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Chester J. Grabowski v. Michael J. Astrue

March 10, 2011

CHESTER J. GRABOWSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER
OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PISANO,District Judge.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

OPINION

Before the Court is the appeal of Plaintiff Chester J. Grabowski from the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying his request for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The Court has jurisdiction to review this matter under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) and decides this matter without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For the reasons below, the Court finds that the record provides substantial evidence supporting the Administrative Law Judge‟s ("ALJ") decision that Plaintiff did not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, and therefore, he was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Court thus affirms the Commissioner‟s final decision.

I.BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on March 13, 1961, and, at the time of his hearing before the ALJ on April 1, 2009, was 48 years old. (Administrative Record ("R.") at 27.) He is a high school graduate. (R. at 92.) He worked as a machinist until his alleged disability onset beginning January 27, 1998. (R. at 28.) Due to his work history, his date last insured for DIB was December 31, 2003. (R. at 26.)

A.Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on April 26, 2007, (R. at 18), alleging that he became disabled on January 27, 1998 due to a leg ulcer, obesity, and deep vein thrombosis, (R. at 88.) The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff‟s claims both initially and upon reconsideration. (R. at 39-49.) Upon Plaintiff‟s request, a hearing was held before ALJ James Andres on April 1, 2009, during which Plaintiff appeared to provide testimony. (R. at 24-37, 52.) On May 1, 2009, ALJ Andres issued a written decision denying Plaintiff‟s claim.

(R. at 15-23.) A request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on October 23, 2009, making the ALJ‟s decision the Commissioner‟s final decision on the issue of Plaintiff‟s request for benefits. (R. at 1-3.)

Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this matter alleging that ALJ Andres‟s decision was not based on substantial evidence and was legally erroneous. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ‟s findings at step two of the requisite five-step analysis were not supported by substantial evidence and were legally erroneous. As to relief, Plaintiff seeks reversal of the Commissioner‟s Order denying benefits or, in the alternative, remand to the Commissioner.

B.Factual History 1. Plaintiff's Previous Employment

Plaintiff‟s past relevant work history includes working as a machinist for at least 15 years before his alleged disability. (R. at 106.) This work entailed standing for eight hours a day, five days a week. (R. at 107.) It also required walking, climbing, lifting, carrying, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, reaching, and handling small objects. (R. at 107.) Plaintiff had to lift and carry weights in excess of 50 pounds on a daily basis, as needed. (R. at 107.) As Plaintiff explained in his work history report, his job consisted of "heavy industrial work, dragging out heavy steel, jumping on and off [a] forklift [and] constant standing." (R. at 113.)

2.Plaintiff's Daily Activities

Plaintiff testified at the hearing that he spends much of his time at home sitting with his legs elevated. (R. at 36.) He doesn‟t frequent restaurants or the movies, but he takes his dog out to walk it in the yard, and he socializes with neighbors. (R. at 36.) In the questionnaire he completed regarding his daily activities, Plaintiff indicated that during the day he walks the dog, watches television, goes on the Internet, reads the newspaper, and eats.

(R. at 98.) In addition, he attends to his alleged disability by taking medication, having his mother bathe and dress his leg, and elevating his leg. (R. at 98.)

3. Plaintiff's Medical History

On February 27, 1996, Plaintiff was admitted to Saint Peter‟s Medical Center in New Brunswick with a chief complaint of severe skin swelling in the right leg for the two prior days. (R. at 132.) He stayed there for fifteen days upon being diagnosed with thrombophlebitis. (R. at 132.) His attending physician, Hans Gandhi, M.D., concluded that Plaintiff was obese, had deep vein thrombosis, and an infection of the veins. (R. at 133.) Because of his obesity and the continuous standing involved in Plaintiff‟s job, this was anot an unusual case of deep vein thrombosis. (R. at 133.) After his doctors received evidence of blood clots in several veins of his right leg, Plaintiff was aggressively treated with Heparin and later with Coumadin. (R. at 132.) Plaintiff was discharged as "markedly improved" after responding to the treatment, even though he still exhibited some swelling of the leg. (R. at 132-33.)

From the relevant time period for disability, from January 27, 1998 to December 31, 2003, the only medical records that exist regarding Plaintiff‟s alleged impairments are notes from Plaintiff‟s visits to Dr. Gandhi from January 12, 2002 to November 29, 2003. (R. at 171-74.) Many of these notes are illegible; nevertheless, from what the Court can discern, it appears that Dr. Gandhi noted the following: on January 12, 2002, Plaintiff‟s right leg was swollen; on March 30, 2002, Plaintiff‟s left leg was sprained; on June 8, 2002, Plaintiff weighed 350-400 pounds and his legs were soft but swollen; on July 20, 2002, Plaintiff‟s right leg was swollen; on September 9 and October 19, 2002 visits, Plaintiff could not be weighed on the scale; on July 26, 2003, Plaintiff weighed 350 pounds; on August 30, 2003, Plaintiff weighed 350 pounds or more; and on October 18, 2003, Plaintiff weighed 350 pounds or more and his legs were unchanged. (R. at 171-74.)

After the relevant time period, Dr. Gandhi submitted a handwritten note on September 18, 2007, stating that the "patient is totally disabled for any kind of work at present." (R. at 177.) On October 2, 2007 another letter from Dr. Gandhi explained that Plaintiff was disabled prior to December 2003 and "could not do any type of work for one year." (R. at 180.) On July 18, 2008, Dr. Gandhi explained in yet another letter that Plaintiff regularly visited his office every four to eight weeks, that Plainiff‟s legs remain ...


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