United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JEFFREY COLE, Magistrate Judge.
The plaintiff, Ronald Mangliardi, seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner ("Commissioner") of the Social Security Administration ("Agency") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2). Mr. Mangliardi asks the court to reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision, while the Commissioner seeks an order affirming the decision.
Mr. Mangliardi applied for DIB on September 30, 2008, alleging that he had become disabled on August 18, 2006, due to degenerative disc disease, radiculitis, and a herniated disc in his back. (Administrative Record ("R.") 142-43, 180). His application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 57-58, 70-75). Mr. Mangliardi continued pursuit of his claim by filing a timely request for a hearing. (R. 81-95).
An administrative law judge ("ALJ") convened a hearing on August 11, 2010, at which Mr. Kujawski, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. (R. 28-56). In addition, Mr. Mangliardi's wife also testified and James Breen testified as a vocational expert. On September 9, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Mr. Mangliardi was not disabled and not entitled to DIB because he retained the capacity to perform light work with certain postural restrictions. (R. 13-27). This became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Mr. Mangliardi's request for review of the decision on December 21, 2011. (R. 7-11). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955; 404.981. Mr. Mangliardi has appealed that decision to the federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
The Vocational Evidence
Mr. Mangliardi was born on June 30, 1971, making him thirty-nine years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. (R. 142). He has a high school education. (R. 186). His work history consists of heavy work, driving a truck and delivering drywall. He had to frequently carry over 50 pounds and sometimes lifted weights of over 100 pounds. (R. 181-82). He held that job for thirteen years until he injured his back. (R. 34). He stopped working for good in February of 2007. (R. 180).
The Medical Evidence
Mr. Mangliardi went to see Dr. Chang on September 19, 2006, after experiencing low back for a month. He reported that he injured his back at work on August 18th. Examination revealed minor tenderness and minor limitation of range of motion. Neurological exam was normal. An MRI from September 6th showed mild degeneration at L4-5 and L5-S1, and residual S1-2 disc. Noting there were no neurological problems, Dr. Chang recommended physical therapy. (R. 474).
On October 23, 2006, examination revealed that Mr. Mangliardi had a moderate limitation in lumbar flexion and a marked limitation in extension. He had moderate limitations in side flexion and rotation as well. His strength was rated at 4-5/5 throughout. Physical therapy was discontinued due to lack of significant progress toward goals. (R. 479-80).
Dr. Angelopoulos reported on October 31, 2006, that Mr. Mangliardi continued to suffer low back pain which was worse with standing or walking. The pain did not radiate to the extremities. Mr. Magliardi was getting some relief from Vicodin. Physical therapy did not provide much improvement. Dr. Angelopoulos noted that the September MRI showed small disc bulges at L4-5 and L5-S1. There was tenderness and muscle spasticity in that area. Range of motion studies reproduced pain at just 10 degrees flexion. Gait, sensation, and motor function were normal. Dr. Angelopoulos fitted Mr. Mangliardi with a brace and scheduled steroid injections. (R. 472). Mr. Mangliardi received epidural steroid injections on November 8th and 27th. (R. 476-77).
As of December 8, 2006, functional capacity evaluation rated Mr. Mangliardi capable of medium work, but this was still short of the demands of his job. (R. 485). Physical exam at that time was unremarkable - range of motion was normal. (R. 485). Mr. Mangliardi's gait was odd, however, as he tried to walk without touching his right heel to the ground as though he had some painful heel condition. No reason for this could be uncovered, however. (R. 485). He began a work conditioning program. (R. 485).
A January 4, 2007 functional capacities evaluation found Mr. Mangliardi ready to return full duty and perform very heavy work. (R. 491). His gait was at times dysfunctional, but it was steady as he carried loads up to 70 pounds. (R. 491). He was able to evenly distribute his body weight when lifting 110 pounds from the floor to his hips. (R. 491). He was discharged from the work hardening program. (R. 488). Dr. Chang released Mr. Mangliardi for work for a trial period of one month. (R. 470).
X-rays in February 2007 revealed moderately advanced spondylosis at L3-S1 with some scoliosis consistent with muscle spasm. (R. 463). In March 2007, x-rays of Mr. Mangliardi's feet revealed no problems. (R. 462). Mr. Mangliardi was fitted with orthotics to improve his gait. (R. 461). On April 9, 2007, Dr. Montella reported it was unreasonable for Mr. Mangliardi to participate in work in any way. (R. 458). The doctor stated that surgical intervention was a medical necessity on May 7, 2007. (R. 457).
Mr. Mangliardi underwent lumbar disc decompression at L3-4 and L4-5 on May 9, 2007. (R. 464-65). As of July 27, 2007, Mr. Magliardi was "trending toward improvement" but still could not perform any level of work. (R. 454). That remained Dr. Montella's assessment through September, when he noted that Mr. Magliardi was still having difficulties that were ...