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Logan v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 28, 2018

TODD LOGAN, Plaintiff,



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff, Todd Logan, seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act (“Act”). The parties consented to my jurisdiction. ECF Doc. 16.

         Because the ALJ supported her decision with substantial evidence and because Logan has not identified any incorrect application of legal standards, the final decision of the Commissioner must be AFFIRMED.

         II. Procedural History

         Logan applied for disability insurance benefits on January 24, 2014. (Tr. 85, 229-237)

         After his claims were denied initially (Tr. 153-179) and on reconsideration (Tr. 183-194), Logan requested a hearing. (Tr. 192) Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Penny Loucas heard the case on November 4, 2015 (Tr. 108-152), and found Logan not disabled in a March 29, 2016 decision. (Tr. 82-95) Logan requested review of the ALJ's decision on May 23, 2016 (Tr. 226- 228), but the Appeals Council denied review on July 13, 2017, rendering the ALJ's decision final. (Tr. 1-7) Logan instituted this action to challenge the Commissioner's final decision.

         III. Evidence

         A. Personal, Educational and Vocational Evidence Logan was born on March 22, 1968 and was 43 years old on the date last insured. (Tr. 231) He has his GED and previously worked as a welder. (Tr. 110, 118)

         B. Relevant Medical Evidence

         Logan injured his lower back at work in 1998 but continued to work for several more years. (Tr. 879) He was initially diagnosed with lumbar sprain/strain. He was incarcerated in 2008 and 2009. (Tr. 837-906) In February 2008, he underwent a mental status examination, the results of which were normal. (Tr. 842) He was not using any medications. Based on the normal mental examination, no psychological services were recommended. (Tr. 837-855)

         While in prison, Logan received treatment for his back pain. He was given Flexeril, Motrin, and cortisone shots. Physical examination showed full movement; stiff posture; slow, steady gait; and full range of motion. (Tr. 877, 879) He had no activity restrictions. (Tr. 878, 880) X-rays taken on March 7, 2008 showed normal lumbar bodies and disc spaces, no spondylolytic defect, and no advanced degenerative disease. The impression was mild dextroscoliosis. (Tr. 883)

         An MRI on August 11, 2009 showed disc protrusion at ¶ 4-5 to the right with moderate to severe canal stenosis and mild foraminal narrowing at ¶ 4-5. (Tr. 303) Logan underwent an L4-5 interbody fusion, L4-5 discectomy, L4-5 osteotomies, L4-5 arthrodesis and bone graft on November 6, 2009. (Tr. 383) Logan claims his disability began on the day he had back surgery, November 6, 2009. (Tr. 231)

         On November 17, 2009, Logan followed- up with occupational medical specialist, Paul Hanahan, M.D., two weeks after his surgery. Logan reported that radiating pain to his right leg had resolved. Examination showed muscle tenderness in the lower back. Dr. Hanahan prescribed Vicodin and ibuprofen. (Tr. 301) X-rays on November 23, 2009, showed status post spinal fusion with anatomic alignment. (Tr. 408)

         Logan followed up with Dr. Hanahan on December 15, 2009. Logan reported much improvement; his right leg pain was no longer present. Logan had been given a physical therapy allowance through workers' compensation but had not yet begun therapy. Examination showed limited range of motion, mild tenderness to the paralumbar muscles, and improving gait. Dr. Hanahan continued prescriptions for Vicodin and ibuprofen and added Flexeril. (Tr. 301)

         X-rays on December 21, 2009 showed status-post spinal fusion at ¶ 4-L5, intact metallic hardware, normal spinal alignment with no acute compression or spondylolisthesis. (Tr. 407) X-rays on February 1, 2010 were the same. (Tr. 406)

         On February 2, 2010, Logan saw Dr. Hanahan who noted that he had been cleared by the neurosurgeon to return to work. Logan was cautious about his ability to do his construction job. Dr. Hanahan noted that Logan had not participated in physical therapy. Examination showed slight tenderness at the extremes of range of motion; leg lift was strong bilaterally; and gait was normal. Dr. Hanahan prescribed Vicodin. (Tr. 297)

         Logan saw Dr. Hanahan again on March 15, 2010. He reported back pain but denied that any activity caused the pain. Logan had returned to work but had been allowed to do less physical work. Logan reported doing well until March 13, 2010. Examination showed restricted range of motion due to pain; no muscle spasm; neurological exam was grossly intact; and he had antalgic gait favoring the right side. Dr. Hanahan ordered physical therapy and prescribed Vicodin and Flexeril. (Tr. 297)

         X-rays on June 16, 2010 were unremarkable without significant change from previous studies. (Tr. 405)

         Logan returned to Dr. Hanahan on June 21, 2010. He reported going to the emergency room the prior week; he had pain in his lower back after lifting his grandchild. Following neurosurgical evaluation, physical therapy was scheduled. Logan intended to begin therapy the next day. Examination showed limited range of motion, leg raise weakness on both sides, radiating pain into the left leg, and numbness into the left foot. Dr. Hanahan diagnosed an acute strain, encouraged physical therapy and prescribed Roxicodone. (Tr. 296)

