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Szczesny v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 11, 2015

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


PATTI B. SARIS, Chief District Judge.


Plaintiff Kazimierz J. Szczesny Sr., who suffers from chronic neck and back pain and a skin rash, seeks reversal of the decision denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance ("DBI") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). Defendant has filed a motion to affirm the decision of the Commissioner.

After a review of the record and the briefs, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion (Docket No. 18). Defendant's motion to affirm the decision of the Commissioner (Docket No. 21) is ALLOWED.


Mr. Szczesny was 53 years old when the administrative law judge (ALJ) denied his applications on September 28, 2012. R. 32. He attended four years of college in Poland before coming to the United States. R. 32. His past work experience includes a restaurant worker, a painter and a construction worker. R. 32, 47. Plaintiff claims disability due to diabetes and complications caused by a scar on his back from the surgical removal of a mole. R. 184. Plaintiff alleges disability beginning September 30, 2010. R. 180.

A. Medical History

Plaintiff visited Manisha Thakuria, M.D., a dermatologist, on October 4, 2010, for treatment concerning a rash on his arms and legs. At the time of the visit, the rash had been "going on" for about one and a half years, and consisted of itchy pustules. R. 258. He had been seeing other doctors for the rash, which was diagnosed as prurigo nodularis, and had been prescribed oral antibiotics and oral steroids without showing improvement. Id. Dr. Thakuria, in addition to examining his rash, noted a brown spot on his back, which she was concerned could be cancerous. Id. On December 3, 2010, Dr. Thakuria surgically removed the abnormality from Plaintiff's back. R. 262. A few days after the surgery, Plaintiff reported significant and worsening pain from the scar on his back. R. 264. The wound from the surgery was severely infected, and Dr. Thakuria excised the wound to drain the pus. R. 264. She prescribed an antibiotic, and gave Mr. Szczesny instructions for bandaging his back. R. 264.

At a subsequent visit to Dr. Thakuria on December 12, 2010, Mr. Szczesny reported that the wound on his back was improving, and that he was able to sleep well and perform normal activities. R. 274. In addition, he stated that he was no longer limited by pain from his back. Id. Although Mr. Szczesny claimed continued improvement at his visit on January 28, 2011, he reported that he was still experiencing back pain and that he had lost 50 pounds since February of 2009. R. 276. A blood test report by Michael Lichtman, M.D., in February of 2011 confirmed that Mr. Szczesny's rash was prurigo nodularis. R. 278. However, the same blood test also indicated that Mr. Szczesny was diabetic, a new diagnosis, and that this could explain his reported weight loss. Id.

In February of 2011, Mr. Szczesny also started narrowband Ultra Violet B treatment for his rash. By March 4, 2011, he continued to report that his back wound was too painful to lift anything heavy. R. 331. However, Evan Weisman, M.D., recommended that he should be able to start adding back activity slowly, and that there was no need to continue wound care. Id. On March 25, 2011, Mr. Szczesny reported that he was "ecstatic" with how well his rash was improving, due to the UVB treatment, and that he was no longer scratching. R. 309. By April 1, 2011, Mr. Szczesny's back wound was completely closed, with "no evidence of infection" and "minimal tenderness". R. 390.

After Plaintiff's scar had closed, his back continued to cause him pain. At a visit with Dr. Thakuria on December 16, 2011, Mr. Szczesny complained of tenderness over the scar that worsened with exertion. R. 397. Because of the scar, Mr. Szczesny reported that he was still experiencing difficulty lifting heavy objects. Mr. Szczesny requested steroid injections in his back, reporting that they had helped temporarily. Id. Dr. Thakuria noted that the probable cause of Mr. Szczesny's continuing pain was nerve damage, and gave him four steroid injections and a prescription for Neurontin. Id. She noted that Plaintiff's Prurigo Nodularis was "now resolved." Id. In addition, she wrote a note stating that Mr. Szczesny "has a painful scar in his back that is causing difficulty lifting heavy objects, and therefore his ability to do his job." R. 395.

B. Medical Opinions by Non-treating Physicians

The medical opinions in this case were supplied by two State Agency medical consultants, Thomas Phillips, M.D., and Phyllis Sandell, M.D. R. 53-63, 67-79. Both doctors assessed Mr. Szczesny based on his medical records. Neither consultant conducted a physical exam on Plaintiff.

Dr. Phillips found that Mr. Szczesny's diabetes mellitus, prurigo nodularis, and the scar on his back were all nonsevere impairments. R. 56. He noted that the prurigo rash was improved with medications, and that the diabetes had not caused damage to Plaintiff's organs. Id. Dr. Phillips did not consider the scar on Mr. Szczesny's back to be a severe impairment, noting that the biopsy had been negative for cancer. R. 57. Dr. Phillips reported that Plaintiff's conditions could reasonably cause his pain and other ...

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