United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves, United States District Judge
matter is pending for review of cross-motions for summary
judgment filed by Plaintiff Shawn Joseph Fields
(“Fields” or the “Claimant”) and
Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (“the
Commissioner”). [Record Nos. 13, 15] Fields argues that
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) assigned to
his case erred in concluding that he was not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act “Act”).
Specifically, he asserts that the ALJ failed to properly
evaluate his subjective complaints of pain and that the
ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence.
Fields asks this Court to direct the Commissioner to award
him benefits or, alternatively, remand this matter for
further consideration before a new ALJ. The Commissioner
contends that the ALJ properly evaluated the evidence and
that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed because it is
supported by substantial evidence.
Commissioner's motion will be granted and Fields'
motion will be denied for the reasons that follow.
filed an application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act on February 3,
2015. [See Administrative Transcript,
hereinafter “Tr., ” 156.] The application was
denied initially and on reconsideration. Fields then
requested an administrative hearing before an ALJ. [Tr. 82,
93, 101] He appeared before ALJ Donald Rising at a hearing in
Middlesboro, Kentucky in December 2016. [Tr. 27-42] ALJ
Rising denied benefits in a written decision on January 25,
2017, which the Appeals Council affirmed. [Tr. 8-21, 1-4]
result of the foregoing, the Claimant has exhausted his
administrative remedies and this matter is ripe for review
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
was forty-six years old and lived with his wife at the time
of his application for SSI. [Tr. 20, 31] He claimed that he
became unable to work on January 15, 2012, because of
problems with his knees, depression, and a limited education.
[Tr. 212-13] Fields alleged that he quit school after the
fourth grade is unable to read or write more than his name.
[Tr. 31, 212]
worked as a stocker at a liquor store from 2008 through 2012.
[Tr. 198] During that time Fields, loaded trucks and stocked
items weighing up to 50 pounds. This required walking,
standing, kneeling, crouching, crawling, reaching, and
handling, grabbing, and grasping large objects. [Tr. 199] He
reports that he can no longer work due to pain in his knees
and ankles and that he mostly watches television. [Tr.
Sheffield, ARNP, treated Fields for left knee, ankle, and
foot pain beginning in October 2014. [Tr. 321, 324] She
ordered x-rays, prescribed prednisone, and referred Fields to
Jamal Bazzi, M.D. Bazzi evaluated Fields on February 2, 2015.
[Tr. 328] He noted that Fields had tenderness over the medial
joint line of his left knee and on his left ankle. [Tr. 329]
An MRI of Fields' left ankle revealed a small fluid
collection posterior to the talus bone and intact ankle
tendons and collateral ligaments. [Tr. 330] An x-ray of the
left foot showed mild degenerative changes and large
calcaneal spurs. [Tr. 449] X-rays of Fields's knees,
however, were normal. [Tr. 415-16] Bazzi administered a
steroid injection to the left knee and prescribed physical
therapy and Voltaren gel for the ankle. [Tr. 335] Fields
completed six physical therapy visits, but was discharged
because he had failed to benefit from this treatment. [Tr.
also treated Fields for low back pain in July 2015. [Tr. 435]
She prescribed anti-inflammatory medications and ordered an
MRI. [Tr. 436, 441] Radiologist Gregory Tiu, M.D., reported
that the MRI showed signs of degenerative disc disease at
¶ 5-S1, with mild diffuse annular bulging. [Tr. 446] He
indicated that there were no signs of spinal stenosis or a
herniated nucleus pulposis. Id. Sheffield referred
Fields to neurosurgeon James Bean, M.D., who diagnosed Fields
with a “far lateral disc herniation, L3-L4, left”
based on the same MRI. [Tr. 478] Bean remarked that Fields
would “try to endure [it] conservatively since he has a
fear of surgery.” [Tr. 478]
agency consultant Kathleen Monderewicz, M.D., examined Fields
on March 25, 2015. [Tr. 354] At the time of this examination,
Fields complained of chronic knee pain, as well as left ankle
and foot pain, but reported no history of having been
injured. Fields was five feet, nine inches tall and weighed
295 pounds. [Tr. 352] Monderewicz reported that Fields had an
antalgic gait, but did not use an assistive device. Both of
Fields' knees were tender at the joint lines and
exhibited crepitus and patellar clicking, but the lateral and
cruciate ligaments were all intact and stable. [Tr. 353-54]
Fields also complained of tenderness around his left ankle
joint, as well, but no ligamentous laxity was detected. [Tr.
was able to balance on his right lower extremity, but could
not stand on the left leg alone. He also could not perform
heel or toe-walking on his left leg and could not squat fully
due to pain. [Tr. 355] His left lower extremity strength was
inhibited by pain, but there was no evidence of muscle
atrophy. Monderewicz concluded that prolonged sitting,
standing, walking, squatting, kneeling, and crawling were
limited due to Fields' chronic left knee and ankle pain
and decreased range of motion. She further determined that
bending and stooping were limited due to back pain, as were
heavy lifting and carrying. Monderewicz reported that Fields
had some limitations in the ability to raise his arms
overhead and that he should avoid climbing and unprotected
heights because of his balance limitations. [Tr. 356]
Finally, Monderewicz concluded that Fields had mild
difficulty with fine manipulation due to a slight action
tremor in both hands.
agency consultant Michele Amburgey, M.A., examined Fields on
April 14, 2015. [Tr. 360] Fields drove himself to the
examination. He advised Amburgey that he was depressed
“on occasion.” [Tr. 361] Amburgey administered
the WAIS-IV, an instrument that assesses intelligence. Fields
scored “extremely low” in the areas of verbal
comprehension, working memory, and processing speed. [Tr.
361-62] He scored “borderline” in the area of
perceptual reasoning. [Tr. ...