         From June 22, 2010 to September 3, 2010, Logan attended 23 out of 27 physical therapy visits. (Tr. 431-454) Logan reported activities like repairing his car and mowing the lawn. (Tr. 445, 449) Toward the end of physical therapy, the therapist noted that “pace of recovery has picked up considerably.” (Tr. 433) On September 1, 2010, Logan reported improvement with no back pain and 0/10 symptom rating. (Tr. 432) At his last appointment on September 3, 2010 he reported no back pain but some ache; good response to treatment; and a symptom rating of 0/10. (Tr. 432)

         On July 19, 2010, Logan reported improvement with physical therapy to Dr. Hanahan. He was noting slightly less pain and feeling stronger. He was taking a minimal amount of medication. Examination showed tenderness in the right paralumbar area; muscles were tighter on right than the left; he had restricted range of motion on the right side; dorsi and plantar flexion weakness in the feet, right greater than left; and reduced deep tendon reflexes in the right ankle. Dr. Hanahan recommended continued physical therapy and prescribed Roxicodone. (Tr. 295)

         He met with Dr. Hanahan again on August 17, 2010. Logan reported that he had not been consistent with physical therapy due to personal obligations. He was unsure of whether he could return to his previous jobs. They discussed a work conditioning program. Examination showed fair to good range of motion in back; there were no muscle spasms; he had weakness in his right leg; he had normal dorsi and plantar flexion. Dr. Hanahan ordered that Logan return to physical therapy and start a work hardening/conditioning program in September 2010. He also filled Logan's Roxicodone prescription. (Tr. 295)

         On September 7, 2010, Logan met with Donald Weinstein, Ph.D., for a psychological consultation for his worker's compensation claim. (Tr. 580-583) Dr. Weinstein concluded that Logan met the criteria for a formal diagnosis of major depressive disorder, single episode, moderate. Dr. Weinstein opined that Logan was temporarily and totally disabled and needed vocational rehabilitation. (Tr. 583)

         Logan saw Dr. Hanahan on September 14, 2010. Examination showed Logan's range of motion was restricted to the right and leg lift was weaker on the right. Dr. Hanahan refilled Logan's prescription for Roxicodone. (Tr. 294)

         On October 13, 2010, Logan returned to Dr. Hanahan. Examination showed that his range of motion was fair to good with tenderness at the extremes; his leg lift was relatively weak on both sides, more so on the right; his gait was mildly antalgic, favoring the right; and he had mild tenderness at the lower midline. Dr. Hanahan ordered that he begin work conditioning and refilled the prescription for Roxicodone. (Tr. 293)

         On November 11, 2011, Dr. Hanahan's notes reflect that he withdrew Logan from work conditioning after a psychologist suggested Logan was not mentally ready to return to his former position. Logan reported problems with his right leg. Dr. Hanahan referred him to physical therapy and refilled his prescription. (Tr. 293)

         Logan returned to Dr. Hanahan on December 10, 2010 reporting that he was seeing a psychologist every two weeks for major depressive disorder.[1] Logan also reported lower back pain with radiation to the left hip. Examination showed moderate tenderness in the lower midline; range of motion was restricted to the left; and gait was antalgic, favoring the left. Dr. Hanahan refilled Logan's prescription and noted that he would reconsider vocational rehabilitation after Logan was cleared by psychiatry. (Tr. 292)

         Logan met with Dr. Hanahan on January 5, 2011. He reported that his former employer said he could return to his old job if given clearance. Dr. Hanahan observed that Logan's gait was severely antalgic; he was walking hunched over. Logan admitted to smoking marijuana. Dr. Hanahan ordered a drug screen to be performed that day. (Tr. 292) He discharged Logan from his care on January 11, 2011, after a failed drug screen showed positive results for marijuana and hydrocodone and negative results for oxycodone, the prescribed pain medication. (Tr. 291)

         Logan saw orthopedic surgeon, Tim Nice, M.D., on January 18, 2011. Logan reported a history of spinal fusion surgery in 2009 and pelvic/hip pain. Examination revealed good strength in his hips. Neurological examination was normal in his legs. X-rays of the pelvis and hips were normal. Dr. Nice recommended a bone scan to investigate Logan's “uncharacteristic pain” and, if negative, planned to bring him back in for an injection. (Tr. 306)

         On March 18, 2011, Logan saw Satish Mahna, M.D., for aching discomfort in the lower back without radiation into the groin and legs. He was taking Valium and Excedrin. (Tr. 312) Examination showed that he was walking unassisted with a right antalgic gait. He had tenderness and restricted range of motion in the lower lumbar area; some restricted range of motion in the right hip; weakness in the right hip flexors; equivocal straight leg raise tests; and questionable atrophy of the right quadriceps. (Tr. 313) Dr. Mahna recommended diagnostic imaging and that he continue his current medications. (Tr. 314)

         On April 1 and 15, 2011, Logan returned to Dr. Mahna reporting worsening pain and weakness in his right leg. (Tr. 315) Examination findings were the same. (Tr. 316, 319) Logan reported using a cane because his left hip began hurting after favoring the right side. (Tr. ...

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