United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
DEAN C. GRIFFITH, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
M. Parker, United States Magistrate Judge.
Dean Griffith, seeks judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application
for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act
(“Act”). This matter is before the court pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. §405(g), 42 U.S.C. §1383(c)(3) and
Local Rule 72.2(b).
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision and
Griffith has failed to identify any error of law in the
ALJ's evaluation of his claim, I recommend that the final
decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
April 4, 2014, Griffith filed concurrent applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income benefits (“SSI”)
alleging disability beginning on August 1, 2013. (Tr.
162-168) The claim was denied initially on May 19, 2014 (Tr.
98-104) and on reconsideration on September 24, 2014. (Tr.
106-112) Griffith requested a hearing on October 24, 2014.
Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jonathan Eliot heard the case
on December 2, 2015. (Tr. 33-75) On January 5, 2016, the ALJ
issued a decision finding Griffith not disabled. (Tr. 15-28)
The Appeals Council denied Griffith's request for review,
rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4) Griffith instituted this action on
November 30, 2016 seeking judicial review of that decision.
(ECF Doc. 1)
Personal, Educational and Vocational Evidence
was born on January 30, 1962. (Tr. 130) He was living in a
townhouse with his partner and his dogs. (Tr. 38. 59)
Griffith completed high school (Tr. 41) and has prior work
experience in loss prevention and as a photo lab assistant.
has been diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. He
first sought counseling from the Nord Center on October 3,
2013. (Tr. 226-236) Griffith met with social workers William
Chapman and Melissa Wheeler for a mental diagnostic
assessment. He reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, mood
swings, anger and auditory hallucinations. He was having
thoughts of suicide once or twice a week. His depression made
him want to stay in bed and he would sometimes sleep 17-18
hours straight. He sometimes forgot what he was talking about
in the middle of conversations. Griffith was well-groomed; he
had an average demeanor and eye contact, clear speech and
logical thought process. He was not having delusions. He had
no history of suicide attempts or violence toward others, and
no current suicidal or homicidal ideation. Griffith's
affect was mildly constricted; his behavior was cooperative;
he had average intelligence and good insight and judgment.
(Tr. 233) The diagnosis was major depressive disorder
recurrent with psychotic features; and “rule out”
diagnosis of bipolar I disorder, most recent episode
depressed. (Tr. 234)
met with John Vesel, PCC on October 23, 2013. He reported
periods of depression and mania and hearing voices at night.
(Tr. 269) Griffith reported increased depression to Mr. Vesel
on November 5, 2013. (Tr. 267) He told Mr. Vesel that his
parents had kicked him out of their house when he was 18
years old due to his sexuality. Despite his difficult history
them, Griffith wanted to reconnect with his family. (Tr. 267)
met with Margaret Messerly, M.D., on November 12, 2013 at the
Nord Center. (Tr. 271-276) Dr. Messerly diagnosed bipolar
disorder, most recent episode depressed, with psychotic
features, and panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Tr. 273)
Griffith started a trial of Seroquel and continued his
counseling. (Tr. 271)
November 14, 2013, Griffith told Mr. Vesel that he was
starting to feel better. He was sleeping a lot. He tended to
interpret others viewing him negatively, but had been
“fine” at a comic book convention. (Tr. 265) On
December 4, 2013, Griffith's depression was low and his
anxiety was not bad. (Tr. 263)
followed up with Dr. Messerly on December 18, 2013. He
reported that Seroquel was too sedating and did not stabilize
his mood. He reported a slight decrease in intensity of
voices while taking medication. Dr. Messerly stopped Seroquel
and started a trial of Abilify. (Tr. 261)
January 16, 2014, Griffith reported “doing well.”
His mood had been okay with less severe ups and downs. He was
still irritable with others. (Tr. 257) He met with Dr.
Messerly on January 17, 2014. He was tolerating Abilify very
well. His moods were more stable and he was sleeping
consistently with less need for sleep in the day. The voices
were significantly reduced. He was being more active and had
lost three pounds. He was planning to begin looking for work.
met with Mr. Vesel on February 6, 2014 and March 6, 2014.
