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Roberts v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 14, 2013

ELBY ROBERTS, Plaintiff,


SUSAN D. WIGENTON, District Judge.

Before this Court is Plaintiff Elby Roberts's ("Plaintiff" or "Roberts") appeal of the final administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), with respect to Administrative Law Judge Richard West's ("ALJ West") denial of Plaintiff's claim for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("SSDI") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

This appeal is decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). For the reasons stated herein, the final decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED, and the matter is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


A. Personal and Employment History

Plaintiff was born on June 15, 1957. (R. 15, 27.) He received an Associate's Degree in architectural technology in September 1978. (R. 27, 124.) Plaintiff worked for the City of Newark as a special police officer from 1983 to 1991 and as a regular police officer from 1991 to 1993.[1] (R. 28.) Plaintiff resigned from the police force in good standing in order to "open up [his] own trucking contracting business." (R. 28.) After his business "went bad, " Plaintiff held numerous other jobs, including "police armed security work, truck driving work... driving buses, [and] operating heavy equipment." (R. 29.) Plaintiff's last job was as a truck driver for Short Hills Catering. (R. 29.) In October 2003, Plaintiff stopped working for Short Hills Catering "[d]ue to [his] sickness." (R. 29.) Specifically, Plaintiff complained of pains in his leg and back, and he suffered numbness in his feet and fingers. (R. 30.) Plaintiff claimed that the numbness made it difficult for him to brake and shift gears. (R. 14, 30.) Plaintiff has not worked since 2003. (R. 35.)

B. Medical History

Plaintiff was diagnosed with diabetes approximately fifteen years ago. (R. 31.) Every three months since February 1998, Plaintiff has undergone a routine checkup at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center outpatient clinic for his diabetes. (R. 123.) He takes several medications, including Enalapril, Glipizide, Glimepride, and Metformin. (R. 14, 124, 168.) Plaintiff testified that he does not receive insulin. (R. 14.) Plaintiff also has restrictive lung disease, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. (R. 13.)

Beginning in October 2009, Plaintiff complained of leg complications, including severe leg cramps, which prevented him from standing, sitting, or lying down for long periods of time. (R. 15, 32-33.) He asserted that these leg pains have existed for over ten years. (R. 33.) Plaintiff also complained of back pain which first appeared in the record in May 2010. (R. 15.) Both the complaints of leg cramps and back pain occurred after Plaintiff's last insured date in December 2008. (R. 15.) Plaintiff also complained of numbness and tingling in his feet when standing and walking. (R. 36.)

Plaintiff was evaluated by several state agency examiners. On November 13, 2008, Dr. Nancy Simpkins ("Dr. Simpkins") evaluated Plaintiff and concluded that "claimant is not functionally limited by either his type II [diabetes] or his cholesterol." (R. 190.) In June 2009, Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Augustin. (R. 14, 193-95.) Dr. Augustin found that Plaintiff could perform gross and fine manipulations, had mild restrictive airway disease, no musculosketal limitations, normal neurological findings, a glucose level of 146, a normal electrocardiogram, normal pulmonary arteries, and clear lung fields. (R. 15.) Dr. Augustin reported that Plaintiff's primary complaint was for dysphagia, although this first appeared in the record in February 2009, after the last insured date. (R. 15.)

C. Testimonial History

Plaintiff testified that his legs cramp up at night and that his medication causes him to suffer cold sweats. (R. 32-33.) Plaintiff also complains of dry mouth. (R. 33.) He testified that he cannot walk a block, stand, sit, or lie down for a period of time. (R. 33.) Plaintiff testified that when he stands, his main concern is numbness in his feet. (R. 35-36.) Plaintiff further testified that when he sits, he suffers cramps in his back and legs. (R. 35-36.) He testified that he was prescribed Neurontin to manage the pain and numbness. (R. 36.) Plaintiff testified that he received Cortisone shots and other muscle relaxers for the pain. (R. 40-41.)

Plaintiff testified that his typical day "is down to nothing, " and that he is "locked in the house." (R. 41.) Plaintiff stated that his wife helps him wash his face because he cannot hold a towel. (R. 42.) Further, he stated that his wife's grandfather prepares breakfast and lunch for him. (R. 42.) He has trouble buttoning his shirts, zipping his jackets, typing on the computer, and signing his name because of the numbness in his fingers. (R. 43-45.) Plaintiff testified that he can only sleep for three or four hours at a time. (R. 43.) Plaintiff also testified that he is in increased pain in bad weather, such as rain and cold. (R. 48-49.)

Plaintiff testified to taking the following medications every day: 3, 000 milligrams of Glucotrol, two ten-milligram pills of Glucophage, high blood pressure medication, muscle relaxers, and Bayer aspirin. (R. 47.) His wife's grandmother also checks his blood sugar twice a day. (R. 47-48.)

On November 20, 2010, ALJ West sent written interrogatories to the Vocational Expert, Rocco J. Meola ("VE Meola"). (See R. 177-81.) In his written answers to the interrogatories, VE Meola noted that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work given his injuries. (R. 179.) VE Meola opined, however, that there are several jobs that exist in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform including a sorter, inspector/packer, assembler, tabber, and decal applier. (R. 180.) VE Meola further noted that ...

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