Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Jack D. Ferrell v. Commissioner of Social Security

September 26, 2011

JACK D. FERRELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jack D. Ferrell ("Claimant") applied for disability insurance on September 19, 2007 (Tr. 91). The Social Security Administration denied the application initially on November 14, 2007, and again upon reconsideration on January 23, 2008 (Tr. 21, 46). By decision dated July 22, 2009, the ALJ found that Claimant was not entitled to disability insurance benefits as he was not disabled under the Social Security Act at any time from September 12, 2007 through the date of the decision (Tr. 25). Claimant's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on November 5, 2009 (Tr. 35). Thus, the administrative law judge's ("ALJ") decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481; Skarbeck v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 500, 503 (7th Cir. 2004). Claimant now seeks judicial review of the Agency's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the reasons stated below, the Claimant's petition is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Claimant's Application for Benefits

Claimant was born on July 10, 1955 (Tr. 91). He was 55 years-old at the onset of disability date of September 12, 2007. Id. Claimant has a GED and worked from 1987 to September 12, 2007 as a service technician supervisor at a tire company (Tr. 13, 94). His job duties included lifting and carrying tires and tools that weighed between 10 to 25 pounds. Id. Claimant alleged that he injured his back while lifting tires at work on September 12, 2007, which caused him to stop working (Tr. 27). Claimant also alleges that heart spasms, arthritis, and sciatica limit his ability to work (Tr. 106). Claimant's date last insured is December 31, 2011 (Tr. 25).

Summary of Medical Records

The medical records indicate that Claimant underwent lumbar disc surgery in 1977 (Tr. 218). While at work on September 12, 2007, Claimant experienced a sudden onset of back pain as he stacked tires (Tr. 275). He subsequently developed pain which radiated down his left leg from his thigh to his calf. Id. Claimant reported that his symptoms were worse with sitting and standing. Id. Dr. Steven Knight, Claimant's family physician, placed him on Naproxen for pain, along with Skelaxin and Lyrica. Id. Claimant then underwent an MRI scan study which demonstrated post-operative scarring at L4 and L5 on the right, as well as an old compression deformity at L-4. Id. As a result, Dr. Knight referred Claimant to Dr. Steven Kuric, a neurosurgeon.

On September 27, 2007, Claimant saw Dr. Steven R. Turner, a cardiologist, for catherization following an abnormal stress test (Tr. 185). Dr. Turner noted that his angina is now well-controlled and Claimant "has done well from a cardiovascular standpoint." Id. His impression is that Claimant suffered from "some degree of coronary spasm, but with minimal coronary artery disease" (Tr. 187). Dr. Turner, however, remarked that Claimant was experiencing excruciating back pain due to a work injury, and does not seem to be improving with Lortab (Tr. 185). Dr. Turner recommended that Claimant's appointment with Dr. Kuric be expedited because Claimant is "miserable" and is only able to "lay on the couch in a fetal position" (Tr. 186).

On October 3, 2007, Claimant saw Dr. Steven Kuric for complaints of back pain which radiated down to his left leg and right thigh (Tr. 218). Claimant's symptoms became worse when he stood or sat. Id. At that time, Claimant was taking Lortab and Naproxin for pain, along with Skelaxin and Lyrica. Id. Dr. Kuric reviewed Claimant's previous MRI scan study and noted "changes with the disc at L4-L5 and post-surgical changes on the right" (Tr. 275). He remarked, despite Claimant's complaints of pain he was "a little bit underwhelmed" by the MRI findings, stating that they "are not really very substantial" (Tr. 219). Dr. Kuric recommended that Claimant undergo back surgery or, in the alternative, he be given a prescription for a Medrol dose pack and an epidural steroid injection (Tr. 226). After discussing the options with Dr. Kuric, Claimant chose to take the Medrol and receive an epidural steroid injection Id.

On October 16, 2007, Claimant completed an Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire (Tr. 102-104). He indicated that his back and leg pain makes it difficult to use his arms and hands, stand and move about (Tr. 102-103). He experienced difficulty getting up from a chair, getting out of bed, climbing stairs and using a bathtub and shower (Tr. 103). Claimant reported that he only able to sit and stand for minutes at a time, which prevents him from doing simple household chores and preparing meals. Id. He stated that he has not driven since the day of his injury, September 12, 2007. Id. Claimant indicated that his only relief comes from lying down, and he estimated that he spent twenty-two hours each day in bed. Id.

Claimant continued to experience pain in his left leg, along with numbness and tingling sensation (Tr. 230). As a result, Dr. Kuric suggested that Claimant undergo a lumbar myelogram and CT scan study. Id. The October 18, 2007 lumbar myelogram revealed decreased filling of the L5 nerve root on the left at the L4-L5 level, and the CT scan study showed some facet arhropathy, foraminal narrowing at L4 and L5 (Tr. 230). Due to complaints of back pain and numbness and a tingling sensation in his left leg, Dr. Kuric recommended that Claimant undergo a lumbar discectomy at L4-L5 (Tr. 241). Claimant had the procedure done on November 1, 2007 (Tr. 231).

On November 9, 2007, Marion Panepinto, a state agency physician, evaluated Claimant's medical records and completed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment (Tr. 282-289). The agency evaluator found, based upon the medical records, that Claimant could occasionally lift or carry up to twenty pounds; frequently lift or carry up to ten pounds; stand, sit or walk for a total of six hours in an eight-hour; and perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling (Tr. 282-289). The evaluator found no postural, manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations that would prevent Claimant from performing work activities. Id. The evaluator noted that there were no treating or examining source statements regarding the Claimant's physical capabilities in his file (Tr. 288).

