United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
CARL J. COLTEY, JR., Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
For Carl J. Coltey, Jr., Plaintiff: Tricia M. Jacobs, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Thomas Libbos, Springfield, MA.
For Carolyn W. Colvin, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Karen L. Goodwin, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEAD ATTORNEY, United States Attorney's Office, Springfield, MA.
For Social Security Administration, Interested Party: Thomas D. Ramsey, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, Boston, MA.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR ORDER AFFIRMING DECISION OF COMMISSIONER
(Dkt. Nos. 15 & 17)
MICHAEL A. PONSOR, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff, Carl J. Coltey Jr., has brought this administrative appeal against Defendant, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (" SSA" ). On May 31, 2011, Magistrate Judge Kenneth Neiman remanded Plaintiff's initial appeal and ordered Defendant to give proper consideration to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician. After a second hearing before the same Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ), Defendant concluded that Plaintiff was still not entitled to Supplemental Security Income. The parties have filed cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. Because the ALJ failed to rely on substantial evidence when continuing to minimize the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, the court will allow Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. No. 15) and deny Defendant's Motion for Order Affirming Decision of the Commissioner (Dkt. No. 17). No further remand will be necessary to address the substantive issue of Plaintiff's entitlement to benefits. Remand this second time will focus solely on the proper calculation of the amount of benefits owed to Plaintiff.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
On the date of his application, October 11, 2007, Plaintiff was 35 years old. He alleged disability due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (" COPD" ), emphysema, and knee problems, with an onset date of May 1, 2005. (SSA Admin. R. of Soc. Sec. Proceedings 90-96, Dkt. No. 14 (hereinafter A.R.).) He had a tenth grade education and was previously employed as a dishwasher, painter, and landscaper. (A.R. 438-39.)
A. Medical Evidence
Since 2005, Plaintiff has received treatment from a number of different care givers to address his ailments. This memorandum proceeds chronologically through that medical history.
In June 2005, Plaintiff suffered an asthma attack and sought emergency treatment at Mercy Medical Center. At that time, he was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, (A.R. 244), and views of his chest showed early signs of COPD. (A.R. 192.) One year later, in November 2006, Plaintiff again received emergency care for shortness of breath, a cough, and knee pain. (A.R. 185.)
In 2007, Plaintiff, in an effort to resolve his knee issues, began seeing Dr. John Corsetti, M.D., at New England Orthopedic Surgeons. On January 23, 2007, Plaintiff reported right knee pain and tenderness. (A.R. 158.) Nonetheless, Plaintiff displayed a full range of motion in all muscle groups and no evidence of instability was present. (A.R. 158.) He showed only mild abnormalities in the patella, and there was no evidence of arthritic change. (Id.) The doctor provided Plaintiff a physical therapy program and gave him a cortisone injection.
One month later, Plaintiff sought treatment for his pulmonary issues with Dr. Gerald Green, M.D., at the Caring Health Center. Plaintiff informed the doctor that he had smoked since he was 12 years old. (A.R. 261.) The doctor diagnosed Plaintiff with COPD and asthma and noted ongoing tobacco and alcohol use.
On May 22, 2007, Plaintiff again reported to Dr. Corsetti. Plaintiff told the doctor that the cortisone injection only provided minimal relief. The doctor, upon evaluation of Plaintiff, noted asymmetric gait, normal function, full range of motion, full strength in all muscle groups, and no evidence of instability. (A.R. 159.) The doctor took an MRI of Plaintiff's knee and found severe chrondormalacia patelle, as well as lateral patellar tilt. (A.R. 280.)
Plaintiff visited Dr. Corsetti again on June 13, 2007. On that date, the doctor reported antalgic gait on the right side of Plaintiff's knee. (A.R. 160.) Plaintiff further complained of pain and frequent limping. Dr. Corsetti diagnosed Plaintiff with end stage osteoarthritis of the patella. At that point, the doctor recommended against any surgery. (A.R. 160.)
In 2008, Plaintiff continued to experience similar problems. On January 25, for example, he told Dr. Corsetti that his right knee was continuously in pain and that he had to use a knee brace at all times. (A.R. 204.) The doctor found advanced arthritic changes of the right knee, marked patellofemoral irritability, and severe chrondormalacia with lateral tracking. (Id.) To address this, the doctor recommended knee realignment surgery.
On February 12, 2008, Plaintiff's breathing issues required attention. He saw Dr. Green, who noted that Plaintiff's COPD and asthma were stable. (A.R. 258.) Plaintiff did, however, need a follow up for pneumonia in his right lung. (Id.) Later in the month, Plaintiff received care for parenchymal lung disease at Baystate Medical Center. (A.R. 183.) On April 3, 2008, Dr. Green again noted that the COPD and asthma were stable. (A.R. 257.)
After suffering from a fall, Plaintiff visited the emergency room again in May 2008. There, he showed left knee swelling and was diagnosed with a tear in the meniscus. (A.R. 229 & 234.) At the end of the month, Plaintiff told Dr. Corsetti that he had continuous left knee pain and presented with decreased range of motion in that knee. (A.R. 266.) An MRI showed patellar dislocation, no meniscal tear, a partial tear of the patellofemoral ligament, and a low-grade MCL sprain. (A.R. 278.) Plaintiff saw a provider in Dr. Corsetti's office on June 9, 2008, and the provider diagnosed Plaintiff with a recent patellofemoral dislocation of the left knee. The provider again advised against aggressive surgical intervention. (A.R. 265.)
Plaintiff had his final visit with Dr. Green on June 19, 2008. The doctor noted that Plaintiff's lungs were clear, he was free from wheezing, and he showed no signs of pulmonary hypertension. (A.R. 286.)
In 2009, Plaintiff continued to experience significant knee pain. To address that pain, Dr. Corsetti, on February 3, performed a right knee patellofemoral chronosis procedure. (A.R. 380.) Nonetheless, Plaintiff still complained of constant aches. (A.R. 283.) In March, Dr. Corsetti examined ...