The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MASON, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...