United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
STEVEN WHALEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Daniel Richard Shipman brings this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §405(g), challenging a final decision of
Defendant Commissioner denying his application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social
Security Act. Both parties have filed summary judgment
motions. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's
motion for summary judgment [Dock. #28] is GRANTED and
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [Dock. #23] is
August 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB,
alleging disability as of November 19, 2009 (Tr. 206-218).
After the initial denial of the claim, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, held on March 9, 2015, in Mount
Pleasant, Michigan before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Manh Nguyen (Tr. 35). Plaintiff,
represented by attorney Janice Brownson, testified (Tr.
40-69), as did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Michelle
Ross (Tr. 69-74). On May 7, 2015, ALJ Nguyen found that
Plaintiff was not disabled through the date last insured of
December 31, 2014 (Tr. 18-30). On April 12, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied review (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed for judicial
review of the final decision on June 16, 2016.
born May 27, 1977, was just short of his 38th
birthday when the ALJ issued his decision (Tr. 30-206). He
completed a GED and worked as an automotive technician (Tr.
238-239). He alleges disability due to upper and lower
extremity numbness; depression; anxiety; chronic back, neck,
and leg pain; and migraine headaches (Tr. 237).
offered the following testimony:
lived in West Branch, Michigan, stood 6' 4", weighed
275 pounds, and lived with his wife and three of his children
(Tr. 41). His childcare activities were limited to directing
them to do their daily chores, prepare appropriate meals, go
to bed at a reasonable time, and “oversee[ing]”
their homework (Tr. 41). He was unable to engage in sports
with his son due to back pain (Tr. 42).
response to questioning by his attorney, Plaintiff reported
that he had not worked since being injured “on the
job” in 2009 (Tr. 44). His lower back condition had
worsened since the January, 2012 administrative decision (Tr.
44-45). Due to the back condition, his legs collapsed beneath
him periodically requiring him to recline for several hours
(Tr. 45). As a result of continual neck pain, he experienced
sleep disturbances (Tr. 45). He also experienced sharp left
shoulder pain, required the use of wrist splints due to a
diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and experienced lower
extremity swelling for which he wore support hose
(“CTS”) (Tr. 45). He treated his pain with
medication, physical therapy, and injections (Tr. 46). He did
not experience any improvement from the injections (Tr. 47).
He had been told by a neurologist that the back condition was
best treated with conservative care (Tr. 48). His upper back
problems were triggered by “just normal
movements” (Tr. 50). The episodes of upper back pain
were currently “few and far between” because he
had learned how to move to avoid pain (Tr. 50). He
experienced ongoing wrist and finger pain (Tr. 51). His
problems gripping were worse in the left (non-dominant) hand
(Tr. 51). He was unable to perform manipulative manipulations
with the right hand (Tr. 52).
physician prescribed the use of a cane one year before the
hearing (Tr. 52). Plaintiff experienced only limited relief
from pain medication (Tr. 54). He experienced the medication
side effects of memory problems and nightmares (Tr. 55). He
took daytime naps due to nighttime sleep disturbances (Tr.
55). His most comfortable position was lying flat on his back
(Tr. 57). He was able to sit for up to 40 minutes at a time
and stand and walk for 10 (Tr. 57-58). He was unable to lift
more than eight pounds (Tr. 60). He went shopping with his
wife once every two weeks but was required to rest on a bench
periodically while his wife grocery shopped (Tr. 60). He was
able to cook one meal a week (Tr. 65). He experienced up to
two “bad” days each week at which time he spent
the day in bed (Tr. 66). He was unable to perform any other
household, yard, or laundry chores (Tr. 67). Due to pain and
mental distraction, he was unable to follow the plot of a
movie or television show (Tr. 68).
result of his physical limitations and inability to provide
for his family, Plaintiff also experienced depression and
anxiety (Tr. 63). On one occasional he sought emergency
treatment believing that he was having a heart attack before
receiving a diagnosis of anxiety (Tr. 63-64). His symptoms
were mostly resolved with the use of anti-anxiety medication
June, 2010 John N. DiBella, M.D. noted Plaintiff's report
of thoracic and low back pain since a November, 2009
workplace injury (Tr. 317 see Tr. 326). Dr. DiBella
noted later the same month that Plaintiff obtained good
results with steroid injections to the thoracic spine (Tr.