Claimant seemed to be improving on December 4, 2007, as his wound had healed and he no longer had pain in his leg (Tr. 240). Claimant, however, reported pain in his left buttock area (Tr. 241). At that time, Dr. Kuric was unable to determine if the surgery had improved Claimant's back pain, so he recommended that Claimant continue taking Naproxen but only take the Skelaxin on an as needed basis. Id.

Claimant completed a second Activities of Daily Living Questionnaire on December 26, 2007 (Tr. 119-121). Claimant reiterated many of the same complaints written in his previous questionnaire on October 16, 2007. He reported that he was only able to stand for a few minutes, while he could sit for as many as thirty minutes without having to lay down (Tr. 120).

Claimant reported lingering back pain in January 2008 (Tr. 239-240). Dr. Kuric noted that Claimant's wound was "well healed" with no swelling and minimal tenderness (Tr. 240). Claimant primarily complained of pain around the site of the wound, but otherwise seemed to be doing "fairly well." Id. A January 1, 2008 MRI revealed a "diffuse posterior disc bulge that is coming in contact with exiting left L-4 nerve root and to a lesser extent right L-4 nerve root in the neural foramina. Enhancing granulation tissue is seen along the left margin of spinal canal is minimally the thecal sac and may be causing mass effect in left L-5 nerve root in the lateral recess" (Tr. 235-236).

Claimant continued to complain of back pain on January 8 and 11, 2008; as a result, Dr. Kuric recommended that he commence physical therapy and placed Claimant on Medrol and an epidural steroid injection (Tr. 239). Claimant subsequently participated in physical therapy until April 2008 (Tr. 321-350). He attended nineteen treatment days, and had eleven cancellations and one no-show day. Id.

Claimant returned for a follow-up visit with Dr. Kuric on February 19, 2008 (Tr. 360). Dr. Kuric reported that Claimant had begun physical therapy and was showing improvement, although Claimant still reported pain in his back and his left leg. Id. He reviewed the results of the January 1, 2008 MRI scan with Claimant and noted that there was no significant mass effect on the nerve root. Id. Dr. Kuric expressed his amazement that Claimant was still symptomatic more than three months after surgery even though his laboratory work did not show any evidence of inflammatory or infectious change. Id. He recommended that Claimant continue physical therapy, as well as his regular doses of Lortab, Skelaxin, Mobic and Lyrica. Id. Dr. Kuric also gave Claimant a Medrol dose pack and discussed the alternative of receiving a lumbar epidural steroid injection. Id.

On December 17, 2007, Claimant had a follow-up visit with Dr. Knight (Tr. 291-292). Claimant presented with complaints of back pain (Tr. 291). Dr. Knight noted that Claimant's suture line was healed, but he was still having difficulty walking. Id. Upon physical examination, Dr. Knight found tenderness over the lumbar vertebra, no swelling or pain, and full range of motion. Id. Claimant continued to see Dr. Knight on a monthly basis until November 2008 (Tr. 374-401). Dr. Knight reported similar findings in each report. Id.

On January 22, 2008, C.A. Gotway, a state agency physician, evaluated Claimant's medical records and completed a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Assessment (Tr. 313-320). The agency evaluator found, based upon the medical records, that Claimant could occasionally lift or carry 20 pounds; frequently lift or carry 10 pounds; stand or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour work day; sit for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling (Tr. 314). No postural, manipulative, visual or communicative limitations were established (Tr. 315-317). Regarding environmental limitations, Claimant should avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as machinery and heights (Tr. 317). The evaluator noted that he did consider treating and examining source statements regarding the Claimant's physical capabilities in his file (Tr. 319). Based upon his review of the record, the evaluator concluded that Claimant would be capable of light work activity beginning on November 1, 2008, one year after his surgery (Tr. 320).

By the time he returned to Dr. Kuric for a follow-up visit on April 28, 2008, Claimant had received three transforaminal epidural injections (Tr. 353). Claimant reported some improvement, however, he still complained of pain in his leg. Id. Despite his leg pain, Claimant only occasionally took Lortab, and at times, he did not take it at all. Id. Claimant told Dr. Kuric that had improved over and beyond his pre-operative state and seemed to feel better than he had at his last visit. Id. Dr. Kuric had discussions with Claimant about returning to work, and returning to work with restrictions; but Claimant was concerned about whether returning to work with restrictions would be compatible with his job responsibilities. Id. Dr. Kuric told Claimant that his MRI findings were insignificant other than post-surgical changes on the left side. Id. Dr. Kuric ruled out taking further diagnostic tests and stated that further surgery may not be beneficial to Claimant. Id. Dr. Kuric opined that Claimant may have reached the end of treatment from the standpoint of surgery, as he did not believe the pain in Claimant's leg would subside. Id. He then recommended that Claimant undergo a functional capacity evaluation to adequately determine his restrictions. Id.

On May 9, 2008, Claimant underwent a physical capacity evaluation (Tr. 403-405). The report found the test results to be "invalid" due to Claimant's "submaximal effort" according to his validity profile (Tr. 403). The report further stated that Claimant's actual functional ability must be determined by professional judgment." Id. Claimant exhibited symptom/disability exaggeration indicating that there was a "non-organic component to his pain, medical impairment and disability." Id. Dr. Kuric commented that, based upon the invalid test results, he could only guess that Claimant "might be able to work in a sedentary capacity ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.