United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
HAROLD L. RODARMER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
S. GWIN JUDGE
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JONATHAN D. GREENBERG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Harold L. Rodarmer (“Plaintiff” or
“Rodarmer”), challenges the final decision of
Defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill,  Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (“Commissioner”), denying his
applications for a Period of Disability (“POD”)
and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
416(i), 423 et seq. (“Act”). This Court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This
case is before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to an automatic referral under Local Rule 72.2(b)
for a Report and Recommendation. For the reasons set forth
below, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the
Commissioner's final decision be AFFIRMED.
October 2013, Rodarmer filed applications for POD and DIB,
alleging a disability onset date of July 23, 2012 (later
amended to October 14, 2013), and claiming he was disabled
due to ankylosing spondylitis, bilateral sacroiliitis,
phlebitis, arthritis, and depression. (Transcript
(“Tr.”) 40, 180, 200.) The applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration, and Rodarmer
requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 133, 142, 149.)
October 28, 2015, an ALJ held a hearing, during which
Rodarmer, represented by counsel, and an impartial vocational
expert (“VE”) testified. (Tr. 30.) On December 7,
2015, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Rodarmer was
not disabled. (Tr. 12-25.) The ALJ's decision became
final on January 11, 2017, when the Appeals Council declined
further review. (Tr. 1.)
March 7, 2017, Rodarmer filed his Complaint to challenge the
Commissioner's final decision. (Doc. No. 1.) The parties
have completed briefing in this case. (Doc. Nos. 12 &
13.) Rodarmer asserts the following assignments of error:
(1) The ALJ erred when he failed to account for
Rodarmer's need for a cane in the RFC.
(2) The ALJ did not properly weigh the opinion of Dr. Ignat,
a treating physician. (Doc. No. 12.)
Personal and Vocational Evidence
was born in December 1966 and was 47 years-old at the time of
his administrative hearing, making him a
“younger” person under social security
regulations. (Tr. Tr. 23.) See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1563(c). He has a limited education and is
able to communicate in English. (Tr. 23) He has past relevant
work as a maintenance worker, assistant property manager, and
an inside sales and ordering worker. (Id.)
Rodarmer's grounds for relief relate solely to his
physical impairments, the Court's recitation of the
medical evidence will be limited to those impairments, with a
particular emphasis on Rodarmer's use of a cane and his
treatment with Dr. Ignat.
April 25, 2011, Rodarmer underwent a consultative examination
with Robert A. Blaine, M.D., in connection with a prior
application for disability. (Tr. 256.) During this
examination, he did not use an assistive device to ambulate.
(Tr. 257.) Rodarmer had a slightly decreased range of motion
in his cervical spine and shoulders, and complained of back
pain when he elevated his arms. (Id.) He had a full
range of motion in his elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles, but
decreased range of motion in his hips and thoracolumbar
spine. (Id.) Straight leg raises produced back pain.
(Tr. 258.) Rodarmer's grip strength was full, and he had
full strength in his upper and lower extremities.
(Id.) He had a normal gait, station, and heel and
toe walk. (Id.) He was able to squat halfway to the
floor without assistance. (Id.)
this examination, Dr. Blaine filled out a "Medical
Source Statement of Ability To Do Work-Related Activities
(Physical)." He made the following findings regarding
• He could occasionally lift and carry up to 20 pounds.
• He could sit, stand, and walk for 30 minutes at one
time. He could sit for 8 hours total in an 8-hour workday,
stand for one hour in an 8-hour workday, and walk for one
hour in an 8-hour workday.
• He did not require the use of a cane to ambulate.
• He could occasionally reach, including overhead. He
could occasionally handle, finger, feel, push, and pull.
• He could occasionally work at unprotected heights,
near moving mechanical parts, operate a motor vehicle, and
work in humidity, wetness, extreme cold, and extreme heat. He
could frequently work near dusts, odors, fumes, pulmonary
irritants, and vibrations.
