United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
WILLIAM A. WATERS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
KIMBERLY A. JOLSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
William A. Waters, filed this action seeking review of a
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying his application for
Supplemental Security Income. For the reasons that follow,
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors is
OVERRULED, and judgment shall be entered in
favor of Defendant.
filed for Supplemental Security Income on December 20, 2012,
alleging disability beginning on July 4, 2012, due to a heart
attack, angina, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and
gastroesophageal reflux disease. (See Doc. 15 at 1).
His application was denied initially on April 20, 2013, and
upon reconsideration on July 23, 2013. (Id.).
Administrative Law Judge Edmund E. Giorgione (the
“ALJ”) held a hearing on November 25, 2014 (Tr.
11, PAGEID #: 74), after which he denied benefits in a
written decision on January 30, 2015 (Doc. 15 at 1). That
decision became final when the Appeals Council denied review
on May 25, 2016. (Id. at 2).
filed this case on July 28, 2016 (Doc. 1), and the
Commissioner filed the administrative record on January 6,
2017 (Doc. 11). Plaintiff filed a Statement of Specific
Errors on February 21, 2017 (Doc. 15), the Commissioner
responded on April 7, 2017, (Doc. 16), and Plaintiff filed a
reply on April 24, 2017 (Doc. 17).
The Administrative Hearing
September 2014, Plaintiff requested a telephone interview in
lieu of attending the administrative hearing because he is
the caregiver for his elderly mother, who does not travel
much, and they had no transportation. (Tr. 122, PAGEID #:
180; Tr. 127, PAGEID #: 185). The ALJ denied Plaintiff's
request, stating that there are “transportation
alternatives” for travel between Groveport, Ohio (where
Plaintiff lives) and Columbus, Ohio (where the hearing was to
be held). (Tr. 128, PAGEID #: 186). Consequently, the hearing
occurred on November 25, 2014, without Plaintiff present.
(Tr. 32, PAGEID #: 90).
attorney, Justin Zutell, appeared on his behalf.
(Id.). Mr. Zutell requested that Plaintiff be
granted a telephone hearing due to his lack of transportation
and the need to care for his elderly mother. (Tr. 35, PAGEID
#: 93). The ALJ denied the request, stating that
“telephone hearings are problematic.”
(Id. (elaborating that he doesn't “know
who [he's] really talking to and it's always very
beneficial to be able to observe the claimant”)).
Zutell offered a new piece of evidence, a residual functional
capacity questionnaire dated January 11, 2013, from
Plaintiff's primary care doctor, Dr. Rita Konfala. (Tr.
36, PAGEID #: 94 (referring to Ex. 9F)). Mr. Zutell noted
that Dr. Konfala characterized Plaintiff's prognosis as
guarded but stable and limited Plaintiff to sedentary work
due to his hypertension, heart attack, hyperlipidemia, GERD,
tobacco abuse, dyspnea, and fatigue. (Id.). Dr.
Konfala also noted that he was still experiencing shortness
of breath and chest pain, despite taking his medication. (Tr.
37, PAGEID #: 95). Mr. Zutell acknowledged certain evidence
reflects that Plaintiff walks his dog three times per day for
20 minutes, but other evidence reflects that Plaintiff takes
the dog out four times per day, but “he doesn't
really walk him much.” (Tr. 38, PAGEID #: 96). Finally,
Mr. Zutell noted that Plaintiff was fifty years old at the
time of filing on December 20, 2012, has a high school
education, and past work that includes working as a security
guard at Radio Shack and a cashier at Kroger. (Tr. 36-37,
PAGEID #: 94-95).
Expert Lynne Kaufman (the “VE”) also testified at
the hearing. (Tr. 38, PAGEID #: 96). The VE testified that a
hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's age, education,
work experience, and RFC could not perform Plaintiff's
past work. (Tr. 40-41, PAGEID #: 98- 99). However, she
testified that there are other jobs the hypothetical
individual could do, such as mail sorter, packer, and
“some types of cashier jobs….” (Tr. 41,
PAGEID #: 99). Limiting the same hypothetical individual to
sitting 60 minutes at a time for eight hours out of an
eight-hour workday, standing and walking for 10 minutes at a
time for one hour out of an eight-hour workday, lifting and
carrying only ten pounds occasionally, and carrying no weight
frequently, the ALJ found that the individual would be
limited to less than a full range of sedentary work. (Tr. 42,
PAGEID #: 100).
Relevant Medical Background
was hospitalized and treated with medical therapy for a
myocardial infarction from July 4, 2012 to July 6, 2012. (Tr.
203, PAGEID #: 261). Although his discharge summary
anticipated compliance problems, Plaintiff subsequently
underwent diagnostic testing (see id.),
cardiological treatment, and physical examinations.
an examination on August 10, 2012, Dr. Konfala noted that
Plaintiff was worried about not being healthy enough to care
for his elderly mother. (Tr. 261, PAGEID #: 319). His
symptoms included chest pain, which Dr. Konfala referred to
as “slight twinges.” (Id.) In terms of
exercise, Plaintiff stated that he walked his dog a couple of
minutes per day several times per week. (Id.). Dr.
Konfala noted that Plaintiff was “currently able to do
activities of daily living without limitations and able to do
housework without limitations.” (Id.). She
also stated that Plaintiff smokes half a pack of cigarettes
per day for stress relief. (Id.). Plaintiff had
normal chest, lung, and cardiovascular exams. (Tr. 262,
PAGEID #: 320). However, Dr. Konfala noted that Plaintiff
would “likely need cardiology referral once records
from hospital are reviewed.” (Id.).
Konfala examined Plaintiff again on October 10, 2012. (Tr.
257, PAGEID #: 315). Plaintiff reported chest pain described
as “slight twinges” and some palpitations, but
stated that he was “feeling well.”
(Id.). He also noted some dyspnea, which he felt may
be caused by his medication. (Id.). Plaintiff was
still smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day, but he was
able to do activities of daily living and his housework
without limitations. (Id.). Plaintiff again had
normal chest, lung, and cardiovascular exams, and Dr. Konfala
again noted that Plaintiff would “likely need
cardiology referral once records from hospital are
reviewed.” (Tr. 258, PAGEID #: 316).
Konfala examined Plaintiff a third time on January 11, 2013.
(Tr. 255-56, PAGEID #: 313-14). She described Plaintiff's
symptoms as shortness of breath (with exertion and rest) and
chest pain and noted “good compliance with treatment,
good tolerance of treatment and good symptom control.”