United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
LEONEL S. MEDEIROS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO
REVERSE AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM DECISION OF
DENNIS SAYLOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an appeal of a final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“SSA”). On April
5, 2017, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
issued a decision concluding that plaintiff Leonel Medeiros
is not disabled. The SSA Appeals Council declined review on
April 24, 2018. Plaintiff then filed an action with this
seeks reversal of the Commissioner's decision on two
grounds. The Commissioner has moved to affirm the decision.
For the reasons stated below, the decision will be affirmed.
Medeiros is 50 years old. He was born in Portugal, where he
lived until age 16. (A.R. 24). He attended school in Portugal
and went to night school in New Bedford upon his arrival to
the United States to learn English. (A.R. 25). He lives in
Acushnet, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.
(A.R. 31). He last worked in June 2009 as a landscaper; his
responsibilities included planting, spreading loam, and
constructing stone, brick, and concrete walls. (A.R. 26).
spends time completing chores such as vacuuming and putting
away clothes, but reports that he always experiences severe
pain after he does so. (A.R. 32). He occasionally walks to
the bus stop to meet his children after school or goes to the
mall to walk for 20 to 30 minutes. (A.R. 33-34). He reports
that walking hurts his back and he has to sit down for 10 to
15 minutes afterward. (A.R. 34). He occasionally uses the
computer, and sometimes helps his wife with cooking tasks,
such as peeling potatoes, while sitting down. (A.R. 37-38).
suffered an injury at work in August 2008 when he attempted
to pick up heavy piping. (A.R. 29, 230). He felt a pop in his
lower back and was immediately in pain and unable to stand.
(A.R. 230, 440).
on November 19, 2008, revealed degenerative disc disease at
¶ 5-S1 with broad subligamentous disc protrusion. (A.R.
595-96). He initially underwent conservative treatment, such
as epidural steroid injections and physical therapy. (A.R.
440). The treatment failed, however, to relieve his pain.
October 28, 2010, Medeiros was evaluated by nurse
practitioner Julie Welch. (A.R. 288-89). She noted that his
symptoms had worsened in the two years since the injury and
stated that his surgeon, Dr. Pedlow, recommended a
transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion at the L5-S1 level.
(A.R. 289). She evaluated him again on February 10, 2011, in
preparation for the surgery, and noted that the procedure had
been postponed because he had an upper-respiratory infection.
February 23, 2011, Medeiros underwent bilateral L4-5
foraminotomies with transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion
surgery. (A.R. 294).
testified that he continued to experience back pain after his
surgery. (A.R. 29). Nurse Welch evaluated him again on March
8, 2011, after the operation, and noted that his nerve pain
had improved, but he was still experiencing tingling in his
leg and stiffness in his back. (A.R. 497). On April 12, 2011,
she evaluated him again, and found that he had some
recurrence of nerve pain but not as bad as prior to the
operation. (A.R. 498).
various medical appointments up to December 2012, Medeiros
reported that his pain had worsened since the surgery,
increased while sitting or driving, prevented him from
completing household chores, and did not respond to physical
therapy. (See, e.g. A.R. 465, 528, 676).
January 30, 2013, Medeiros underwent surgery at Massachusetts
General Hospital to remove the hardware that had been put in
his lower back during the 2011 surgery. (A.R. 1114-17).
the surgery, Medeiros was seen by various medical providers
at Southcoast Physicians Network Pain Center. (A.R.
1149-1205). He began seeing Dr. Allison Gorski in June 2013
at Southcoast Health for management of his lower back pain
and continued to see her through May 2014. (A.R. 1184). Dr.
Gorski noted that he reported continuous, stabbing pain in
his lower back. (A.R. 1172, 1178, 1181, 1184).
2, 2014, Dr. Gorski noted that his pain had improved after
use of the Duragesic patch but continued to be aggravated by
activity. (A.R. 1149). Medeiros reported experiencing
continuous, sharp pain that was slightly improved by
medications and rest and aggravated by activity and walking.
(A.R. 1157). He used Tramadol, non-steroidal
anti-inflammatories, and narcotics at various points to treat
his pain. (Id.). He also received epidural steroid
injections, which reduced his pain for one week.
(Id.). He did not experience side effects from the
Mental Health Issues
was seen at Arbour Counseling Services approximately once
every other month between August 2013 and March 2016. (A.R.
1149-1244, 1252-1302, 1363-77). His medical records note that
he suffered from anxiety and depression as a result of his
inability to work and that he took Wellbutrin to treat his
March 27, 2015, Dr. Don Whitworth, a licensed psychologist,
evaluated Medeiros. (A.R. 1245-50). Dr. Whitworth noted that
he had symptoms consistent with major depressive disorder.
September 23, 2009, Medeiros was evaluated by Dr. David
Winnick. (A.R. 679-82). Dr. Winnick noted that he was
“cautiously optimistic” that Medeiros could make
a full recovery. (A.R. 682). He concluded that Medeiros was
“temporarily, partially disabled, ” but could
work full-time. (Id.).
March 24, 2010, Dr. Gilbert Shapiro examined Medeiros for an
independent medical evaluation. (A.R. 688-90). He concluded
that Medeiros had “light duty capacity” and full
use of his arms. (A.R. 690). He noted that Medeiros would ...