• He could not walk a block at a reasonable pace on
rough or uneven surfaces, but he could ambulate without using
a wheelchair, walker, or two canes or crutches.
February 12, 2013, Rodarmer first visited Allied Health &
Chiropractic, a chiropractor practice with Ty Dahodwala, D.C.
and James Alberty, D.C. (Tr. 349, 350, 361.) He reported neck
pain and stiffness. (Id.) On examination, he had a
normal gait. (Tr. 361) Rodarmer then visited this practice on
four more occasions in 2013. (Tr. 360). During his last visit
of record, on March 5, 2013, he indicated his neck was
improving overall, but it still felt tight and achey.
February 28, 2013, Rodarmer began to treat with Gheorghe
Ignat, M.D., a rheumatologist. (Tr. 307.) Rodarmer indicated
he had ankylosing spondylitis for the past 20 years.
(Id.) He reported lower back and neck pain, along
with stiffness and pain in his hips. (Id.) On
examination, Rodarmer's hips were tender, with a
decreased range of motion. (Id.) His shoulders
exhibited crepitus with a normal range of motion.
(Id.) His cervical spine was tender, with a normal
range of motion, while his lumbar spine had a decreased range
of motion. (Id.) Rodarmer had tenderness in his
sacroiliac joint, but his muscle strength was normal.
(Id.) Dr. Ignat renewed Rodarmer's prescriptions
for Prednisone, Meloxicam, and Hydrocodone. (Id.)
returned to Dr. Ignat's office on March 26, 2013. He
reported his medications were helping
“partially.” (Tr. 306.) Dr. Ignat then sought
insurance approval for Simponi, a different medication.
(Id.) Rodarmer began to take Simponi for his
symptoms. (Tr. 305.) He followed up with Dr. Ignat on August
22, 2013. He indicated “in general he has improved
since starting Simponi” but he was having some swelling
in his right elbow. (Id.) Dr. Ignat prescribed
steroids for his right elbow symptoms and renewed the Simponi
and Meloxicam. (Id.)
September 10, 2013, Rodarmer first saw Jeffrey Owen Galvin,
M.D., a primary care physician. (Tr. 310.) His complaints
were mild generalized fatigue, memory loss, and right-sided
olecranon bursitis. (Id.) He reported daily pain
from his ankylosing spondylitis, and requested his
cholesterol levels be checked. (Id.) On examination,
Rodarmer had a mild amount of soft tissue swelling over the
right elbow. (Tr. 312.) Dr. Galvin ordered labwork and
provided Rodarmer with an ace bandage for his elbow. (Tr.
returned to Dr. Ignat on October 23, 2013. He was still
having pain along his entire spine, and he indicated his
Meloxicam did not always help. (Tr. 304.) On examination, he
was tender in the SI joints, with a decreased range of motion
in his lumbar spine. (Id.) His muscle strength was
normal. (Id.) Dr. Ignat assessed Rodarmer as having
“ankylosing spondylitis, mainly spine involvement,
still active, improved on Simponi.” (Id.)
January 22, 2014, Rodarmer reported decreased pain to Dr.
Ignat, but Dr. Ignat noted he “still has pain in his
whole spine, peripheral joints, intermittently.” (Tr.
303.) On examination, his hips and lumbar spine were tender
with a decreased range of motion. (Id.) His
shoulders were tender with a normal range of motion.
(Id.) His sacroiliac joints were tender, but he had
normal muscle strength. (Id.) Dr. Ignat renewed
Rodarmer's Simponi prescription, and prescribed
returned to Dr. Galvin on February 4, 2014. He indicated he
recently had been experiencing dyspnea with exertion. (Tr.
325.) He also reported worsening pain in his back and rib
cage for the past six months. (Id.) He relayed this
pain intensified the weekend prior, and he contemplated
visiting the emergency room. However, the pain then subsided
spontaneously. (Id.) Rodarmer appeared normal on
physical examination. (Tr. 327.) Dr. Galvin indicated
Rodarmer likely had a gallstone attack. (Id.)
