United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
C. Smith Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHELSEY M. VASCURA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Brenda Kay Caudill (“Plaintiff”), brings this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
social security disability insurance benefits. This matter is
before the United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and
Recommendation on Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (ECF
No. 9), Defendant's Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No.
16), Plaintiff's Reply to Defendant's Memorandum in
Opposition (ECF No. 20), and the administrative record (ECF
No. 5). For the reasons that follow, it is
RECOMMENDED that the Court
OVERRULE Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.
protectively filed her application for Title II Social
Security Benefits on December 20, 2012, alleging a disability
onset date of December 7, 2012. Plaintiff's application
was initially denied on May 8, 2013. Upon reconsideration,
Plaintiff was found disabled, with a June 30, 2013 onset
date. Plaintiff timely appealed the partially favorable
decision. An administrative hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge John L. Shailer (the
“ALJ”) (ECF No. 5, at PAGEID# 53-80), who
determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id. at
held the hearing on June 2, 2015, at which Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, testified. (Id. at PAGEID#
53-80.) Also present and testifying at the hearing were the
medical expert, Ronald E. Kendrick, M.D. (the
“ME”), and the vocational expert, Millie M.
Droste (the “VE”). Id.
asked why she decided that she needed to stop working at the
end of 2012, Plaintiff testified that she had
“increased pain” and “anxiety, ” and
that she “was confused” and “forgetting
things.” (Id. at PAGEID# 42.) Plaintiff
explained that she initially injured her back in 2001 and had
surgery in 2004. (Id. at PAGEID# 59.) She also
testified that she was diabetic, has a “70 percent loss
in [her] left ear and a 10 percent loss in [her] right,
” has high blood pressure, has sleep apnea, and was
previously treated for depression and anxiety for a couple of
months in 2013. (Id. at PAGEID# 60-61.) Plaintiff
further testified that she received no counseling since 2013
for depression or anxiety, adding that she does not get
anxious like she used to and that her anxiety usually goes
away after a few minutes if she just relaxes and takes deep
breaths. (Id. at PAGEID# 61, 69.)
testified regarding Plaintiff's documented physical
impairments. The ME noted that in 2004, long before her
alleged onset date, Plaintiff had a lumbar fusion from L3 to
S1. (Id. at PAGEID# 72.) Subsequent films
demonstrated multilevel degenerative disc disease in her
back. (Id.) The ME indicated that Plaintiff was
diabetic and had sleep apnea and severe obesity.
(Id.) The ME did not address Plaintiff's mental
or psychological allegations. (Id.) The ME provided
Plaintiff's limitations in response to the ALJ's
questions as follows:
A . . . I would say from the alleged onset on, her functional
capacity would be confined no better than sedentary. * * * no
lifting ten pounds occasionally, less than ten pounds
frequently; standing or walking two out of three hours;
sitting six out of eight. I'd restrict bending, stooping,
kneeling, and crawling, postural that is, to only occasional.
I don't see any restrictions that apply to the upper
extremities. She certainly couldn't do ladders or work in
high places or around dangerous, moving machinery.
Q Very good. And for her loss of hearing on the - on that
left side, would there be a - what would be an appropriate
kind of limitation from - a workplace limitation due to that?
A Well, I think she should avoid environments of, you know,
high noise levels. I don't know what decibels would be
tolerable, but primarily more of a quiet environment.
Q Okay. Very good. And do you consider her pain, her
allegations of pain within that opinion?
A Yes. That's primarily the reason for her inabilities to
perform work as she did, you know, prior to her [INAUDIBLE]
Q Okay. And you've already mentioned the aggravating
effects of weight in the way you just were describing those
A Yes. I've taken that into consideration.
ALJ: All right. Counselor, do you have any questions for the
ATTY: No, Your Honor, I do not.
(Id. at PAGEID# 73-74.)
provided her testimony after the ME. The VE testified that
Plaintiff's past jobs included the following positions:
nurse supervisor, general duty nurse, licensed practical
nurse, and community health nurse. (Id. at PAGEID#
75.) In VE determined that an individual with the limitations
the ME assessed could not perform Plaintiff's past
relevant work. (Id.) When asked whether there were
“any transferrable skills” from Plaintiff's
past positions given Plaintiff's “profile, ”
the VE identified the following transferable skills: the
ability to “identify codes, ICD-9 codes;”
“work around others and be able to evaluate
[patients];” and “triage.” (Id. at
PAGEID# 75-76.) The VE explained that “triage”
meant “[t]he ability to organize according to level of
importance, ” not requiring hands-on with patient, but
“more of a prioritization.” (Id. at
PAGEID# 76.) The VE testified that the following positions
would accommodate an individual with Plaintiff's profile
with these transferred skills: medical voucher clerk (60, 000
jobs nationally), hospital admitting clerk (100, 000 jobs
nationally), and claims examiner (120, 000 jobs nationally).
(Id. at PAGEID# 76-77.) The VE added that all three
of these positions are sedentary and involve a quiet noise
level. (Id. at PAGEID# 77.)
counsel did not ask about the level of vocational adjustment
required at the hearing and instead focused on whether the
positions the VE identified could be performed with
additional limitations. More specifically, Plaintiff's
counsel asked whether those positions could be performed if
“claimant would need an environment with low time and
production standards; could make simple, work-related
decisions; could get along with others including supervisors
and coworkers on at least a superficial basis; and could
adapt to changes in the work environment that are routine and
easily explainable.” (Id. at PAGEID# 78.) The
VE testified that the inclusion of the limitation of
“simple, repetitive tasks” would prevent
performance of both Plaintiff's past work and also the
other positions she had identified. (Id.)
7, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
(Id. at PAGEID# 47.) The ALJ noted that Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements through December 31,
2017. (Id. at PAGEID# 39.) At step one of the
sequential evaluation process,  the ALJ stated that Plaintiff had
not engaged in substantially gainful activity since December
7, 2012, the alleged onset date. (Id.)
found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease, diabetes mellitus, obstructive
sleep apnea, hypertension, obesity, and partial hearing loss.
(Id.) The ALJ considered Plaintiff's medically
determinable mental impairments of depression and anxiety,
but concluded that they were non-severe because
“considered singly and in combination, [Plaintiff's
mental impairments] do not cause more than minimal limitation
in [her] ability to perform basic mental work
activities.” (Id. at PAGEID# 40.) As discussed
more fully below, the ALJ offered a thorough discussion in
support of his step-two findings.
further found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one
of the listed impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.)
four of the sequential process, the ALJ set forth
Plaintiff's residual functional ...