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Kocovska v. Commissioner of Social Security

September 26, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheridan, D.J.


This matter is before the Court on the appeal of Plaintiff Magda Kocovska from the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits. The issue is whether there is substantial evidence which supports the Administrative Law Judge's decision that Magda Kocovska (Plaintiff) was not disabled during the period between January 16, 1999 (date of alleged onset of disability) and December 31, 2002 (date last insured). Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Simmons v. Heckler, 807 F. 2d 54 (3d Cir. 1986). This time period will be referred to as the Period of Disability.


Plaintiff is a 60 year old woman who has resided in this country for approximately 38 years. She currently lives in Florida with her son and daughter-in-law. (R. 226-41). She is a high school graduate with no specialized training. (R. 61). Her past job experience includes a clerical position at pharmaceutical company (1997) and as a machine operator at a ribbon company (1997-1999) where she earned approximately $11,000 per year. For the majority of her career she worked as quality control inspector at an electronics factory (1970 through 1995). As an inspector, she checked electronic parts to make sure the parts were manufactured correctly which required the use of a caliper and microscope. (R. 57). In addition, she boxed the parts for shipment and recorded the contents of the boxes. The job required approximately 4 hours standing, walking, stooping and bending forward from the waist, and handling large and small objects. She was also required to lift boxes of electronic parts that weighed up to 30 pounds. (R. 58). As noted above, she worked at that job for 25 years at which time the company closed. According to Plaintiff, she stopped working at her last job as a machine operator because "I just couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't function. I couldn't stand on my feet. I felt my hands weren't working anymore". (R. 56). At the hearing, she stated that prior to 2002, she could not work because of her back, her memory and her foot problems.

Plaintiff explained that she could not work presently because "I got back problem. I'm so depressed." Plaintiff related that her memory was not that good, and that she had been treated for depression since 2003 or 2004. She stopped the psychiatric treatment because she couldn't afford it. She insisted that she could only stand for an hour, and that she was so depressed she could not sleep. Plaintiff lamented that she sometimes cried and wanted to be by herself (R. 238).

During the Period of Disability, the Plaintiff had some illness and conservative treatment; but not as intense as Plaintiff describes. Her medical treatment is outlined below.

On February 9, 1999, Plaintiff presented with complaints of persistent back pain. (R. 147). The doctor found no tenderness, a negative straight leg raising test and a full range of motion. She was conservatively treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ("NSAID").

More than a year later, Plaintiff was treated for a migraine headache with spots before her eyes that had lasted 10 days. She was prescribed Tylenol #3. (R. 147).

On May 22, 2000 Plaintiff sought emergency treatment at Hackensack University Hospital for severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. She was treated with Aciphex and released. (R. 92). Her lab results for the most part were within normal range. Later that summer, an abdominal ultrasound revealed a small gallstone, but was otherwise unremarkable. (R. 104).

Plaintiff had foot surgery in 2001. John Guardara, M.D. performed surgery on Plaintiff's foot for a bone spur in May 2001. The ALJ contacted Dr. Guardara prior to the hearing about Plaintiff's condition at that time. Dr. Guardara responded that he had not seen Plaintiff since July 2001, and was unable to opine as to her ability to do work related activities at that time. (R. 170-175).

On March 12, 2003, Plaintiff treated with Waiel Abdelwahab, M.D. on several occasions. Progress notes indicate that Plaintiff complained of pain in both legs, low back pain for one year, left arm pain and that she had high cholesterol. She also suffered from heartburn and was diagnosed with reflux esophagitis and was to return in two months for a follow up. (R. 114). Lab reports were in the normal range except for high cholesterol. (R. 115, 125-26).

The only diagnostic test with regard to Plaintiff's back pain is an April 10, 2003 MRI of the lumbar spine. The impression was 1) changes of diffuse degenerative disc disease; 2) small left paracentral and lateral recess protrusion T12 - L1, without significant neural compromise; 3) diffuse broad based disc bulge at L3 -4 with superimposed changes of degenerative facet osteoarthropathy contributing to mild stenosis; 4) additional diffuse disc bulge at L4-5; and 5) asymmetric disc bulge at L1-2, with mild flattening of ventral thecal sac, with no significant neural foraminal compromise seen.

A year later (February 9, 2004), an ultrasound diagnosed a pelvic/ovarian cyst. (R. 156). It appears that this went untreated.

On February 19, 2005, a routine physical examination by Dr. Ehab Ibraham was unremarkable, except for unspecified chest pain. (R. 134). Shortly thereafter, (March 11, 2005) a routine physical examination proved unremarkable. She denied having any problems or pain. Her general appearance was alert, well developed, well nourished and well groomed. She reported no anxiety or depression. (R. 130). She was diagnosed with elevated cholesterol; other malaise and fatigue, and esophageal ...

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