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Meyers v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 31, 2018

JAMES D. MEYERS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This action is before the Court for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security finding that plaintiff James D. Meyers is not disabled under the Social Security Act and, thus, is not entitled to Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1385. The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was born on December 8, 1955. He protectively filed his application for supplemental security income on February 18, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of February 18, 2014, due to back, left knee, left hand, and mental problems. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

         On March 2, 2016, an ALJ conducted a hearing. However, during the hearing the ALJ decided that a second, supplemental hearing should be held following further, consultative examinations of plaintiff's left knee and his psychological condition. The second hearing was held on August 31, 2016. On September 23, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision that concluded plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff's request that the ALJ's decision be administratively reviewed was denied by the Appeals Council. The ALJ's decision stands as the final agency decision now under review.

         A. Medical Record

         Plaintiff has a history of right hand injury dating back to 2007. In November 2007, his right hand was diagnosed as infected. In February 2014, after being caught in a welding machine, plaintiff sustained traumatic laceration and punctures to both of his forearms. He was diagnosed with traumatic cellulitis in both arms.

         On April 17, 2014, David McCollister, M.D. excised several linear ulcers from both of plaintiff's forearms. On May 7, 2014, Dr. McCollister removed the sutures and diagnosed a bacterial skin infection. Dr. McCollister referred plaintiff to a dermatologist.

         On May 14, 2014, plaintiff visited the St. Joseph Health Center for emergency treatment of swelling and pain in both forearms. He returned to the same emergency room on May 25, 2014, due to increased pain in both arms. He reported he had not followed up with the doctor as directed. The doctor working in the emergency department at that time noted that plaintiff had multiple deep pitting, large ulcerative lesions in both forearms, but nevertheless had normal range of motion and no tenderness. The doctor prescribed hydrocodone-acetaminophen for pain and bactroban ointment.

         On June 11, 2014, Wahied Gendi, M.D., began treating plaintiff as his primary care physician. On that day, Dr. Gendi summarized plaintiff's prior accidents as involving a burn to his forearms while using welding equipment, for which he had surgery in April.

         On August 13, 2014, on a two-page check-box type form, Dr. Gendi reported his limited functionality opinions that plaintiff could only occasionally carry ten pounds or less, and rarely lift and carry more than 10 pounds; could occasionally twist but rarely stoop, bend, crouch, or climb ladders or stairs; could not reach, handle, or feel more than occasionally, nor use his fingers for fine manipulation more than rarely. (Tr. 406-07).

         Later in August 2014, Dr. Gendi noted that there was no clubbing, cyanosis, or edema on plaintiff's extremities and that both forearms were improving. (Tr. 409). On September 2 and October 3, 2014, Dr. Gendi found plaintiff had a normal range of motion with no inflammation, effusion, or deformity. (Tr. 508, 520).

         During monthly visits on November 4, 2014; December 5, 2014; and January 8, 2015, Dr. Gendi's findings remained the same as on October 3, 2014, except that he noted plaintiff's forearm ulcer worsened because of a mild skin breakdown. (Tr. 533, 547, 562).

         On February 5, 2015, Dr. Gendi's colleague, Idelle Fraser, M.D., examined plaintiff and noted he had no clubbing, cyanosis, or edema in his extremities. She opined he had normal ranges of motion without inflammation, effusion, or deformity, but with some mild skin ulcer and healing fibrous tissue on both forearms. (Tr. 576).

         On June 20, 2015, plaintiff went to the St. Joseph Health Center Emergency Room complaining of generalized pain; the examination showed he had normal range of motion and faded scarring. (Tr. 458-60).

         B. Evidentiary Hearings

         On March 2, 2016, an ALJ conducted the first hearing in which plaintiff testified to the following. He lived by himself and had been self-employed in construction. However, he had not been able to work for some years, and his sister helped him pay his monthly bills. In 2014, plaintiff injured his back, helping a friend lift an item. He also burned and cut his arms when he was “playing with” a machine his friend built. Plaintiff testified he first contacted Dr. Gendi on June 11, 2014. Dr. Gendi was his primary treating physician for both of his arm injuries. At the hearing, plaintiff claimed he had a skin issue and his arms were getting worse. Plaintiff suggested he also had some problems with his knees. At the end of the hearing, the ALJ ordered two ...

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