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Arrington v. Colvin

United States District Court, District of Maryland, Southern Division

December 11, 2014

JAMES ARRINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

James Arrington (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying his applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 20.[1] Defendant contends that substantial evidence in the administrative record supports the Commissioner’s final decision that Plaintiff is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20) is GRANTED, and the Commissioner’s decision is AFFIRMED.

I

Background

Plaintiff was born in 1961, has a tenth-grade education, and previously worked as a finish carpenter. R. at 21-22. Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI on December 1, 2010, alleging disability beginning on March 1, 2008 (later amended to May 2, 2011), due to two “bad knees, ” a herniated disc, arthritis, and developmental delays. R. at 20, 108-18, 136. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff’s applications initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 29-51, 55-71. On June 19, 2012, ALJ Eugene Bond held a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 18-28. On August 2, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled since the amended alleged onset date of disability of May 2, 2011. R. at 6-17. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff’s request for review on September 11, 2013. R. at 1-5, 208. The ALJ’s decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

On November 13, 2013, represented by counsel, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner’s decision. Upon the parties’ consent, this case was transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. On August 25, 2014, the Court granted Plaintiff’s counsel’s motion to withdraw and notified Plaintiff. The Commissioner thereafter filed her Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20). On October 21, 2014, the Clerk of Court notified Plaintiff that he had seventeen days to file a response to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and that failure to file a timely written response could lead to dismissal of the case or to entry of judgment against him without further notice (ECF No. 21). The case subsequently was reassigned to the undersigned. To date, Plaintiff has filed neither a motion for summary judgment nor a response to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. The matter is now fully submitted.

II

Summary of Evidence

A. Rashid Khan, M.D.

On February 7, 2011, Dr. Khan conducted a consultative musculoskeletal examination of Plaintiff. R. at 215-20. Plaintiff had injured his back with two herniated discs after being involved in a motor vehicle accident in 1989, and he subsequently underwent physical therapy. R. at 215.

He stated that [the] pain got better but did not go away completely. Presently he complains of constant lower back pain mostly on the left side. Pain is aching in nature. It gets worse off and on if he does [a] lot of standing[, ] walking and driving. Pain is helped by over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol arthritis or Aleve.

R. at 215. Plaintiff also complained of pain in both knees:

Right knee pain started after a motor vehicle accident in 2001. He had also [a] motorcycle accident in 2005 which aggravated the pain in [the] right knee and started pain in [the] left knee. Pain is constant and aching type. It becomes sharp off and on. Sometime[s] [his] knee gives out. Pain is helped if he sits down, rest[s] and uses [Icy Hot] or Bengay cream. . . . He stated that left knee pain is less as compared to the right. Prolonged standing and walking increases the pain.

R. at 215. He further complained of pain in both elbows after his involvement in the motorcycle accident, which worsened if he lifted heavy objects. R. at 215.

Dr. Khan’s physical examination of Plaintiff revealed that his cervical spine’s range of motion was pain-free, he exhibited full range of motion in the lumbosacral spine, and that his straight-leg raising test was negative. R. at 216. Plaintiff’s upper and lower extremities demonstrated normal muscle strength and range of motion within functional limits. R. at 216-18. Dr. Khan noted that Plaintiff was able to rise from a chair and get on and off the examination table without assistance. R. at 216. Dr. Khan’s assessment included the following:

[Plaintiff] reports pain in his lower back, knees and elbows. He is significantly obese. He will be limited to perform[ing] prolonged standing and walking as well as lifting and carrying heavy objects. His gait is normal. He does not require any ...

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