United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
John A. Ledoux, Jr.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Opinion No. 2016 DNH 112
DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge
Ledoux, Jr. seeks judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), of the decision of the Acting Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration, denying his applications
for social security disability benefits. Ledoux contends that
the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") erred in
weighing the medical opinions in the record, in failing to
consider the limiting effects of other impairments, in
assessing a residual functional capacity for full-time work,
and in relying on the vocational expert's opinion based
on an incomplete hypothetical question. The Acting
Commissioner moves to affirm the decision.
reviewing the final decision of the Acting Commissioner in a
social security case, the court "is limited to
determining whether the ALJ deployed the proper legal
standards and found facts upon the proper quantum of
evidence." Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35
(1st Cir. 1999); accord Seavey v. Barnhart,
276 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2001). The court defers to the
ALJ's factual findings as long as they are supported by
substantial evidence. § 405(g). "Substantial
evidence is more than a scintilla. It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Astralis Condo. Ass'n v.
Sec'y Dep't of Housing & Urban Dev., 620 F.3d
62, 66 (1st Cir. 2010).
applied for social security disability benefits and
supplemental security income in April of 2007, alleging a
disability since January 15, 2006. His application was denied
and, after a video hearing, an ALJ issued a decision on April
6, 2010, finding that Ledoux was not disabled. On judicial
review, the court reversed and remanded the decision on
January 24, 2011. The same ALJ held another video hearing and
then issued a decision on March 1, 2012, again finding that
Ledoux was not disabled. When the administrative files were
not available to allow review, the court again reversed and
ALJ held a third video hearing on April 2, 2015, and issued a
decision on April 24, 2015, finding that Ledoux was not
disabled from the alleged onset date through his last insured
date of March 31, 2011. The ALJ found, however, that Ledoux
was disabled after October 24, 2012, because his age category
changed. When the Appeals Council informed Ledoux
that the ALJ's decision was the final decision, he again
sought judicial review.
was forty-three years old in 2006, when he alleges his
disability began. He had worked as a tow truck driver, a
heavy equipment driver, and motorcycle repairer. For purposes
of challenging the current decision, Ledoux is seeking social
security disability benefits and alleges disability caused by
physical impairments due to disc disease, headaches, and
coronary artery disease.
September of 2006, Ledoux reported during an initial
healthcare assessment that he had lower back pain that caused
him to double over at times and interrupted his sleep. An
x-ray showed a collapsed disc at L4-L5 with advanced
degenerative bone changes and an "anterior and posterior
marginal spur causing some focal stenosis of the spinal
canal." Ledoux's gait was coordinated and smooth.
The physician's assistant prescribed pain medication.
appointments over the rest of 2006, Ledoux reported that
medication helped him sleep but that he still had back pain
and also had numbness in his leg and foot. In December of
2006, an MRI showed disc herniation at L5-S1 and L4-L5 along
with "collapse and loss of disc height as well as disc
dessication" at L3 to S1. Despite worsening back pain,
Ledoux continued to be self-employed doing carpentry into
April of 2007, Ledoux reported increased pain and right leg
weakness. He was limping, and his range of motion was limited
by low back pain. Straight leg testing was positive on his
right leg. He also reported that he had not worked since the
mid-2007, physicians agreed that nonoperative treatment of
Ledoux's back pain had been unsuccessful. On July 9,
2007, Dr. Yogish Kamath operated on Ledoux, doing a lumbar
laminectomy with L3-L5 disc fusion. He was discharged from
the hospital on July 14, 2007.
July of 2007, Dr. Matt Masewic, a state agency physician,
reviewed Ledoux's records and concluded that despite
Ledoux's severe lumbar disc disease, he could work at the
sedentary exertional level and do all postural activities.
Another state agency physician reviewed Dr. Masewic's
opinion and agreed.
reported to a physician's assistant in mid-August that he
was symptom free. His physical examination produced normal
results. Dr. Kamath cautioned that Ledoux was to avoid
bending, contact sports, and lifting weights over twenty-five
to thirty pounds. Dr. Kamath also stated that Ledoux could
not return to his work in the construction industry.
therapist Ernest Roy performed a functional capacity
assessment of Ledoux on August 21, 2007. Because of
Ledoux's recent surgery, Roy could not do some of the
necessary testing. He found that Ledoux could occasionally do
postural activities, walk, stand, and drive and was not
limited in hand movements and manipulation. Roy also found
that Ledoux could work at the light exertional level for
eight hours daily.
agency consultant, Dr. Akbar N. Sadri, reviewed Ledoux's
records and issued an opinion on March 21, 2008. He found
that Ledoux could do work at the sedentary exertional level
with certain other limitations.
October of 2008, Ledoux was hospitalized for chest pain
radiating down his arms. He was diagnosed with a heart
attack. He had a surgical procedure to insert a stent in his
left circumflex coronary artery. His post-operative checks
reported that he was doing well.
he fell in January of 2009, Ledoux reported to a
physician's assistant that he had an exacerbation of back
pain. He also noted chronic neuropathy of his right leg and
foot since the surgery. An x-ray showed no acute fracture or
displacement of the surgical hardware. The physician's
assistant prescribed pain medication.
a physical therapy consultation in March of 2009, Ledoux
reported that although surgery had improved his pain, he
still had chronic back pain. The physical therapist issued a
TENS unit and recommended home exercise. In May, Ledoux
reported chronic back pain with a recent increase in pain.
The physical therapist noted that Ledoux was stiff ...