United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
ARDELLA L. LAUDERDALE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
L. OVINGTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ardella L. Lauderdale brings this action challenging
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Gregory G. Kenyon's
decision to deny her application for Supplemental Security
Income. She asserts that she is under a benefits-qualifying
disability due to asthma, high blood pressure, and carpal
tunnel syndrome. ALJ Kenyon's decision, she contends, is
flawed by mistakes in his evaluation of the opinions of her
long-time treating physician Dr. Martin Schear. She further
contends that ALJ Kenyon's hypothetical questions posed
to the vocational expert failed to accurately reflect her
mental work limitations. And, she argues, ALJ Kenyon erred in
assessing her credibility. She seeks an Order remanding this
case for an award of benefits or, at a minimum, for further
Commissioner contends that the ALJ reasonably weighed Dr.
Schear's opinions; reasonably evaluated Plaintiff's
mental work limitations and thus framed accurate hypothetical
questions; and, reasonably assessed her credibility. The
Commissioner seeks an Order affirming ALJ Kenyon's
January 2007, the Social Security Administration denied a
previous application for benefits Plaintiff had filed. On
June 18, 2007, she applied again for Supplemental Security
Income. That application and its related evidence were at
issue in ALJ Kenyon's decision and are at issue in this
before Plaintiff brought the present case, she went through
one round of administrative denials of her application,
including a previous ALJ's decision that she was not
under a benefits-qualifying disability. Plaintiff appealed
that decision to this Court but before the case reached the
decisional stage, the parties stipulated to a remand for
further administrative proceedings. (Doc. #7, PageID
#s 1712-13). On remand, ALJ Kenyon issued his January 2015
non-disability decision-again, the decision presently before
this Court. (Doc. #8, PageID #s 1599-1620).
date Plaintiff applied for benefits in January 2007, she was
considered a “younger” person under social
security law. When she reached age fifty in January 2010, her
age category changed to an individual “closely
approaching advanced age. She has a “limited”
education, having completed the eleventh grade in high
school. She worked in the past as a commercial cleaner.
testified in a hearing before ALJ Kenyon (in November 2014)
that she is 5ˊ4˝ inches tall and weighs 265 pounds.
Id. at 1653. She lives with her adult son and two
teenage grandchildren. Id. at 1654. She has a
driver's license but no longer drives due to sensitivity
to bright light. Id. She has difficulty reading due
to vision problems although she can read large print.
Id. at 1655. She last worked a full-time job in
1999. She does not recall when she last worked a part-time
job but acknowledged if she had worked at all, she was doing
a part-time janitorial job in 2012. Id. at 1655-56.
testified that she began having asthma attacks when she
turned 40 years old. Id. at 1656-57. Strong perfumes
and cold temperatures during winter aggravate her asthma. She
uses an inhaler between 2 to 4 times a day and a nebulizer
about once a week. Id. at 1657.
described her back pain as starting in her lower back and
extending down her legs. Id. at 1659. She estimated
her pain severity at 8 on a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being the
most intense pain. Id. Treatment for her back has
included going to a chiropractor who gave her exercises to do
at home. Id.
testified that she has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She
has pain all over her body with the most intense pain at her
shoulders. Id. at 1659-60. She has difficulty
lifting her arms over her head. She has reduced manipulative
ability and diminished grip strength due to carpal tunnel
syndrome in both hands. Id. at 1660-61. She also
suffers from daily headaches with migraine headaches about 2
times per week, lasting about 2 days. Id. at
1661-62. She has cataracts with reduced visual acuity.
Id. at 1662. Her eye problems sometimes make it
difficult for her to watch TV. She doesn't “even
fool with reading really” because of both eye and
understanding problems. Id. at 1662, 1670. She
explained, “I understand some things that I read, but
it's mostly I can't-when I [read] I see shadows, as I
told my doctor I see shadows and a lot of spots.”
Id. at 1670-71. She wears glasses but they were
broken at the time of the ALJ's hearing. Id. at
1663. Plaintiff has chest pain and understands that she has
55 percent blockage in her left artery. She uses
nitroglycerin patches and “pain patches.”
Id. at 1672. And, she has high blood pressure, which
causes her feet and hands to swell, and she has diabetes.
Id. at 1672-73.
mental health difficulties, Plaintiff has experienced
auditory hallucinations since she was 20 years old.
Id. at 1663. She hears them every day. She has
self-harming thoughts, sometimes when the holidays are
approaching. She experiences crying spells and difficulty
concentrating due to depression. Id. at 1664-65. She
also experiences panic attacks when she thinks people are
following her. Id. at 1665-66. She takes medication
that makes her sleepy and causes her to sleep during the
daytime. When she wakes up at night, medication helps calm
her. Id. at 1666. She does not like to be around
crowds of people and leaves the house only for doctor's
estimated that she can lift about 10 pounds, and she is
limited to about 20 to 30 minutes of standing because her
back will start hurting. She can sit about 30-35 minutes.
