United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MONICA L. DAMRON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Michael H. Watson Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KIMBERLY A. JOLSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Monica L. Damron, filed this action seeking review of a
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying both her Title II
Disability Insurance Benefits and Title XVI Supplemental
Security Income Disability applications. For the reasons that
follow, it is RECOMMENDED that
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors be
OVERRULED, and that judgment be entered in
favor of Defendant.
filed her first applications for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) on April 10, 2006, alleging disability
since March 20, 2006. (See Doc. 10-3, Tr. 94, PAGEID
#: 145). Her applications were denied initially, after
reconsideration, and by an Administrative Law Judge on
December 17, 2007. (Id.).
filed another application for DIB and SSI on June 21, 2010,
this time alleging a disability onset date of December 18,
2007. (Id., Tr. 112, PAGEID #: 163). Her claims were
denied initially on November 9, 2010 (Id., Tr. 122,
PAGEID #: 173), and upon reconsideration on March 25, 2011
(id., Tr. 148, PAGEID #: 199). Administrative Law
Judge Paul E. Yerian (the “ALJ”) held a hearing
on May 17, 2012 (Doc. 10-2, Tr. 35, PAGEID #: 85), after
which he entered a partially favorable decision on November
13, 2012, finding Plaintiff was disabled beginning on
September 4, 2012, but not before (id., Tr. 10,
PAGEID #: 60). Plaintiff sought review of the unfavorable
portion of the ALJ's decision, but the decision became
final when the Appeals Council denied review on January 28,
2014. (Id., Tr. 4, PAGEID #: 54). However, by order
dated February 10, 2015, this Court remanded the claims for
further consideration of the potential retroactivity of
consultative optometrist Sarah Yoest's opinion. (Doc.
10-9, Tr. 724, PAGEID #: 782).
a second administrative hearing was held on September 14,
2015 before ALJ Yerian, this time with respect to only the
issue of disability for the period prior to September 4,
2012. (Doc. 10-8, Tr. 700, PAGEID #: 757). The ALJ issued a
written decision on November 12, 2015, once again concluding
that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to September 4, 2012.
(Id., Tr. 675, PAGEID #: 732). Plaintiff again
requested review of the administrative decision to the
Appeals Council, which denied her request on November 16,
2016. (Id., Tr. 666, PAGEID #: 723).
filed this case on January 17, 2017 (Doc. 3), and the
Commissioner filed the administrative record on March 24,
2017 (Doc. 10). Plaintiff filed a Statement of Specific
Errors on June 20, 2017 (Doc. 16), the Commissioner responded
on August 4, 2017, (Doc. 17), and no Reply was filed.
Relevant Testimony at the Administrative Hearings
May 17, 2012 Hearing
counsel began the hearing by explaining that Plaintiff has
virtually no sight out of her right eye and stated that
“[s]he has been told that her left eye is now weakening
greatly.” (Doc. 10-2, Tr. 41, PAGEID #: 91). During
Plaintiff's testimony, she reiterated that she had no
eyesight with her right eye and could see “just
motion.” (Id., Tr. 69, PAGEID #: 119).
Plaintiff explained that with her left eye she can see people
and big objects, she watches movies and DVDs, but she
can't read because the words are too small.
(Id.). Finally, Plaintiff stated that she can bathe
and dress on her own, and she sometimes can do laundry,
clean, and cook. (Id., Tr. 72, 75, PAGEID #: 122,
Richard Simmons, a board-certified ophthalmologist, also
testified as a medical expert via telephone. (Doc. 10-2, Tr.
42, PAGEID #: 92). Although Dr. Simmons never personally
examined Plaintiff, he reviewed her medical records prior to
the hearing. (Id.). As to Plaintiff's right eye,
Dr. Simmons opined multiple times that “there's no
question the right eye's bad.” (Id., Tr.
44, PAGEID #: 94; see also Id. (“it's no
question that she is surgically impaired in the right
eye”)). Dr. Simmons testified that vision in the left
eye, however, “is usually 20/30” and that the
visual acuity in the left eye was not -22 or worse.
(Id.). Ultimately, Dr. Simmons explained that he did
not believe Plaintiff met or equaled the listings as a result
of her vision issues, because the listings require that the
best eye be considered-in this case Plaintiff's left
eye-and it did not meet the listing requirements.
(Id., Tr. 45, PAGEID #: 95).
terms of limitations, Dr. Simmons noted that Plaintiff would
not have any depth perception due to her right-eye vision
loss, which would make driving a car difficult.
(Id.). He further testified that if work place
hazards or dangerous machinery were directly in front of
Plaintiff, she would be able to avoid them, but if they were
off to the side, she would not. (Id., Tr. 46, PAGEID
#: 93). Finally, Dr. Simmons opined that Plaintiff
“ought to be able to read up close with a proper
optical correction, ” she had no contraindications to
using a computer screen, and she would have no problems in
determining shape or colors of objects, such as screws, nuts,
or bolts. (Id., Tr. 47, PAGEID #: 93).
September 14, 2015 Hearing
opening statement, Plaintiff's counsel stated that the
key issue before the ALJ was the possible retroactivity of
Dr. Yoest's September 2012 report. (Doc. 10-8, Tr. 704,
PAGEID #: 761). During Plaintiff's testimony, she
explained that she needs help with everything, including
cooking, cleaning, and laundry, because she can't read
the ingredients, measure, or differentiate colors.
(Id., Tr. 708-09, PAGEID #: 765-66). Plaintiff also
stated that she does not watch ...