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Jones v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

November 15, 2017

JAMES B. JONES, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, James B. Jones, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental security income (“SSI”). For the reasons that follow, the Court OVERRULES Plaintiff's Statement of Errors and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Prior Proceedings

         Plaintiff filed for a period of disability, DIB, and SSI on June 8, 2015. (Tr. 16, PAGEID #: 53). In both applications, Plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of May 27, 2015. (Id.). His claims were denied initially on September 15, 2016, and upon reconsideration on January 8, 2015. (Id.). Administrative Law Judge Anne Shaughnessy (the “ALJ”) held a hearing by video teleconference on September 15, 2016 (id.), after which she denied benefits in a written decision on December 12, 2016. (Tr. 16-25, PAGEID #: 53-62). Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision, but the decision became final when the Appeals Council denied review on March 1, 2017. (Doc. 16 at 1-2).

         Plaintiff filed this case on March 21, 2017 (Doc. 1), and the Commissioner filed the administrative record on May 30, 2017 (Doc. 11). Plaintiff filed a Statement of Specific Errors on August 11, 2017 (Doc. 14), the Commissioner responded on September 25, 2017 (Doc. 16), and Plaintiff did not file a Reply.

         B. Relevant Testimony at the Administrative Hearing

         1. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff was born on December 27, 1974, and was 40 years old on the alleged disability onset date. (Tr. 23, PAGEID #: 60). At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that he is 6'4” tall and weighs 225 pounds and has a high school education. (Tr. 35, PAGEID #: 72). He lives alone, maintains a driver's license, and drives two to three times per week “if necessary.” (Id.). Plaintiff worked full-time for thirteen years at National Freight Interactive Logistics in New Concord, Ohio. (Tr. 36, 46, PAGEID #: 73, 83). For ten years, he was “repack floor lead, ” making “Colgate Palmolive displays for local distributors all across the country….” (Id.). Thereafter, he was transferred to the position of “material handler, ” which he described as “shipping/receiving running equipment, and loading and unloading trucks.” (Id.). Plaintiff served as a supervisor for “[u]p to 100 [people] at a time” while at National Freight Interactive Logistics. (Tr. 51, PAGEID #: 88).

         Plaintiff suffered a back injury that led to a lower laminectomy in 2006, after he which he returned to work. (Tr. 36, PAGEID #: 73). Plaintiff explained that the associated pain returned at work approximately ten years later, in 2015, when he had to pick up “a bunch of product” that had spilled in a truck “and put it on pallets.” (Id.). That injury led to a second laminectomy in August 2015. (Tr. 38, PAGEID #: 75).

         Plaintiff also testified that, at fourteen years old, he broke his right arm “in 181 places, ” so it is “full of steel, screws, fake tendons and bands….” (Tr. 43, PAGEID #: 80). He indicated that there is “no bone” in his arm, which has “a 13 inch scar that [is] all metal.” (Id.). Plaintiff testified that the range of motion in his arm recently has been “getting shorter and shorter.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff stated that he is in pain “[e]very second of his life, ” which is exacerbated by “[w]alking more than 10 to 15 minutes, sitting still in one spot without readjusting [him]self, [and] long car rides.” (Tr. 40, PAGEID #: 77). Plaintiff testified that he “can sit 10 to 15… minutes without taking medication, ” and he constantly needs to readjust. (Tr. 41, PAGEID #: 78). Plaintiff takes a number of medications, which he explained “make[ ] it very difficult [for him] to function properly.” (Tr. 37-38, PAGEID #: 74-75). Plaintiff reported sleeping very little due to the constant pain. (Tr. 42, PAGEID #: 79).

         Plaintiff stated that he is able to lift two to five pounds (up to ten pounds) and uses a cane. (Tr. 39, 40, PAGEID #: 76, 78). Although Plaintiff sometimes walks without a cane at home, he always uses it to climb the stairs. (Tr. 46, PAGEID #: 83). Plaintiff explained that he is able to care for his personal needs using a shower chair and toilet seat extender. (Tr. 42, PAGEID #: 79).

         Plaintiff testified that a friend visits him daily to help with chores, such as washing dishes, taking the garbage out, and driving places that are more than twenty-minutes away. (Tr. 38-39, PAGEID #: 75-76). A friend also takes him grocery shopping. (Tr. 44, PAGEID #: 81). Plaintiff explained that, on the rare occasion he grocery shops alone, he “drives a cart” to navigate the store. (Tr. 44-45, PAGEID #: 81-82). Plaintiff used to cook food on the grill, but now opts for food he can “throw … in the microwave.” (Tr. 43, PAGEID #: 80).

         2. The Vocational Expert's Testimony

         Vocational Expert Mark Pinti (the “VE”) also testified at the hearing. (Tr. 63, PAGEID #: 100). The VE stated that Plaintiff's past jobs required medium and heavy levels of exertion and were semi-skilled. (Tr. 64, PAGEID #: 101). The ALJ asked the VE to consider a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's past jobs who was limited to light work, can stand for two hours in an eight-hour workday, cannot climb ladders or scaffolds, can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and can reach overhead with the right upper extremity. (Tr. 64, PAGEID #: 101). The VE testified that the individual would be unable to perform past work but could perform other work, such as assembler, inspector, document repairer, sorter, and order clerk. (Tr. 64-65, PAGEID #: 101-102). The VE likewise testified that if pushing and pulling with the right upper extremity were limited to occasionally, the hypothetical individual could still perform those jobs. (Tr. 65, PAGEID #: 102). In identifying these jobs, the VE “reduce[d] the exertional maximum to sedentary because of the standing and walking limitations….” (Tr. 64, PAGEID #: 101).

         C. Relevant Medical Background

         1. ...

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