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Barnett v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

March 9, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jason Barnett seeks review of the Administrative Law Judge's decision denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. For the following reasons, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is affirmed.

I. Background

A. Medical History

Barnett suffered a small bowel injury, pelvis fracture, and left femur fracture in 2001 as a result of a car accident. In the aftermath of the car accident he received treatment for his injuries and underwent physical therapy. He could not work for a number of months. Following his recovery, Barnett returned to work and maintained substantial gainful activity through July 6, 2011, his alleged onset date.

In July 2011, John Bumberry, M.D., diagnosed Barnett with a possible hernia. Approximately a week later, Kyle Smith, D.O., diagnosed Barnett with poorly controlled hypertension and prescribed medication. In August, Dr. Smith diagnosed Barnett with anxiety and hypertension. That same month, Barnett underwent surgery to have hardware removed from his left femur. At a subsequent appointment with Dr. Smith in October, Barnett reported anxiety and stated that he was not sleeping well; Dr. Smith diagnosed hypertension, left hip pain, left knee pain, left femur fracture, anxiety, and insomnia.

On November 14, 2011, Dr. Smith completed a Medical Source Statement - Physical regarding Barnett's capabilities. In this statement, Dr. Smith opined that Barnett could lift up to five pounds, stand and/or walk for up to 30 minutes at a time and up to four hours out of an eight hour workday, sit for 30 minutes at a time and up to five hours in an eight hour workday, and could never climb, kneel, crouch, or crawl, and could only occasionally balance and stoop. [Tr. 382-383].

In January 2012, Barnett again presented to Dr. Smith and was diagnosed with left hip pain, hypertension, insomnia, diarrhea, and anxiety. These diagnoses remained largely the same throughout the remainder of 2012.

In November 2012, Matthew Ericksen, D.O., completed a physical examination of Barnett at the request of Disability Determinations and returned a Medical Source Statement of Ability to Do Work-Related Activities (Physical). Dr. Ericksen opined that Barnett could lift 50 pounds occasionally and 20 pounds frequently; could sit, stand, and/or walk for four hours at a time and up to six hours in an eight hour workday; could only occasionally climb ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and could tolerate only occasional exposure to extreme heat. [Tr. 440-445].

B. ALJ Decision

The ALJ denied Barnett's request for disability benefits, concluding that he had the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") to engage in substantial gainful activity. The ALJ concluded that despite Barnett's severe impairments of status-post left peritrochanteric hip fracture, left pubic fracture, left iliac crest fracture, sacroiliac disruption, intra-abdominal injury, chronic pain syndrome, hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and history of incisional hernia, he retained the following RFC:

[T]o perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) including lifting up to 5 pounds frequently and up to 10 pounds occasionally, sitting up to 6 hours total in an 8-hour workday, and standing/walking up to 2 hours total in and [ sic ] 8-hour workday, with the following restrictions: he is unable to perform any work activity requiring climbing; he must avoid work activity requiring kneeling, crouching, and crawling; and he must avoid work at unprotected heights or around hazardous machinery.

[Tr. 19-22].

In determining the RFC, the ALJ considered the medical evidence of the record, as well as Barnett's testimony at the administrative hearing regarding the extent of his symptoms. At the administrative hearing, Barnett testified that he was unable to work due to chronic pain. He stated that he did not lift much weight due to his hernia, but was able to take care of his three young children while his wife was at work. This care included lifting his four month old child who weighed twelve pounds. Thomas Maxwell, M.D., testified at the hearing that Barnett was limited to lifting and/or carrying less than ten pounds both occasionally and frequently; could sit for up to five hours; could stand and/or walk for up to two hours; could not climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; should not kneel, crouch or crawl; and should avoid unprotected heights and hazardous machinery. Following Dr. Maxwell's testimony, the ALJ questioned a ...

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