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Luckett v. Berryhill

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

August 29, 2017

ANGIE L. LUCKETT, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ENTRY

          SHARON L. OVINGTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Angie L. Luckett brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits. She applied for benefits on October 7, 2013, asserting that she could no longer work a substantial paid job. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Eric Anschuetz 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. #6), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #10), and the administrative record (Doc. #4).

         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 Anschuetz's non-disability decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that she has been under a “disability” since January 18, 2011. She was forty-six years old at that time and was therefore considered a “younger person” under Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). She has a high school education. See Id. § 404.1564(b)(4).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Anschuetz that she cannot work because of pain, cuts, and infections. (Doc. #4, PageID #114). Plaintiff gets cuts all over her hands. Id. at 116, 127. Sometimes it is because she is using her hands too much or because her skin is really thin and it tears; other times, she does not know the cause or even that it is going to happen. Id. at 115-16. She explained, “I think the worst thing is it's unpredictable. You might plan something, and then it starts. You're not going to be able to do whatever it is, because it's … like, it takes over your whole life, you know?” Id. at 129.

         She had her last “flare up” two weeks before the hearing. Id. at 126. By the time of the hearing, the fissures/cuts had closed but she had spots on them and her skin was very thin. Id. at 127. When the cuts begin to heal, if she bends her hand, they crack back open. Id. at 130-31. “So, it's best just to tape it up and … you have to wait it out ….” Id. at 131.

         Plaintiff wears gloves all the time. Id. at 117. She wears compression gloves and gloves made of all cotton. Id. She has to wear gloves without fingertips because otherwise the middle of her hand gets really dry and infected. Id. at 134. She believes her hands need to be able to breathe. Id.

         Plaintiff takes several medications including Tramadol, Advil, Clobetasol, and Claritin. Id. at 119. She also takes Prednisone and Methylprednisolone but can only do so for short periods of time. Id. at 119-20. Plaintiff has a prescription for cortisone cream but also uses an over-the-counter cream. Id. at 120, 131. She has used hydrocortisone cream, Fluconazole, Triamcinolone, and Protopic. Id. at 132. She uses different ones depending on her symptoms. Id. She explained, “it's a chain of reactions. One day you can do this. The next day you -- that does not work for you. So, my counter is full of all different kinds of remedies and whatever, because what works for me today, it might not work for me tomorrow ….” Id. at 114. Plaintiff also takes medication- currently, Claritin-for her allergies. Id. at 134.

         The problems with Plaintiff's hands began around 2001. Id. at 112. She worked steadily until that time but then had to stop. Id. at 111. In 2003, Plaintiff went back to work but then did not work from 2004 to 2006. Id. at 113. She testified that she was sick or unable to work at that time. Id. During the periods of time when she felt better, she went to a temp agency and worked as much as she could. Id.

         Plaintiff last worked as an intake representative at Community Blood Center in January 2012. Id. at 107-08. She set up appointments for people to donate blood. Id. at 108. She quit because, “my hands had gotten so bad that I couldn't keep up with the daily activities.” Id.

         Further, Plaintiff has inflammation and pain in her hands, joints, and feet. Id. at 115, 130. Dr. Mary John Thomas, a rheumatologist, diagnosed fibromyalgia. Id. at 118. However, Plaintiff never had “the 18-point fibromyalgia test[.]” Id.

         Plaintiff has not had any mental health treatment but her primary-care physician prescribes medication that helps her sleep. Id. at 125. When asked why she needed it, she explained, “it was … everything just came at me at one time, you know? And it's just a little bit too much, you know, sometimes. … [I]t helped me sleep, and it just relaxed me to -- so I didn't have to worry a lot.” Id.

         Plaintiff lives in a house with her husband. Id. at 103-04. She has a driver's license and usually drives about three days a month. Id. at 104. On an average day, she generally gets up before eight o'clock and does her personal care. Id. at 122. Then, she might wash dishes. Id. To wash dishes, she has to put on cotton gloves with plastic gloves over them. Id. When she wears two pairs of gloves, her hands sometimes sweat, then start to itch. Id. She then determines what to do next depending on how her hands are feeling. Id. at 122-23. She is sometimes able to cook. Id. at 123. And, she can do laundry if she has gloves on. Id. Besides those activities, she watches TV. Id.

         B. Medical Opinions

         i. Kathryn Balazs, D.O.

         Plaintiff's treating dermatologist, Dr. Balazs, completed an evaluation on September 15, 2014. Id. at 521-28. She reported that she began treating Plaintiff on January 16, 2012. Id. at 522. She diagnosed atopic dermatitis, exfoliative dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis. Id. Dr. Balazs indicated that the skin on Plaintiff's scalp, face, neck, chest, and hands have lesions that have been present for at least three months. Id. at 522-24. But, only the lesions on Plaintiff's hands cause functional loss. Id. at 524. Specifically, “When swollen [and] peeling/flared, [Plaintiff] is unable to use her hands. They crack from the swelling … and are painful. This may last several weeks each time. She is very compliant but her disease is very challenging to control.” Id. Plaintiff has tried several different medications, including topical steroids, oral steroids, barrier repair creams, intramuscular steroids, and antihistamines. Id. at 526. Plaintiff is compliant with-and the lesions respond to-treatment. Id.

         Dr. Balazs also provided stark comments detailing her treatment of Plaintiff:

I have seen lots [and] lots of Dermatitis in my 14 years as a practicing Dermatologist, and Ms. Luckett's case is one of the most severe. She does everything I ask of her and she is very difficult to control regardless. She is more than willing to see other specialists to see if they can help-like Rheumatology and Allergy[-]but so far her skin condition is NOT well controlled. The frequency [and] severity of her outbreaks have lessened but she still gets swollen, inflamed skin on her hands, neck, face, [and] chest quite regularly. I feel that it would be very difficult for her to work with her hands in a job that required ...

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