Id. at 1667-68. Walking from her front door to the
car causes her to get tired. Id. at 1668. She
becomes short of breath climbing stairs due to her asthma.
is able to wash dishes about once every 2 weeks because she
cannot stand for long without her back starting to hurt. Her
granddaughter helps her with chores. She does not have
hobbies. During an ordinary day, Plaintiff sleeps (a
medication side effect) unless she has a doctor's
appointment. Id. at 1668-69. When asked why she
cannot work a full-time job, she answered, “Standing
up, my back.” Id. at 1669.
has provided a well-written and accurate description of the
pertinent medical evidence, and there is no need to repeat it
here. (Doc. #11, PageID #s 2221-25). Yet, given the
parties' present contentions, Dr. Martin Shear's
opinions are worth exploring in detail.
December 2007, Dr. Martin Schear-Plaintiff's long-time
treating family physician-completed forms addressing her work
abilities and limits. (Doc. #7, PageID# 1134-36). He listed
Plaintiff's diagnoses as asthma, anxiety, fibromyalgia,
GERD, and hypertension. He checked boxes opining that
Plaintiff could stand/walk and sit 1 hour, for 30 minutes
intervals, during an 8-hour workday; and she could not lift
more than 10 pounds occasionally or frequently. Dr. Schear
believed that Plaintiff was extremely limited in her ability
to push/pull, bend, reach, handle, and repetitive foot
movements. In support of these opinions, Dr. Schear wrote,
“fibromyalgia and asthma.” Id. at 1335.
He also checked boxes indicating that Plaintiff was
“unemployable” and that he expected
Plaintiff's physical and/or mental functional limitations
(specifically, the ones he identified) to last 12 months or
response to interrogatories in April 2009, Dr. Schear
summarized the medical problems he has treated Plaintiff for
as follows: “Patient has been treated for multiple
arthralgia, asthma, chronic sinusitis, obstructive sleep
apnea, low back pain, depression, headaches, CTS, Gerd,
urinary frequency, hypokalemia, and fibromyalgia.”
Id. at 1476. He opined that Plaintiff could not be
prompt and regular in work attendance “due to multiple
medical problems.” Id. He believed that
fibromyalgia, multiple arthralgia, and asthma limited
Plaintiff to lifting and carrying 6 to 10 pounds.
Id. at 1478. He noted that fibromyalgia, multiple
arthralgia, and asthma limited her to 1 hour of
standing/walking and 4 to 5 hours of sitting (½ hour
without interruption) during an 8-hour workday. Id.
at 1478-79. He also opined that fibromyalgia, multiple
arthralgia, and asthma completely prevented Plaintiff from
climbing, balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling, or
crawling. Id. at 1479-80. And these problems
precluded her from working at heights, around moving
machinery, in temperature extremes, and in humidity.
Id. at 1480-81.
Schear concluded that Plaintiff could perform sedentary work
activity but not light work, and he anticipated that on
average she would miss more than 3 days of work per month due
to her impairments or treatment. Id. at 1482.
Supplemental Security Income and The ALJ's
eligibility to receive Supplemental Security hinged on
whether she was under a “disability” as defined
by social security law. See 42 U.S.C. §§
1381a, 1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Bowen v. City of New
York, 476 U.S. 467, 470 (1986). To determine if she was
under such a disability, ALJ Kenyon evaluated the evidence
under the Social Security Administration's 5-step
evaluation procedure. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4).
Moving through step 1, the ALJ found at step two that
Plaintiff's severe impairments included “asthma,
mild coronary artery disease, mild obstructive sleep apnea,
fibromyalgia, obesity, history of (migraine versus muscle
tension) headaches, a history of cataracts with some vision
deficits, affective disorder with depressive features,
anxiety disorder.” Id. at 1604.
Kenyon found at step 3 that Plaintiff's impairments did
not automatically entitle her to benefits under the
Commissioner's Listing of Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Doc. #8, PageID #s
1609-10). Doing so, he determined that Plaintiff's
impairments did not meet or medically equal the criteria in
Listings section 2.02 (loss of visual acuity); section 2.03
(contraction of the visual fields in the better eye); section
2.04 (loss of visual efficiency); section 3.03 (asthma);
section 3.10 (sleep-related breathing disorders); section
4.04 (ischemic heart disease); section 11.00, et seq.
(neurological disorders); section 12.04 (affective
disorders); section 12.06 (anxiety-related disorders).
Id. at 1609-10.
4, ALJ Kenyon found that the most Plaintiff could do despite
her impairments-her residual functional capacity, see
Howard v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 276 F.3d 235, 239