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Bird v. Colvin

United States District Court, District of Maryland, Southern Division

March 10, 2015

PETER BIRD, 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.

Peter Bird ("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 are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20).[1] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that he was not disabled before his 55th birthday. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

I

Background

Plaintiff was born in 1958, has a high-school education, and previously worked as a security screener and security-system operator. R. at 28, 42, 44. Plaintiff applied for DIB protectively on April 27, 2010, and for SSI on May 6, 2010, alleging disability beginning on April 1, 2010, due to a stroke. R. at 29-30, 232-42, 264. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 101-04, 127-41. On November 17, 2011, ALJ C.J. Sturek held a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. R. at 71-100. On December 1, 2011, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. R. at 105-21. On October 2, 2012, the Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review, vacated the ALJ's decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. R. at 122-25.

On April 29, 2013, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing at which Plaintiff and another VE testified. R. at 37-70. On May 6, 2013, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled before his 55th birthday, but became disabled on that date through the date of the decision. R. at 13-36. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 23, 2013. R. at 1-5. 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 September 25, 2013, 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. The case subsequently was reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now fully submitted.

II

Summary of Evidence

A. Opinion Evidence

On August 5, 2010, Sisom Osia, M.D., conducted a consultative examination of Plaintiff. R. at 364-70. The doctor's musculoskeletal examination revealed that Plaintiff had full muscle strength, normal cervical range of motion, and normal range of motion in both elbows. R. at 368. Lumbar range of motion demonstrated "90 degrees flexion without pain." R. at 368. Plaintiff reported the following limitations to Dr. Osia:

After sitting more than 30 minutes [Plaintiff's] back hurts and with resultant shift of position.
After standing 2 minutes [Plaintiff] has leg pain.
After walking a few minutes [Plaintiff] reports pain in the legs, stop, bend over [sic].
After walking less than 1 block[] [Plaintiff] reports leg pain.
[Plaintiff] is able to lift 15-30 pounds of weight.
[Plaintiff] is unable to carry weight of 15 pounds.
He has good hand grip.
[Plaintiff] complains he can . . . sit down for a while without problem.
[Plaintiff] has normal speech.
He has normal hearing.

R. at 368.

Dr. Osia's remarks included the following:

[Plaintiff's] work related activities [have] been stated in his own words. He said he had fluid in the left knee and this was drained earlier this year. He said he was working as a [security] officer before his stroke and that his equilibrium has been off since then. He said that his stroke was in April of 2010 and that he was discharged from Washington Hospital Center without physical therapy. He could not squat because of low back pain and left knee pain. He ambulates with a cane but I doubt if he needs it. His physical [examination] and lack of record [do] not support his [claim]. I will suggest a review of medical records and or neurology referral. There is no sensory or motor deficits noted during this evaluation.

R. at 368-69.

On October 5, 2010, Jerry Mann, M.D., a state agency medical consultant, assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity ("RFC"). R. at 373-80. Dr. Mann opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling. R. at 374. Plaintiff occasionally could kneel and crawl and frequently could climb, balance, stoop, and crouch. R. at 1. He had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations, however. R. at 376-77. Dr. Mann found no medical ...


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