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Matlack v. Barnhart

March 22, 2004

JACQUIE MATLACK, CLAIMANT,
v.
JOANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge

OPINION

Jacquie Matlack ("Claimant") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act ("Act") *fn1 for review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. For the following reasons, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

I.

On August 24, 2000, Claimant filed applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income with the Social Security Administration alleging an inability to work. Claimant's applications were denied both initially and upon reconsideration. (R. at 12).

On January 9, 2002, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. at 12-19). The ALJ issued a decision denying Claimant's request for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. Id. The ALJ found that Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset of disability on September 4, 1991. (R. at 13, 18). The ALJ also found that Claimant's medical complaints did not singly or combined establish a severe impairment as required by the criteria in the Commissioners Listing of Impairments, and the limitations resulting from these alleged medical complaints were not supported by objective medical evidence. 20 C.F.R. Part 404(P), App. 1.; (R. at 16, 18). Finally, the ALJ found that Claimant had regained the residual functional capacity to perform her past relevant work prior to December 31, 1996, the date she was last insured for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits as prescribed by 20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f). (R. at 17, 18).

II.

Claimant was born on March 7, 1955. (R. at 27). She completed high school and one year of cosmetology school (R. at 28), and resides in Sewell, New Jersey with her husband. (R. at 26-27). Claimant was last employed in 1991, working as a manager at Wawa. (R. at 29).

Claimant has relevant employment experience. In 1982, Claimant was employed by First Class Leasing Company, Inc. as a leasing agent. Her duties included both office work and delivering cars to customers. (R. at 33, 77). From 1983 to 1985, Claimant worked for Martin Chevrolet Buick, Inc. as a title clerk processing registration and title paperwork as well as dropping off and picking up documentation at the Motor Vehicle Bureau. (R. at 34, 78-79). In 1986, she began working as a personal secretary at Edmund Scientific, performing mostly office work, until she was promoted to director of sales, which required her to travel to trade shows. (R. at 34-35, 79). During her employment at Edmund Scientific in 1986, Claimant also worked for Burns Auto-Dealers as a sales and leasing agent. (R. at 34-35, 80). While working for Edmund Scientific in 1990, Claimant also worked for Bee-Kay Enterprises, Inc. as an office manager. (R. at 35-36, 82). Finally, while working for Edmund Scientific in 1991, Claimant also worked for Wawa, Inc. unloading supplies and stocking shelves. (R. at 30, 83). On September 4, 1991, during the course of her duties at Wawa, Claimant slipped and fell while carrying merchandise; the items she was carrying fell on top of her. (R. at 29). Since then, she has not engaged in any substantial gainful employment. (R. at 13, 18).

On October 21, 1991, Claimant was evaluated by Dr. Roy Gorin, M.D.. (R. at 14). The examination showed good range of motion in the neck, pain in the shoulder but no weakness, and some pain in the back and knee. Dr. Gorin recommended that Claimant "get back to the work force." Id. A radiological exam dated September 6, 1991, performed by Dr. Beran, showed "mild rotation of the lumbar spine." (R. at 307). A second exam dated September 25, 1991, performed by Dr. Mallon, showed "minimum arthrotic changes in the mid dorsal area." (R. at 501).

The record shows that on November 1, 1991, Claimant began treatment with Dr. Thomas Obade, M.D., for neck, shoulder, back, and thigh pain. (R. at 208, 372). She started physical therapy and was showing signs of improvement. (R. at 370-72). By December 4, 1991, Dr. Obade reported that Claimant was doing better. (R. at 370). X-rays showed minimal spurring of the shoulder. Dr. Obade believed that Claimant would be able to return to a job that required heavy lifting in four weeks (R. at 370) and could return to light duty immediately. (R. at 14). On January 3, 1992, X-rays showed minor spur formation in Claimant's right knee and dorsal spine. (R. at 163, 368).

On January 20, 1992, Claimant underwent the first of three knee surgeries performed by Dr. Obade. (R. at 161, 457). By May Dr. Obade reported that her strength was growing, while her "difficulty was when she was walking [or] doing twisting movements." (R. at 361). By June of 1992, Dr. Obade reported that Claimant was lifting more weight, had full range of motion in her knee, and only minor tenderness remained. (R. at 359).

On September 22, 1992, Claimant underwent a second knee surgery. (R. at 165-67, 471). A month latter Claimant was doing better and was eager to return to work. (R. at 354, 217). In November, a nerve study showed that the muscles in her right leg were functioning normally. (R. at 351). Dr. Obade reported in December that while there was some crepitus, Claimant was gaining muscle tone, had 140 degrees of flexion, and had no knee effusion. Id.

On February 4, 1993, Claimant underwent a third knee surgery. (R. at 170, 479). By May 1993, Dr. Obade reported that Claimant was "making satisfactory progress" and was able to bear some weight on her knee. (R. at 348). However, in April, Dr. Obade reported that it was unlikely that Claimant would be able to return to a job that involved heavy lifting. (R. at 346). Claimant's knee was doing well in May, while range of motion in her back was limited. Neurological exams showed nothing abnormal. (R. at 344). An MRI dated July 24, 1993, showed Claimant's lumbar spine to be normal (R. at 442), and on July 30, 1993, Dr. Obade was hopeful that Claimant would return to work in a few more weeks. (R. at 341). In August Dr. Obade encouraged Claimant to increase her activities at physical therapy. (R. at 342). She began receiving epidural injections from Dr. Giorgio in September. (R. at 339-340). In November, Dr. Obade reported that while her knees were doing well, Claimant's "main difficulty presently appears to be her back." (R. at 337).

In January 1994, a neurologial exam showed Claimant's lower extremities to be intact, but her back had only 25 percent normal range of motion. (R. at 336). However, Claimant missed the rest of her January appointments. In February 1994, Claimant had limited range of motion in her back, but her knees seemed to be getting better. By the end of March, it was believed that Claimant had reached a plauteau of recovery. (R. at 335). There is nothing in the record to indicate that Claimant received medical care from April 1994 to October 1994. When she did return to the doctor in October 1994, she had a good range of motion in her knees and 50 percent of a normal range of motion in her back. (R. at 334).

Claimant did not visit the doctor again until May of 1995, when X-rays showed spur formation in the knees. (R. at 334). By June of 1995, she had only mild limitations of range of motion in her knees and back. (R. at 333). Although an MRI of her lumbar spine was normal, Claimant continued to complain of back pain and limited range of motion, as well as knee tenderness in August. (R. at 332). Claimant did not visit the doctor again until mid-October 1995. During this visit she complained of diffuse ...


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