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McLACHLAN v. BARNHART

CATHERINE McLACHLAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARTIN ASHMAN, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Catherine McLachlan seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration that she was not entitled to Supplemental Security Income ("SSI").*fn1 The parties have consented to have this Court conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including the entry of final judgment. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Local R. 73.1(a). Presently before this Court are both Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Defendant's motion and denies Plaintiff's motion. I. Procedural History

  On August 18, 1998, Plaintiff applied for SSI benefits alleging disability due to arm, leg and neck pain since November 13, 1995.*fn2 (R. at 34, 60.) After the application was denied both initially and on reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (R. at 34, 39, 43.) On November 17, 1999, the ALJ conducted the administrative hearing and heard testimony from Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert. (R. at 652-701.) On March 22, 2000, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. (R. at 19-26.) This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on June 27, 2002, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. at 8-9.) See 20 C.F.R. § 422.210(a). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of that decision.

  II. Background Facts

  A. Plaintiff's Background

  Plaintiff was born on March 17, 1951, and was forty-nine years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. at 19, 26.) She has thirteen years of education and past work experience as a home health care attendant and as a hairdresser. (R. at 19.) Plaintiff was employed as a hairdresser when she slipped and fell on November 11, 1995. (R. at 112, 118.) B. Medical History

  Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room on November 11, 1995 after her fall and was seen by Dr. Afzal Hussain. Dr. Hussain diagnosed Plaintiff with hemarthrosis*fn3 in the left elbow. (R. at 112.) The x-rays did not reveal any definitive evidence of a fracture, though there was tenderness and swelling around the elbow which suggested a fracture may have been present. (R. at 114.)

  Plaintiff's fall marked the beginning of a series of health problems and hospital visits. On November 16, 1995, Plaintiff went to Mercy Center Occupational Health Services complaining of left elbow pain. (R. at 118.) Although the x-ray report did not provide evidence of a fracture, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a radial head fracture in the left arm and referred to an orthopedist. (Id.) She denied any numbness or pareshesia to her left hand (Id.)

  On February 1, 1997, Plaintiff went to the emergency room at Alexian Brothers Medical Center complaining of severe left arm pain. (R. at 120.) An examination of Plaintiff's cervical spine revealed mild degenerative changes and no evidence of a fracture. (R. at 124.) Electromyographic results indicated a mild dysfunction of the ulnar nerve across the elbow. (R. at 135.)

  On September 16, 1998, Plaintiff went to the emergency room at Rush-Copley Medical Center complaining of pain in her neck, arm and back. (R. at 136.) She also complained of right lumbar hip pain that radiated down her right leg. (Id.) Plaintiff indicated that she needed disability papers filled out. (Id.) Plaintiff's left arm was put in a sling and she was told to follow-up with Dr. Goldfarb for the pain in her left arm and with neurosurgeon Dr. Gryfinski for her lower back pain. (R. at 138.)

  Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Richard Grayson on November 12, 1998. (R. at 145.) Plaintiff reported pain in the left elbow and upper arm, pain in the left side of her neck, pain in the right buttock running down the right leg, occasional swelling in the left wrist, a clicking sound in the left forearm, and occasional numbness in the right hand (Id.) The examination indicated that Plaintiff had a full range of motion in the knees and spine. (R. at 146.) It also revealed that Plaintiff's grip in the left hand was very weak, (one out of ten), while the grip in the right hand was normal, (ten out of ten). (Id.) Plaintiff was able to rotate and flex both elbows normally and she had a normal range of motion of both shoulders. (Id.) The diagnostic impression was possible cervical radiculopathy on the left and possible cervical disc syndrome on the left. (Id.)

  On December 1, 1998, a state agent determined Plaintiff's RFC and found that Plaintiff could perform light work with limited pushing and pulling in her left upper extremity. (R. at 101-08.) Then on December 9, 1998, Dr. R.T. Patey, a state agency medical consultant, reviewed the medical evidence and the RFC assessment and concurred with the findings. (R. at 108.) The RFC assessment determined that Plaintiff should never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds due to the weakness in her left arm and should avoid working around heavy machinery and unprotected heights. (R. at 103, 105.) On April 1, 1999, Dr. James Graham also reviewed the medical evidence and the RFC assessment and agreed with the conclusions. (R. at 108.)

  On January 15, 1999, Plaintiff went to the Hygienic Institute Community Health Center complaining of a sore right shin. (R. at 150.) The treatment notes indicated that Plaintiff had been scraping off scabs on her legs with a knife and that she believed the center of the wound had "stinger type" object which she claimed to have removed. (Id.) Plaintiff's right shin was red and ulcerated. (Id.) On January 22, 1999, Plaintiff returned to the Hygienic Institute for a follow-up visit and was instructed to stop scraping her leg, which was not infected. (R. at 151.) She complained of left arm pain, but was found to have a full range of motion in her left arm and her elbow extended and flexed fully. (R. at 152.)

  Plaintiff went to the emergency room at the Community Hospital of Ottawa on March 19, 1999 because she wanted another opinion on her leg. She stated that she scratched the scabs off the lesions on her legs because it makes it feel better. (R. at 162.) There is no swelling to the calf, no petechiae, and no pedal edema. (Id.) An x-ray of the tibia and fibula did not reveal any abnormalities. (R. at 165.)

  C. Plaintiff's Testimony

  At the hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff testified to having pain in her neck, shoulders, back, left arm and right leg. (R. at 663.) She stated she was suppose to take Celebrex, but did not have the money to pay for it so she took Extra Strength Tylenol and Tylenol PM for the pain, which helped. (R. at 661-62.) Plaintiff also claimed that the pain in her shoulder and arm occurred ninety-five percent of the time. (R. at 664.) She rated her pain as an eight on a zero to ten scale and stated that the pain limited her ability to stand, sit and walk. (R. at 666, 670-73.) She testified to being able to walk "a lot," but believed her walking ability had been adversely affected by the ninety brown recluse spider ...


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