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Robinson v. Astrue

February 11, 2009

CLAYTON ROBINSON, JR. PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nan R. Nolan

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Clayton Robinson, Jr. claims that he is disabled because he has no use of his right arm. He filed this action seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 1381a. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and have now filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth here, Mr. Robinson's motion is granted, and the Commissioner's motion is denied.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Mr. Robinson applied for SSI on February 24, 2006, claiming that he became disabled on January 1, 2005 due to an injured right arm. (R. 50.) The application was denied initially on May 25, 2006, and again on reconsideration on July 28, 2006. (R. 74-78, 80-83.) Mr. Robinson appealed the decision and requested an administrative hearing, which was held on August 15, 2007. (R. 15-30.) On February 26, 2008, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied Mr. Robinson's claim for benefits. (R. 50-56.) The ALJ found that Mr. Robinson's right arm and hand problems are severe impairments, but that he retains the residual functional capacity to perform his past work as a chicken farm laborer. (R. 53, 56.) Mr. Robinson now seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision, which stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Robinson was born on July 12, 1948 and, at 59, was a person of "advanced age" at the time of the hearing before the ALJ. (R. 18, 39.) He has an eighth grade education, but cannot read, write or drive a car. (R. 19, 22, 28.) The current application for benefits is Mr. Robinson's twelfth since approximately 1983. (R. 50, 187-90.)

A. Medical History

1. 1977 through 1987

Mr. Robinson injured his right arm on June 25, 1977 when he punched it through a glass window. (R. 246, 336.) He was admitted to the hospital with extensive laceration of the arm and, on June 29, 1977, he underwent surgery to repair the right brachial artery. (R. 245-70.) Mr. Robinson next saw a physician on December 17, 1985 for an x-ray of his right arm. The radiologist, Dr. A. Kencos, found no evidence of fracture or dislocation, but Mr. Robinson did exhibit osteoarthritic changes in his elbow. Dr. Kencos observed that the right hand was in a "semi flexion contraction position" with "deformity of the 5th metacarpal due to old fracture." (R. 275.)

On December 24, 1985, Dr. Mehroo M. Patel conducted an Arthritic Report of Mr. Robinson for the Bureau of Disability Determination Services ("DDS"). Dr. Patel noted that Mr. Robinson had chronic arthritis and "flexion contracture deformity" in his right hand due to "old trauma," and opined that he was "severely limited" in his ability to lift, carry and handle objects with his right hand. (R. 279-80.) At the bottom of his report, Dr. Patel stated: "p.s. [patient] has cardiac murmur, bradycardia and [left] vent[rical] hypertrophy." (R. 280.)

A few weeks later, on January 17, 1986, Dr. E. W. Donelan conducted a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment of Mr. Robinson on behalf of DDS. Dr. Donelan found that Mr. Robinson could frequently lift 10 pounds but never lift more than 20 pounds. He could also sit, stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday; occasionally climb, balance, stoop, kneel and crouch, but never crawl; and never push or pull with his right upper extremity. (R. 283.) Dr. Donelan stated that Mr. Robinson was "unable to do fine and/or gross movements" with, and had "no effective use" of, his right upper extremity. (R. 284.) At the request of DDS, Dr. Jose Gonzalez also conducted a Residual Functional Capacity Assessment of Mr. Robinson on April 2, 1986. Dr. Gonzalez agreed that Mr. Robinson could frequently lift 10 pounds; never lift more than 20 pounds; and stand and/or walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday. (R. 288.)

On September 5, 1986, Dr. Robert D. Keagy conducted an Arthritic Report of Mr. Robinson for DDS. (R. 292-94.) Dr. Keagy reported that Mr. Robinson had "an intrinsic minus hand on the right with perception deficits on the palmar side, both radially and ulnarly secondary to brachial plexus injury in the axilla and median and ulnar nerve lesions in the proximal forearm." (R. 292.) Dr. Keagy estimated that Mr. Robinson had "a loss of 75% of the use of the right upper extremity." He also observed that despite "considerable motor capability" in the right hand, Mr. Robinson, like most ordinary people, mostly used his "relatively normal" left hand. (R. 293-94.)

Mr. Robinson underwent a consultative examination with Dr. Marvin W. Aren on October 23, 1986. (R. 296-98.) Mr. Robinson told Dr. Aren that he lived alone at that time and cared for his own household needs. (R. 296.) Dr. Aren observed a 50% restriction in range of motion in Mr. Robinson's right upper extremity, and diagnosed "[n]euromuscular defect of the right upper extremity - post-traumatic." (R. 297-98.) Dr. Aren also noted some degenerative changes of the cervical spine. (R. 298.)

On December 3, 1986, Dr. Albert T. Kwedar evaluated Mr. Robinson's residual functional capacity. (R. 301-03.) Dr. Kwedar found Mr. Robinson capable of frequently lifting 10 pounds; never lifting more than 20 pounds; and standing and/or walking for six hours in an eight-hour workday. (R. 301.) In addition to a 50% restriction in right upper extremity movement, Dr. Kwedar also noted the existence of backache and spondylosis. (R. 302.)

Mr. Robinson saw Dr. Keagy again a few months later on May 6, 1987. (R. 305-06.) Dr. Keagy reported no change in Mr. Robinson's condition and opined that he was "only able to do the crudest of grasping with his right hand." In Dr. Keagy's view, Mr. Robinson would "only be able to move an object on a table" and could not perform any type of fine manipulation with the right hand.

(R. 305.) Approximately three months later on July 30, 1987, Dr. Kwedar reiterated his conclusion that Mr. Robinson was capable of frequently lifting 10 pounds; never lifting more than 20 pounds; and standing and/or walking for six hours in an eight-hour workday. Dr. Kwedar also added that Mr. Robinson could use his right upper extremity only for ...


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