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Hackeloer v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

March 26, 2018

JEFFERY HACKELOER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM M. CONLEY DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), plaintiff Jeffery Hackeloer seeks judicial review of a final decision of defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security, which denied his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Social Security Income. In his appeal, plaintiff contends that the administrative law judge erred by (1) rejecting the opinion of a consultative examiner, Dr. Kurt Weber, and (2) “cherry-picking” the opinion of examining physician, Dr. Michael Stotz. The court held a telephonic hearing on this appeal, at which the parties appeared by counsel. For the reasons provided below, the court rejects both challenges and will affirm the denial of benefits.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Claimant

         Hackeloer was born on February 9, 1965. He applied for both SSDI and SSI in 2012, some seven years after his original claimed disability onset date of January 26, 2005. At the March 2014 hearing in front of the ALJ, he requested to amend his onset date to September 1, 2006. He was 39 years-old at the date of the alleged onset of his disability, 47 years-old when he applied for disability, and 49 years-old at the time of his third hearing in March 2014. Hackeloer has a limited education, is able to communicate in English, and has past work experience as a mail handler. Hackeloer last worked in 2005. He claims disability based on a combination of degenerative disk disease of the lumbar spine, status post fractured left femur, obesity, depression, renal failure and fibromyalgia.

         B. Medical Record

         In his application for SSI, Hackeloer reported that he had not seen a doctor for six to seven years because of a lack of health insurance. (AR 311.) As a result, his medical record is quite thin. In his March 2012 application for social security benefits, Hackeloer principally complained of back, neck and knee pain, and numbness. He claimed that he could not walk, sit or stand for long periods of time. (AR 303.) Despite these limitations, he reported that he helped with housework with frequent breaks, including cleaning, laundry and mowing, and he babysat his grandson two to three hours per week. (AR 304-05.) Hackeloer also reported that he walked every day, about two and a half miles, which would take him about one and a quarter hour, though he had to take breaks about every five minutes or quarter mile. (AR 308.) Later in the same report, however, Hackeloer represented that he could walk for about 15 to 30 minutes without a break and that he could only walk a half hour per day. (AR 311.)

         After he applied for benefits, Hackeloer met with two doctors for consultative examinations. In April 2012, Dr. Kurt Weber saw Hackeloer for a consultative mental status examination. Dr. Weber diagnosed Hackeloer with mild depression and assessed his work capacity as follows:

mild limitations in the ability to understand, remember and carry out simple instructions,
moderate interference in the ability to respond appropriately to supervisors and co-workers,
mild to moderate limitations in the ability to maintain concentration, attention and work pace,
moderate limitation in the ability to withstand routine work stresses, and
moderate limitations in the ability to adapt to change in the work environment.

(AR 373-79.)

         Also in April 2012, Michael Stotz, D.O., saw Hackeloer for a disability examination. (AR 382-90.) In his interview with Stotz, Hackeloer reported having “difficulty walking for about one year following [left leg] surgery” in 2004 and that he had no physical therapy or rehabilitation due to a lack of health insurance. (AR 384.) About two years after his surgery, Hackeloer reported experiencing low back pain that “has progressed and now also . . . neck pain.” (Id.) He also reported continued pain in his left thigh and numbness running down into the lower leg.

         At the time he applied for benefits, Hackeloer was still able to perform about two hours of housework per day, but then reported experiencing pain for two to three days. Hackeloer also reported that he could lift up to 50 pounds and walk up to two miles per day, but would experience left leg numbness after one mile of walking, which was mostly relieved with rest. (Id.) With respect to his neck pain, Hackeloer reported some discomfort turning his head to the ...


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