(Tr. 251, 253) In March, he complained of depression and
anxiety. (Tr. 251) Dr. Messerly also noted an increase in
depressive symptoms in March 2014. (Tr. 249) Griffith
reported that the initial benefits of Abilify seemed to have
waned. Dr. Messerly increased Abilify. Griffith also reported
an increase in suicidal ideation. He was stressed by
financial concerns, jury duty, and the decision to apply for
disability. (Tr. 249) Dr. Messerly prepared a short letter
stating that Griffith was unable to serve as a juror due to
his symptoms of mental illness. (Tr. 224)
2014, Griffith reported improvement in his mood with Abilify.
He was still having residual depression but his auditory
hallucinations were much better. On June 25, 2014, Griffith
reported that he was applying for work. Dr. Vesel explained
why he was unwilling to complete disability forms from
Griffith's lawyer. Griffith reported that he did not feel
that he was improving. He said he was putting “on a
good face” at sessions. (Tr. 298)
August 2014, Griffith reported to Mr. Vesel that he had been
mean to his dogs and his partner. He had also been calling
women names when shopping. He had thrown a plate while
cooking. (Tr. 296) Despite these examples of losing his
temper, he was working on calming himself when he was angry.
September 2014, Griffith reported a decrease in mood swings
over the course of his treatment. He was having increased
worries over finances but reported no current thoughts of
suicide and he was not hearing voices. (Tr. 343)
continued to meet with Mr. Vesel in November and December
2014. (Tr. 355, 357, 359) He reported sleeping more and
feeling depressed but he was not having angry outbursts. In
December he reported enjoying Christmas activities - having a
tree and Christmas cookies. He was enjoying his dogs. (Tr.
355) In January 2015, Griffith was sleeping well with less
mood extremes. (Tr. 341) On February 26, 2015, Griffith's
mood continued to improve. However, on March 26, 2015,
Griffith's mood had declined due to his partner's
house guest. (Tr. 414, 416)
met with Dr. Messerly in July 2015, having not seen her since
January. He had limited access to transportation and never
called for medications. He reported a depressed mood,
irritability and low energy. He had been avoiding leaving the
home or even walking the dog. His partner's house guest
had stayed with them for four months. (Tr. 403) Griffith also
attended counseling sessions with Mr. Vesel in July and
August 2015. He reported bad depression and isolation. (Tr.
410, 412) On September 8, 2015, Griffith continued to
complain to Dr. Messerly of worsening depression over the
last couple of months. Griffith denied suicidal ideation and
manic episodes. (Tr. 401)
September 15, 2015, Griffith reported some improvement in
mood and daily activities. He had been doing digital coloring
and other things on his computer and was spending time with
his dogs. (Tr. 407-408)
October 22, 2015, Griffith met with Dr. Messerly and Mr.
Vesel. Griffith reported an increase in isolation and
anxiety. He indicated he had financial worries because his
partner was in the hospital. (Tr. 399, 405)
Reviewing Psychologist - Karla Voyten, Ph.D. - May
16, 2014, reviewing state agency psychologist, Karla Voyten,
opined that Griffith did not meet or equal any listings and
that he was capable of performing work involving only
superficial social interactions. She felt that Griffith could
adapt to relatively static settings with few changes. (Tr.
Reviewing Psychologist - Dr. Irma Johnston - September 24,
reconsideration, reviewing state psychologist, Irma Johnston,
Psy.D., reviewed Griffith's file on September 24, 2014
and affirmed most of the findings of Dr. Voyten. (Tr. 88-93)
Dr. Johnston found that Griffith's ability to interact
with the general public was markedly limited. (Tr. 93)
testified to the following summarized points at the
• He was born on January 30, 1962. He lived with his
disabled partner in a townhouse. (Tr. 38)
• Griffith claimed his disability began on August 1,
2013. (Tr. 41)
• He is 5'7 ½” and weighed 315
pounds. (Tr. 39)
• He does not have a driver's license. (Tr. 39) His
next-door neighbor drove him to places such as the grocery
store and Medicaid and provided rides to his doctors'
appointments. He got a ride to the ALJ hearing from
“provider ride.” (Tr. 40)
• Griffith only left his house once or twice a month.
• Griffith's last job was at Marc's. Before that
he worked at Best Buy in loss prevention or security. (Tr.
42-43) Toward the end of his job at Best Buy, Griffith was
confrontational with ...