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Eshon Mitchell v. Commissioner of Social Security

July 20, 2011


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


Before the Court is Plaintiff Eshon Mitchell‟s appeal of the final administrative decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), with respect to Administrative Law Judge Richard L. De Steno‟s ("ALJ") denial of Mitchell‟s claim for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act (the "Act").

This appeal is decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). For the reasons stated herein, this Court AFFIRMS the Commissioner‟s decision.


On November 3, 2006, Mitchell filed for SSI for an alleged disability starting on July 1, 2003. (ALJ‟s Dec. at 1.) Her claim was initially denied on June 22, 2007, and again upon reconsideration on November 8, 2007. (Id.) Mitchell requested a hearing that was held on January 28, 2010, before the ALJ, (Id.), who issued a ruling against her on February 9, 2010.

(Id. at 8.) Subsequently, the Appeals Council denied Mitchell‟s request for review. (Appeal Council Dec. at 1.) Thereafter, Mitchell filed this appeal with the Court. (Pl.‟s Br. at 1, July 7, 2010.)

A. Employment History

Plaintiff, Eshon Mitchell, was born on May 29, 1969. (Eshon Mitchell Hr‟g Tr. at 4, January 28, 2010.) She did not attend college but did receive her General Equivalence Diploma. (Id. at 5.) Mitchell‟s employment history is sparse but some time after 1995 she began working off the books full-time as a secretary for her uncle‟s tax accounting firm. (Id. at 5-6.) She worked there for about 10 or 11 years. (Id. at 6.) She lifted and carried whatever she had to for the purposes of her job but her main functions were filing paperwork, taking care of clients, keeping the office clean, and running errands. (Id. at 6-7.) Her work involved lifting papers, files, and groceries from food shopping and "whatever [her uncle] needed done." (Id. at 7.)

B. Medical History

Mitchell claims her disability began in July 2003 due to damage to her left knee, bronchitis, and depression. (ALJ‟s Dec. at 5.) In July 2003 she had an altercation with her exfiancee that caused her to seriously injure her knee. (Tr. at 8; Ex. 2E at 2.) Prior to the July 2003 incident, Mitchell had been treated at Jersey City Medical Center on June 5, 2003 for injuries she sustained during a family argument. (Ex. 2F at 1.) An x-ray performed during that time revealed a tibial plateau fracture and a one-millimeter depression in Mitchell‟s left leg. (Id.) Mitchell underwent surgery on June 8, 2003, for "[a] left tibial plateau fracture open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) with [a] Synthes recon locking plate." (Id.) After the procedure, the surgeon noted that Mitchell "tolerated the procedure well without any complications." (Id. at 20.) The hospital discharged Mitchell on June 11, 2003. (Id. at 1.) A subsequent x-ray done on June 27, 2003, showed that alignment was satisfactory and that there was no new fracture visible. (Ex. 3F at 23.) A follow up on July 25, 2003, taking place after the attack from her fiancee, was cited as being "unremarkable" and showed that Mitchell‟s knee and ankle joints appeared to be intact. (Id. at 12.)

On October 24, 2005, Mitchell had a diagnostic imaging examination performed on her left knee. (Ex. 9F at 2.) The exam showed that the lateral portion of the knee was difficult to evaluate, but "there appear[ed] to be an oblique tear of the posterior horn of the lateral meniscus." (Id.) The doctor also noted that the medial meniscus was "grossly intact but there may [have been] some degenerative signal[s]." (Id.)

Mitchell went to Greenville Hospital on July 6, 2007, after falling down several stairs. (Ex. 6F at 2.) She complained of pain on the left side of her body and her right hand. (Id.) An x-ray of her right elbow, wrist, and hand showed no sign of fracture or dislocation. (Id. at 9, 12, 14.) Additionally, the x-rays of Mitchell‟s spine showed no abnormalities. (Id. at 11.) An x-ray of her pelvis, however, showed that there were multiple phleboliths within her pelvis, but that the osseors structures were intact, the soft tissue was normal, and there where no acute findings to note. (Id. at 10.)

On June 4, 2008, Mitchell went to Christ Hospital‟s emergency room with complaints of painful urination and vomiting. (Ex. 10F at 1.) The hospital examination noted that Mitchell smoked one pack of cigarettes a day and was a chronic alcoholic. (Ex. 11F at 7.) No mention was given however to the problems Mitchell allegedly has with her leg or whether or not she used a cane. (Id.) The hospital discharged Mitchell to her home on June 6, 2008. (Id. at 72.)

Mitchell‟s most recent CT scan of her left knee occurred on October 30, 2008. (Ex 12F at 1.) The results showed that "[Mitchell‟s] visualized proximal fibular bone and femoral condyle [were] intact." (Id.) The results did show however that she likely had medical patellar retinacullum injury. (Id.)

C. Daily Activities and Residual Functional Capacity

Mitchell allegedly suffers from a combination of severe impairments and an impairment to her left knee. (Tr. at 3.) Her primary care physician continues to prescribe pain medication for her and she is currently being treated for insomnia. (Id. at 4.) She also began seeing a psychiatrist on January 20, 2010, eight days prior to the ALJ hearing. (Id. at 12.) At her January 2010 hearing, Mitchell testified that she was in a lot of pain right after the surgery. (Id. at 8.) She stated that the pain had subsided for about a year, but at the time of the hearing, the pain was "terrible." (Id.) Mitchell is able to sit for about twenty minutes or until her leg starts hurting. (Id. at 9.) Additionally, Mitchell stated that her doctor told her that she needed another surgery to remove the pins and that there was a 50/50 chance that she will be able to walk again after that surgery. (Tr. 8.) She also stated that she walks with a cane with a seat attached to it because her leg gives out on her sometimes, and she falls. (Id. at 9.)

She also testified that she has lived alone for three years, and that her best friend accompanies her to doctor‟s appointments, goes food shopping for her, and cleans for her. (Id. at 9-10.) Mitchell claimed that she can do very little for herself and stays home most days watching television, doing puzzles, and talking on the telephone. (Id. at 10.) Mitchell also stated that her knee ...

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