2011 EMG studies of the bilateral lower extremities ordered
by Mohammed M. Al-Qasmi, M.D. showed mild right L4
radiculopathy with a normal left leg (Tr. 374, 380, 383).
January 13, 2012, Plaintiff reported continued low back pain
and migraine headaches (Tr. 433). The same month, Dr.
Al-Qasmi observed good motor strength in the lower and upper
extremities but diminished reflexes (Tr. 369). He noted a
normal gait and station (Tr. 369). Dr. Al-Qasmi recommended
continued physical therapy (Tr. 369-370). In May, 2012, Dr.
Al-Qasmi made similar findings but noted Plaintiff's
report that steroid injections were mostly ineffective (Tr.
367-368). July, 2012 treating records by Clark Jones, D.O.
note a normal gait, full orientation and a normal mood (Tr.
410). Plaintiff reported leg numbness from sitting in one
position for extended periods (Tr. 410). October, 2012
imaging studies of the cervical spine were unremarkable (Tr.
416, 516). Dr. Al-Qasmi's November, 2012 records note
Plaintiff's report of increased left leg pain and right
arm numbness with a weakened grip (Tr. 365). Dr. Al-Qasmi
observed an antalgic gait and station (Tr. 365). Treating
notes by Dr. Jones from the same month note an appropriate
mood and affect (Tr. 405).
January, 2013, Dr. Jones noted Plaintiff's report of
dizziness and memory problems but noted a normal affect and
full orientation (Tr. 402-403). In May, 2013, Plaintiff
sought emergency treatment for dizziness and chest pain (Tr.
355). He was diagnosed with anxiety (Tr. 355). Dr. Al-Qasmi
recommended physical therapy for complaints of upper and
lower extremity radiculopathy (Tr. 363-364). The following
month, EMG studies of the upper extremities showed left-sided
mild, chronic C6-C7 radiculopathy, moderately severe left
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (“CTS”), and mild
bilateral ulnar mononeuropathy of the elbows (Tr. 380). July,
2013 records state that Plaintiff was exercising and doing
stretching exercises and had reduced symptoms of anxiety (Tr.
511). September, 2013 treating records note an appropriate
affect despite Plaintiff's report of anxiety and
depression (Tr. 399-400). Plaintiff reported that the
symptoms of anxiety were reduced (Tr. 398). December, 2013
treating notes state that Plaintiff did not experience
significant relief from prescribed pain medication, used a
cane, and experienced right elbow pain (Tr. 499).
March, 2014, Plaintiff was prescribed compression stockings
for lower extremity edema (Tr. 497). An MRI of the lumbar
spine from the same month showed only a small disc protrusion
at L4-L5 and very mild degenerative changes (Tr. 513, 542).
An MRI of the thoracic spine showed only a small disc
protrusion at T9-T10 (Tr. 514). An MRI of the cervical spine
showed a small herniation at C6-C7 (Tr. 541, 574). May, 2014
treating records note the need for a cane (Tr. 493). The same
month, Dr. Al-Qasmi increased Plaintiff's dosage of
Neurontin but noted full strength, normal memory, and good
coordination (Tr. 549). September, 2014 treating records note
ongoing anxiety attacks (Tr. 481-482). Plaintiff reported
continued sleep disturbances due to pain (Tr. 485). He also
reported recent falls (Tr. 485). Treating records note an
abnormal gait but full orientation (Tr. 485).
same month, neurologist Jayant Jagannathan, M.D. performed a
surgical consultation (Tr. 538). He advised against surgery
but recommended “pain management, ” including
medication and injections (Tr. 539). In November, 2014, Dr.
Al-Qasmi noted a normal gait and full strength but that
Plaintiff used a cane (Tr. 546). Treating records from the
same month state that Plaintiff was advised to avoid
alcoholic beverages (Tr. 570). February, 2015 treating
records note Plaintiff's report of back pain, depression,