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Black v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 19, 2017

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         Latricia Black filed this appeal, seeking a reversal of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision that Black is not disabled, not entitled to disability insurance benefits (DIB), and not eligible for supplemental security income payments under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons that follow, I DENY the plaintiff's motion to reverse the decision of the Commissioner and GRANT the Commissioner's motion to affirm.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The parties stipulate to the following facts. Latricia Black was born on May 27, 1974. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 1.) She was 39 on her amended alleged onset date. (Id. at ¶ 10.) Her date last insured is June 30, 2014, when she was 40 years old. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.) She has a ninth-grade education. (Id. at ¶ 13.) The parties further stipulate as follows:

         1. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Black appeared at an administrative hearing on June 15, 2015 and testified to the following facts. (ECF No. 28 at 2.) She is able to read. (Id. at ¶ 15.) She has not driven since she was 28, because her leg cramps, but she is able to get around using medical cabs, My Ride (a transportation service for the elderly and disabled), and the public bus, which she can manage because the step to the bus can be lowered to street level. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.) Black currently cares for her two-year-old child, watches TV, reads, takes care of household chores, helps her other children get ready for school, and cooks-all with help from her nephew and husband. (Id. at ¶ 19.) Although Black previously performed some fast food work as a cashier, the ALJ determined that that work experience did not constitute past relevant work. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Black stated that she lost her last job, at Little Caesar's, in April 2012, because she was experiencing pain in her hip. (Id. at ¶ 23.) She stated that she also lost a previous job-assembly in a warehouse-because she was absent from work due to hip pain. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Black testified: “I kept trying to work, but then my bosses had to let me go because I was missing too many days . . . because of my hip problem.” (Id. at ¶ 25 (citing R. at 41-44).)

         Black also testified about her medical history. She stated that she has had three total left hip surgeries: (1) at age 14; (2) at age 18; and (3) at age 39. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 20.)[1] For some time before her third total left hip surgery, she used a crutch to ambulate. (Id. at ¶ 21.) She also testified that she used a walker for two to three months after this third surgery. (Id. at ¶ 22.) She stated that she now uses a cane. (Id.)

         2. Medical History Evidence

         The record also contains evidence regarding Black's medical history. Black, who had been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, developed a painful acetabula protrusion (intrapelvic displacement of a socket making up part of the hip joint) bilaterally, the left worse than the right. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 26.) By April 1988, she had been unable to bear weight on it for over a year, and she elected to undergo a total left hip replacement. She had the surgery on April 4, 1988. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27.) After approximately a week, her leg dropped off the side of the bed, resulting in a dislocation of the new prosthesis; so on April 12, 1988, Black underwent a second left hip surgery to repair the dislocation. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-29.) Two years later, Black experienced bone softening around the screws used to implant the prosthesis, which loosened the hardware; this led her to undergo a second total left hip replacement surgery. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.)

         Black then did well until July 2012. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 32.) At that time, she presented to an orthopaedist and complained of pain in her hip. (Id.) She told the orthopaedist, Erik J. Carlson, that she was working at Little Caesars but that she was having some difficulty standing and walking for long periods. (Id.) Dr. Carlson noted that she walked with a Trendelenburg gait (i.e., an abnormal gait), so he referred her to physical therapy and recommended an orthotic insert. (Id. at ¶ 33.) After that, Black started using a crutch to walk. (Id. at ¶ 34.) On July 15, 2013, Black presented to Nurse Colleen L. Linari at Columbus Internal Medicine with complaints of left leg pain. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 35.) Black stated that her pain had started approximately a year earlier but that it had recently increased. (Id.) At that time, she wore a brace on her knee and used a crutch to walk. (Id.) Nurse Linari referred Black to physical therapy and a CT scan, and she prescribed Ibuprofen 800, Flexeril, and Baclofen. In November 2013, Black advised Dr. Shasta Henderson that she had started using a crutch for ambulation about two or three months earlier. (Id. at ¶ 36.) A CT scan in 2013 revealed that Black had bone particle disease and that her hip bone replacement was breaking. (Id. at ¶ 37.)

         In connection with her application for disability benefits, on February 4, 2014, Black was examined by consultative neurosurgeon Martin P. Hasenfeld. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 38.) She reported to Dr. Hasenfeld that she was undergoing a pre-surgical workup, hoping to undergo hip replacement surgery at Yale Orthopedic. (Id.) Dr. Hasenfeld observed that Black walked with a crutch at that time and that she needed a new hip replacement-but that she currently had adequate mobilization with an auxiliary crutch. (Id.) He noted that Black was able to perform seated activities and “believe[d] she is at a sedentary level at this time.” (Id. (quoting R. 406 et seq).)

         On March 28, 2014, after it was established that Black retained sufficient bone stock, she underwent a third total left hip replacement surgery. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 39.) On April 1, 2014, she was transferred to Arden House for short-term rehabilitation. (Id. at ¶ 40.) She stated that she was feeling “pretty good” and that her pain was “not too bad.” (Id. (quoting R. at 544).) She received physical therapy and was stable during her stay. (Id.) On April 11, 2014, she was discharged. (Id.) At that time, she was “up and about” and using a walker. (Id. (quoting R. at 546).)

         In May 2014, at an appointment with Nurse Dresden, Black reported that she was not in a great deal of pain, except for when she performed her physical therapy exercises. (ECF No. 28 at ¶ 41.) Nurse Dresden prescribed Oxycodone for ...

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