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Blood v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 25, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on the objection of plaintiff Robert Blood (“plaintiff” or “Blood”) to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge David A. Ruiz[1] regarding plaintiff's request for judicial review of defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“defendant” or “Commissioner”) denial of his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and a Period of Disability (“POD”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, 1381 et seq. (the “Act”) (Doc. No. 14 [“R&R”]). (Doc. No. 15 [“Obj.”].) The R&R finds that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, and recommends that the decision be affirmed. The Commissioner responded to plaintiff's objection. (Doc. No. 16 [“Resp.”].)

         For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's objection is overruled and the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Relevant Personal and Medical Background

         Plaintiff was born on July 6, 1949, and was 62 years old as of his alleged disability onset date. He has a high school GED, and past relevant work (“PRW”) as a service advisor. (R&R at 1046.[2]) Blood applied for DIB and a POD on July 13, 2012, claiming that he became unable to work because of his disabling condition on September 6, 2012. (Id. at 1047.) When he applied for disability, plaintiff listed “[l]ower back, impingement left shoulder, torn rotator cuff right shoulder, hbp, spot in lungs, nodule in left breast[]” as the physical conditions that limit his ability to work. (Id.)

         Joanne Marino, a nurse practitioner (and not an “acceptable medical source”) at the veteran's administration (“VA”), prepared a summary of plaintiff's health conditions on January 10, 2011. According to that summary, Blood's health conditions included bilateral spondylolysis with radiculopathy, resulting in increased pain with twisting and turning, difficulty squatting and standing, and decreased mobility and pain associated with Blood's occupational activity as a mechanic. (Id.)

         Dr. Krishna Vara examined Blood on October 22, 2012, and provided a medical source statement. Blood complained of chronic back and shoulder pain for the past few years. Dr. Vara reviewed a shoulder x-ray from October 27, 2011 showing degenerative joint disease (“DJD”), and an x-ray of the lumbar spine showing moderate degenerative disc disease (“DDD”). (Id.) Other than Blood's complaints of back and bilateral shoulder pain, Dr. Vara noted no other significant objective findings and recommended no functional limitations at that time. (Id. at 1048.)

         Dr. Debra Troiano, a state agency physician, completed a physical residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment of plaintiff on January 25, 2013. (Id.) Dr. Troiano determined that Blood was capable of frequently lifting and carrying 10 pounds; occasionally lifting or carrying 20 pounds; standing, walking, or sitting for 6 hours a day; and was unlimited in his ability to push or pull. (Id.) Dr. Troiano also opined that he could occasionally climb ramps or stairs, and crouch, up to one-third of the workday. The doctor stated that scaffolds should be avoided, as well as exposure to humidity, extreme cold, or workplace hazards such as machinery and heights. (Id.) She found no manipulative, visual, or communication limitations. (Id.)

         VA staff physician, [3] Dr. D. Michael Jervis, performed a Compensation and Pension (“C&P”) examination on March 18, 2014. At that time, Blood reported an increase in his service-connected left leg radiculopathy with mild to moderate pain. But Dr. Jervis noted a normal gate and a normal evaluation of the sciatic nerve and nerves in his legs. (Id.) Dr. Jervis concluded that Blood's peripheral nerve conditions or neuropathy did not impact his ability to work. (Id. at 1049.)

         B. Social Security Administration Proceedings

         Blood's applications for DIB and a POD were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Id. at 1046.) He requested a hearing before an ALJ, which was conducted on December 11, 2014. Plaintiff appeared at the hearing without counsel, and testified. (Id.) On February 13, 2015, the ALJ issued his decision applying the familiar five-step analysis to determine whether plaintiff was disabled, and concluded that Blood was not disabled.[4] (Id.)

         The ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law in his February 13, 2015, decision:

         1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social ...

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