United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
B. SARIS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
John Duffy, who suffers from neck pain, moves to reverse the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying his claim for disability benefits. He
argues that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
failed to properly consider the limited range of motion in
reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES Duffy's motion to
reverse the Commissioner's decision (Docket No. 13) and
ALLOWS the Commissioner's
motion to affirm (Docket No. 17).
claims disability based on his history of neck and lower back
pain. The alleged date of onset is November 1, 2011. He was
forty-six years old at the alleged onset date.
worked as a glazer until April 2009, when he was laid off and
began receiving unemployment benefits while looking for work.
R. 42. He stopped looking for work after November, 2011, when
he went to the emergency room for a neck injury. R. 48. Duffy
resides with friends in two different houses and has had this
living arrangement for about one year. R. 44. He was
previously living with his sister-in-law. R. 44. He also
receives food stamps. R. 44.
March 8, 2012, Duffy saw primary care physician Mohammed
Khedr. R. 306. Duffy stated that he had not seen a doctor in
twenty years and complained of neck pain radiating down his
left arm. R. 306. Dr. Khedr prescribed medication and
recommended an MRI of the cervical spine. R. 308.
April 3, 2012, Duffy saw neurosurgeon Leslie Stern for neck
pain of six months. R. 338. Dr. Stern noted marked
restriction of neck extension and recommended physical
therapy. R. 339.
June 7, 2012 follow-up appointment with Dr. Stern, Duffy
reported continuing neck pain and told Dr. Stern that he had
been unable to attend physical therapy because he did not
have transportation. R. 337. Dr. Stern prescribed Lodine and
advised that he be re-evaluated if the pain progressed. R.
August 9, 2012, Duffy returned to Dr. Stern and reported
increased neck pain and more frequent paresthesia in the left
arm. R. 336. Dr. Stern found that Duffy's MRI scan showed
degenerative disc disease primarily at ¶ 6-7 and also at
¶ 5-6. R. 336.
September 11, 2012, Duffy underwent cervical fusion at ¶
6-C7 and C5-C6 by Dr. Stern. R. 292. Post-surgery follow up
indicated that Duffy had done well for two weeks after the
surgery but that after that time, his neck pain became worse.
cervical spine MRI administered on March 22, 2013 revealed
mild edematous changes within the C6 and C7 vertebrae, which
were possibly related to recent surgery, and tiny
subligamentous herniation at the C6-C7 level. R. 342. No
cervical myelopathy was noted. R. 342.
25, 2013, Duffy reported continuing neck pain and stated that
turning his head and extending his head caused temporary
paresthesia in the left arm. R. 329. Dr. Stern prescribed
Oxycodone and a hard collar. R. 19, 329.
October 13, 2013, Duffy reported to Dr. Stern that the hard
collar helped with sleep and that he had less pain during the
day. R. 357. But Duffy would not wear the hard collar if he
had to do a “fair amount” of walking because it
bothered him. R. 357.
8, 2014, Duffy began to see primary care physician Raanan
Gilboa. R. 383. On physical examination, Duffy ambulated
normally but had neck tenderness and pain with motion. R.
385. Dr. Gilboa's assessment was cervical disc disorder
with radiculopathy and low back pain. R. 386.
cervical spine MRI administered on May 29, 2014 revealed no
significant change in multilevel central canal narrowing with
mild cord impingement at the C3-C4 and C6-C7 levels. R. 371.
A nerve conduction study on June 13, 2014 was indicative of
carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist with the left worse than
the right. R. 391.
7, 2014, Duffy saw neurologist Michael Gieger for cervical
pain in the neck with radiation down the left arm and
aggravation from neck extension. R. 19, 376. A physical
examination showed normal range of motion and muscle strength
in the upper and lower extremities. R. 378. However, flexion
of the cervical spine was moderately limited and extension
was severely limited due to pain. R. 378.
August 28, 2014, Duffy saw neurologist Steven Hwang for neck
and left arm pain. R. 410. Dr. Hwang stated that Plaintiff
had full strength in all extremities except for mild
bilateral triceps weakness. R. 410. Duffy had pain to
palpation of the neck. R. 410. Dr. Hwang recommended physical
therapy and facet blocks. R. 411.
Non-Examining Physician Reports
record contains administrative findings made by two state
agency non-examining medical physicians. R. 21. State agency
physician M. Douglass Poirier reviewed the medical evidence
of record and rendered a residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) assessment in September 2013. R. 76-84.
Dr. Poirier reviewed extensive medical evidence, including
the neurological examination reports from Dr. Stern and
reports from the September 2012 cervical spine surgery. R.
79. Dr. Poirier found exertional limitations (only occasional
pushing and pulling), postural limitations (only occasional
climbing, kneeling, and crouching), and manipulative
limitations (limited overhead reach). R. 80-81.
agency physician Jane Matthews reviewed Duffy's medical
records in December 2013. R. 96-105. Dr. Matthews's RFC
analysis included limitations ...