United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
District Judge Walter H. Rice
L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge
person's eligibility to receive Disability Insurance
Benefits or Supplemental Security Income often breaks down
when the Social Security Administration finds he or she is
not under a “disability.” See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(a), (d), 1382c(a); see Bowen v. City of
New York, 476 U.S. 467, 469-70 (1986). Plaintiff Karleta
Brown's applications met this fate mainly due to
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Elizabeth A. Motta's
non-disability decision. Plaintiff brings the present case
seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision.
case is presently before the Court upon Plaintiff's
Statement of Errors (Doc. #8), the Commissioner's
Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #11), Plaintiff's Reply
(Doc. #12), and the administrative record (Doc. #7).
September 19, 2012, the date Plaintiff filed her
applications, she was 44 years old. She has at least a
high-school education. Before she applied for benefits, she
worked as a production assembler.
a hearing held by ALJ Motta, Plaintiff testified that she
could not work mostly due to panic attacks and depression.
She has difficulty socializing with others and feels
“almost an intimidation being around other
people.” (Doc. #7, PageID #101). She explained
that these problems started in her last job at Indianapolis
Casting Corporation, a company that makes engine blocks. She
stopped working there when the stress became too much, her
panic attacks worsened, and her depression started. After
that job, her panic attack “progressed” and she
cannot stay focused. Id. She takes mediations, Xanax
and Prosac, prescribed by her physician Dr. Nickras.
experiences frequent crying spells that last all day. She
does not leave her house very often and has stayed there for
two weeks without leaving. She described her isolation as
I don't have a life. I don't have anything to talk to
anybody about and as far as wanting to talk to somebody about
my problems, you know, they don't want to hear that you
know, they-it kind of-it brings me where I feel like I'm
just a second class of citizen is how I feel sometimes.
(Doc. #7, PageID #108). She described her house as
her safe haven. Id. at 110. She sometimes talks with
her mother, but she spends most of her time in her bedroom.
Id. at 104. When she has a good day, she talks more
with her mother. On bad days, she shuts down. Id. at
113. She estimated that three quarters of her days are bad.
point she suffered an injury to her left hand, causing her
chronic pain. Id. at 106, 110. Although not
discussed in detail during her testimony, in 2004, Plaintiff
suffered amputation of two fingertips (left hand) in a
work-related accident. Id. at 422.
administrative record contains the opinions provided by
Plaintiff's long-term treating physician Dr. Nickras, who
began treating her in 2006. In June 2014, Dr. Nickras
answered interrogatories identifying Plaintiff's
diagnoses as (1) chronic neuritic pain in her left upper
extremity; (2) anxiety/panic disorder; (3) depression, and
(4) chronic analgesic use for chronic pain. (Doc. #7,
PageID #568). Dr. Nickras opined that
Plaintiff's “main problem is emotional and
anxiety/panic disorders would not allow her to work in a
normal work environment.” Id. at 873. Dr.
Nickras noted that she did not know if Plaintiff could
perform sedentary or light work, and she anticipated that
Plaintiff would be absent from work an average of three times
per month. Id. at 874.
2013, psychologist Dr. Griffiths interviewed and evaluated
Plaintiff's mental work abilities at the request of the
state agency. He diagnosed Plaintiff with major depressive
disorder, recurrent, moderate; panic disorder with
agoraphobia; posttraumatic stress disorder; and cocaine abuse
in full remission. He explained that there is ample evidence
to support diagnoses of major depressive disorder, recurrent
and panic disorder with agoraphobia. Id. at 427. Dr.
Griffith observed that Plaintiff was dysphoric. She displayed
a downcast facial expression and looked sad and tired. She
spoke slowly. She cried throughout the
examination….” Id. at 425. She told Dr.
Griffiths that she did not trust anybody and felt like people
were out to get her. Id. at 424. She also reported
that she worries, and Dr. Griffiths explained, “[s]he
described symptoms associated with panic attacks including
accelerated heartbeat and trembling and an overwhelming sense
of fear. She estimated that she experiences one episode a
week. Finally, Ms. Brown reported symptoms associated with
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder including intrusive thoughts,
flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, avoidance and
difficulty trusting others….” Id.
Griffith opined that Plaintiff's emotional difficulties
might interfere with her ability to manage more complex
multi-step instructions; her emotional difficulties may
interfere with her ability to pay attention and concentrate,
especially over extended periods of time; “[i]n
addition, the limited energy, easy fatigability, poor
frustration tolerance and psychomotor retardation that often
accompany depression may interfere with task persistence and
pace, as well.” Id. at 427. And, among other
mental-work limitations, Dr. Griffiths thought, “the
stress and pressures ...