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Shultz v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

May 8, 2017

Keith J. Shultz, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          GEORGE C. SMITH JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Terence P. Kemp United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff, Keith J. Shultz, filed this action seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for supplemental security income. That application was filed on September 24, 2012, and alleged that Plaintiff became disabled on September 1, 2009, which date was later amended to March 25, 2013.

         After initial administrative denials of his claim, Plaintiff was given a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge on January 27, 2015. In a decision dated March 9, 2015, the ALJ denied benefits. That became the Commissioner's final decision on May 10, 2016, when the Appeals Council denied review.

         After Plaintiff filed this case, the Commissioner filed the administrative record on September 12, 2016. Plaintiff filed a statement of specific errors on October 20, 2016. The Commissioner responded on February 16, 2017. Plaintiff filed a reply brief on March 2, 2017, and the case is now ready to decide.

         II. Plaintiff's Testimony at the Administrative Hearing

         Plaintiff, who was 42 years old as of the date of the first administrative hearing and who has his GED, testified as follows. His testimony appears at pages 40-70 of the administrative record.

         Plaintiff began by discussing his work history. He had not worked since March, 2013, but was hired as a cook at a family restaurant in 2012, a job that lasted for only eight hours. Before that, he had not worked since 2008 when he spent several weeks doing inventory at Wal-Mart stores. He worked in a carpet warehouse before that as well as in a paper factory, where he operated a large machine that rolled paper for steel factories. He had some other machine operator jobs as well and also had loaded and unloaded trucks.

         Next, Plaintiff testified about his various impairments. He had problems with his right shoulder, which he attributed to the surgeon's having cut a nerve during surgery which took place in 2013. He could no longer lift anything heavier than a bottle of water and could not reach overhead or behind himself. His hand was always cold and his fingers went numb. On his left hand, he was missing the pointer finger, which affected his grip. He had pain in his low back as well. He had undergone two rounds of physical therapy but it did not help. On a daily basis, Plaintiff would lie in a chair with a pillow under his shoulder to ease the pain.

         Plaintiff also testified that he was receiving mental health counseling. He was getting medication as well. He had trouble making decisions and he had mood swings several times per week. He had trouble sleeping at night due to pain. He did not drive and did not get along well with people. He was not able to do household chores. His days consisted of lying on a couch and watching movies, although he had difficulty following the storyline. He did not believe he could do even a sedentary job because of the pain in his shoulder, and he could sit for only 45 minutes at a time and stand about the same. He could walk 100 yards before getting short of breath.

         III. The Medical Records

         The pertinent medical records are found beginning at page 365 of the record. They can be summarized as follows. The Court will focus primarily on records relating to Plaintiff's condition at or after the time of his alleged onset of disability, which is March 25, 2013.

         Without going into detail, there are records showing that well prior to that date, Plaintiff was hospitalized twice for psychiatric symptoms and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder; that he was treated for COPD and back pain; and that he had undergone surgery on his right shoulder but continued to complain of pain in that joint. He was also seen by Meredith Finsley, a psychological assistant, for an assessment for Belmont County Job and Family Services, who concluded that his general cognitive ability was in the borderline range and ...


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