14, 1994, Thomas W. McNeill, M.D., Harris' treating physician, opined that Harris would not be able to return to his job as an ironworker without certain restrictions. (R. 73). Dr. McNeill determined that Harris could only preform medium level work as defined by "Workers' Rehabilitation Services Incorporated in Chicago on their work capacity evaluation." (R. 73). Dr. McNeill suspected Harris' situation was permanent. (R. 73).

  On January 23, 1995, at the request of the Illinois Department of Public Aid, G. Bridgeforth, M.D. examined Harris. (R. 74). Dr. Bridgeforth reported that Harris had poor posture, was mildly obese, and that his reflexes were difficult to elicit. (R. 76). Dr. Bridgeforth opined that Harris had a full capacity for walking, bending, standing, stooping, sitting, turning, climbing and pushing in an 8-hour work day. (R. 77). Dr. Bridgeforth also determined that Harris could repeatedly lift up to 50 pounds during an 8-hour work day. (R. 77).

  On April 10, 1995, Muhammad Irshad, M.D., a non-examining State Agency physician, completed a Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") assessment for Harris. (R. 78-85). Dr. Irshad concluded that Harris could occasionally lift and/or carry 50 pounds, frequently lift and/or carry 25 pounds, stand and/or walk about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 79). Additionally, Dr. Irshad opined that Harris was unlimited in his ability to push and/or pull with his extremities. (R. 79).

  On December 21, 1996, Kevin J. Regan, D.C., a chiropractor/acupuncturist examined Harris at the request of his attorney. (R. 99). The chiropractor noted that Harris' lower lumbar paraspinal musculature was very tender and spastic. (R. 99). The flexor and extensor surfaces of Harris' left wrist were very tender, and Harris' left hand grip was weaker than his right. (R. 99). Mr. Regan reported that a positive Phalen's test reproduced pains from the wrist to all Harris' left finger tips and Harris had hyproasthesia of the dorsal and palmar surfaces of his left hand (R. 99). Mr. Regan noted that Harris' lumbar flexion and extension were reduced by 75% of their normal ranges, and lumber rotation and lateral flexion were reduced by 50% of their ranges of motion. (R. 99). A positive Kemp's test produced pain down into Harris' lumbar spine. (R. 99). The chiropractor diagnosed Harris with chronic left wrist carpal tunnel syndrome secondary to trauma, chronic degeneration of the anterior lumbar disc/vertebral bodies, and myofascial pain syndrome secondary to trauma. (R. 99).

  A partial, unsigned RFC questionnaire, attributed to Mr. Regan by the ALJ, noted that Harris could only sit or stand continuously for 10 minutes and sit, stand, or walk less than 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 102). The questionnaire reported that Harris must walk around every 10 minutes for 5 minutes, must take 15 minute breaks every 30 minutes, and elevate his legs 100% of the time. (R. 103). The RFC also stated that Harris could only lift less than 10 pounds occasionally and could only use his right hand for repetitive actions 33% of an 8-hour workday. (R. 103).

  Harris saw Arthur Jones, M.D. twice in 1996 for complaints of chest pain. (R. 118-24). Harris was able to exercise to 8 METS and reached 95% of his predicted maximum heart rate, (R. 121). His EKG and thallium scan were normal. (R. 121-22). Lab tests indicated that Harris had high glucose and cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure. (R. 118-20). On January 2, 1997, Dr. Jones completed a RFC questionnaire for Harris. (R. 104-07). Dr. Jones opined that Harris could only continuously sit or stand for 20 minutes at one time, sit for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, and stand and/or walk for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 105). Additionally, Dr. Jones noted that Harris could only occasionally lift less than 10 pounds. (R. 106).

  At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ ordered that Harris submit to another examination. On April 3, 1997, Leonard R. Smith, M.D., S.C., examined Harris. (R. 125). Dr. Smith observed a localized mild kyphos at Harris' L-1 vertebra, and subjective tenderness from the T-12 to L-1 vertebrae, but no scars, atrophy, or swelling. (R. 125). Harris' forward flexion was limited to 10 degrees, his extension was limited to 5 degrees, his lateral flexion was limited to 5 degrees, and his iliolumbar torsional motion was limited to 45 degrees. (R. 125-26). Dr. Smith noted thickening of Harris' left wrist, and subjective tenderness in the dorsum of the radius. (R. 126). Harris had no loss of sensation. (R. 126). After reviewing multiple x-rays from 1993, Dr. Smith determined that Harris' lumbar spine revealed healed compression fractures of his T-11, T-12, and L-1 vertebrae, and an increased kyphosis at his T-12 through L-1 vertebrae. (R. 126). X-rays of Harris' left wrist revealed healed fractures of the radius and navicular bones. (R. 127). According to Dr. Smith's RFC assessment, Harris could occasionally lift 25 to 30 pounds and frequently lift 20 pounds. (R. 128). Dr. Smith opined that Harris could sit for 2 to 3 hours at a time for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. (R. 129).

  Thereafter, Harris was evaluated by Irwin I. Feinberg, M.D., at the request of his attorney. (R. 135). Dr. Feinberg noted that there was no atrophy of Harris' shoulder/arm musculature, but Harris' range of motion in his left hand was diminished. (R. 135). Dr. Feinberg opined that Harris probably had a tear of the radial ulnar cartilage and a tear in the radio scapholunate joint. (R. 135). Additionally, Dr. Feinberg noted that Harris had chronic pain in the dorsal lumbar area and in the low back area because of osteoarthritis. (R. 135). Dr. Feinberg concluded that Harris would not be able ...

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