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Cranford v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

June 20, 2017




          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Jasmine Cranford brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income. She applied for benefits on June 28, 2012, asserting that she could not work a substantial paid job. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Elizabeth A. Motta concluded that she was not eligible for benefits because she is not under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act.

         The case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (Doc. #7), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #9), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #10), the administrative record (Doc. #6), and the record as a whole.

         Plaintiff seeks a remand of this case for payment of benefits or, at a minimum, for further proceedings. The Commissioner asks the Court to affirm ALJ Motta's non-disability decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that she has been under a “disability” since July 1, 1998. She was eight years old at that time and was therefore considered a “younger person” under Social Security Regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). She has a limited education. 20 C.F.R. § 416.964(b)(3).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Motta that she has three children who are seven years old, two years old, and one year old. (Doc. #6, PageID #71). Her mother has custody of the oldest child, and her two younger children are in foster case. Id. She stated that she does not see any of her children. Id. at 75.

         Plaintiff has problems with depression and anxiety. Id. at 83. She cannot sit in one spot and pay attention to only one thing for thirty minutes. Id. at 83-84. Plaintiff last received treatment from Nova House in 2011. Id. at 78. She used to have problems with cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana but has been clean for two years. Id. at 78-79.

         Plaintiff is supposed to take medication for ADHD and anxiety but does not because it makes her drowsy. Id. at 77. When the ALJ stated that she appeared drowsy at the hearing, she said that the medications make her uptight. Id. She further explained that she was drowsy at the hearing because she was up late the night before. Id.

         Plaintiff dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and has not obtained a GED. Id. at 72-73. In school, she was in special education classes. Id. at 82. Her grades were “up and down.” Id. She did not get along with other kids at school. Id. She fought-sometimes physically-with other kids and argued with teachers as well. Id.

         Plaintiff lives in an apartment by herself. Id. at 70. She often stays with friends for days at a time because she does not like to be by herself. Id. at 73. She spends a lot of her time with her boyfriend as well. Id. at 74. When she is with her friends, they watch movies. Id. at 75. She does not have a normal schedule. Id. at 84. She does not wake up or go to bed at the same time every day, and she sometimes sleeps during the day. Id.

         Plaintiff's father reminds her to pay her bills on time and helps her shop for groceries. Id. at 80. He also reminds her of her appointments and sometimes takes her to them. Id. at 84. Plaintiff is able to understand mail if it is really simple but otherwise has to have someone, usually her father, read it for her. Id. at 83. She is able to make sandwiches, use the microwave, and wash dishes. Id. at 74. When she tries to cook on the stove, she gets easily sidetracked and forgets the food on the stove. Id. at 81. Her friend does her laundry for her. Id. at 74. Her neighbor helps her clean her apartment. Id. at 81. She only uses computers for playing games, but she knows how to send an email. Id. at 75-76. However, her spelling is not very good, and she does not send emails. Id. at 81. She has never had a driver's license but can use public transportation. Id. at 72, 75.

         B. Plaintiff's Father's Testimony

         Plaintiff's father, Jeffrey Van Cranford, Sr., also testified at the hearing before ALJ Motta. Id. at 85. He testified that he sees his daughter almost every day and assists her with “pretty much everything, organizing her day with the kids, or things that she needs, her appointments, her doctor's appointments, her mental health appointments, and things like that.” Id. at 86. He explained that Plaintiff sees her son on Mondays and her daughter on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Id. at 92-93. He has visitation and is allowed to take them to his house, and then she visits. Id. at 93. Plaintiff is not allowed to take the children by herself. Id. He helps her interact and play with her children. Id. at 95. Mr. Cranford also takes Plaintiff to the grocery store to help her choose healthy food and figure out her money. Id. at 86-87. If he did not help her at the grocery, he thought she would likely get things she wanted versus things she needed. Id. at 90. Although Plaintiff is “pretty good at keeping her house clean …, ” he sometimes helps her with washing dishes, putting clothes away, and organizing her stuff. Id. at 88.

         Mr. Cranford testified that Plaintiff started having trouble in school when she was five years old. Id. She had difficulty staying focused and did not listen to authority. Id. at 88-89. As a result, she spent half the day at kindergarten and half at Good Samaritan Behavioral Health. Id. at 89. Plaintiff struggled with grades throughout school but she “was pretty smart in some areas, … like her long-term memory was good. She can remember things. But her short-term memory, she may not remember.” Id. at 89-90. She had some problems getting along with her peers and teachers. Id. at 89.

         Mr. Cranford explained that Plaintiff was in treatment at Cam[2] and last attended treatment in March. Id. at 90-91. He does not think that she completed her treatment. Id. at 91. Plaintiff took Ritalin for attention deficit disorder but she stopped taking it because she did not think it was working. Id. at 92. She then began taking Strattera, and Mr. Cranford thought it worked but he had to watch her put the pill in her mouth and swallow it. Id. He thought she might have had medication for depression or anxiety but he was not sure of whether she took it. Id. 92. Plaintiff sleeps a lot, and Mr. Cranford believes it is due to her lifestyle and “maybe some depression.” Id. at 95.

         C. Medical Opinions

         i. Mary Ann Jones, Ph.D.

         Dr. Jones first evaluated Plaintiff in November 2012. Id. at 473. Dr. Jones noted that Plaintiff's grooming was good, her facial expressions were dull to anxious, and she was cooperative. Id. at 475. Her conversation was relevant but only semi-coherent. Id. She had “very minimal voice inflection. She proved marginal historian. Stream of thought proved retarded. Thought association proved fragmented and concrete.” Id. at 476. Dr. Jones indicated that Plaintiff's demeanor was resigned to apathetic and her affect was sad to blunted. Id. Her degree of consciousness varied between distracted to vague, and she was minimally oriented to person, place, time, and circumstance. Id.

         Dr. Jones diagnosed major depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified (NOS), cannabis and cocaine abuse in nine- month remission. Id. at 478. She assigned a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of fifty-two, indicating moderate symptoms. Id. Dr. Jones assessed Plaintiff as functioning in the mild range of mental retardation and indicated that as a result, “she can be expected to have considerable difficulty in understanding, remembering, and carrying out instructions in a work setting.” Id. at 479. Additionally, Dr. Jones noted that she is not able to stay focused and would have difficulty maintaining appropriate attention and concentration and sustaining adequate persistence and pace in order to perform various work tasks. Id. Plaintiff would also likely have limitations in responding appropriately to supervision and to coworkers in a work setting and in coping appropriately to common workplace stressors. Id.

         In January 2013, Dr. Jones administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale - Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV). Id. at 431. Plaintiff's full-scale intelligence quotient was 66, which falls in the mild range of mental retardation. Id. She achieved a verbal comprehension index of 70 (borderline range); perceptual reasoning index of 67 (mild range); working memory index of 69 (mild range); and processing speed index of 81 (low average range). Id. Dr. Jones noted, “These test results in no way significantly alter the conclusions of her previous [November 2012] exam ….” Id. at 432.

         ii. Bonnie Katz, Ph.D., & Paul ...

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