February 28, 2014, Rodarmer had a consultation with
rheumatologist Qingping Yao, M.D., for his shortness of
breath. (Tr. 333.) He indicated 20% improvement of his
ankylosing spondylitis symptoms with Simponi. (Id.)
He reported he was able to perform normal, basic daily
activities without limitation. (Id.) Rodarmer did
not have an unsteady gait and was not using a cane. (Tr.
334.) He had no swelling in his joints, but his chest
expansion was limited. (Id.)
indicated Rodarmer's shortness of breath was likely due
to his limited chest expansion, and ordered diagnostic
testing. (Id.) Pulmonary function testing was
normal, and a chest x-ray was negative for acute
cardiopulmonary process. (Tr. 341, 346.) An x-ray of
Rodarmer's sacroiliac joints revealed sclerosis, with
probable mild ankylosis on the right side. (Tr. 337.)
15, 2014, Rodarmer visited John Krebs, M.D., an orthopedist,
for bilateral hand pain and numbness. (Tr. 421.) He reported
his hand symptoms had been present for “quite sometime,
” but had worsened after using a sander in May 2014.
(Id.) Dr. Krebs noted a past EMG did confirm
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. (Id.) Rodarmer had
positive Tinel's and Phalen's signs bilaterally.
(Id.) Rodarmer then underwent a right carpal tunnel
release on August 20, 2014 and a left carpal tunnel release
on November 12, 2014. (Tr. 424, 426.)
returned to Dr. Ignat on August 22, 2014. Dr. Ignat renewed
the Simponi prescription, and Rodarmer indicated he had
decreased pain. (Tr. 381.) However, on October 20, 2014,
Rodarmer reported severe pain in his lumbar spine, which was
radiating into his buttocks. (Tr. 380.) On examination,
Rodarmer had normal muscle strength, but decreased range of
motion in his hips and lumbar spine, with tenderness in his
spine and sacroiliac joints. (Id.) Dr. Ignat
administered a Toradol injection and renewed Rodarmer's
same day, Dr. Ignat filled out a form entitled
“Physical Residual Function Capacity Medical Source
Statement.” (Tr. 410.) While he reported treating
Rodarmer since January 2013, he also indicated Rodarmer's
“impairments, symptoms, and limitations” had been
present since 2011. (Id.) Dr. Ignat provided the
following limitations for Rodarmer:
• He could occasionally lift up to 15 pounds, but never
lift 20 pounds or more.
• He could walk one city block or more without rest or
pain, but could not walk one block or more on rough or uneven
• He could not climb steps without the use of a handrail
at a reasonable pace, and he had problems with balance while
• He had problems with stooping, crouching, and bending.
• He would need to lie down/recline for 30 minutes
before needing to sit up, stand up, or walk around. He would
need to lie down/recline for about 3 hours out of an 8-hour
• He could sit for less than one hour in an 8-hour
workday. He could stand and walk for less than one hour in an
• He would need to take unscheduled breaks every 30-60
minutes. During these breaks, he would need to lie down or
sit quietly, and rest for 30 minutes before returning to
• He would not need to elevate his legs with prolonged
sitting. He would need an assistive device with prolonged
• He could use his hands 100% of the day for grasping,
turning, and twisting objects. He could perform fine
manipulation for 80% of the workday, and reach, including
overhead, for 50% of the workday.
• He could not push and pull arm or leg controls from a
sitting position for 6 or more hours during an 8-hour
• He could not climb stairs, ladders, scaffolds, ropes,
• His pain would frequently interfere with his attention
and concentration. His “experience of stress”
would occasionally interfere with his attention and
• He would be off-task more than 30% of the workday, be
absent from work more than 5 days a month, and 5 days a month
he would be unable to complete an 8hour workday.
• Compared to an average worker, he could efficiently
perform a job on a sustained basis 50% or less of the time.
• He is “unable to obtain and retain work in a
competitive work environment, 8 hours per day, 5 days per
week for a continuous period of six months or more.
(Tr. 410 -413.)
returned to Dr. Ignat's office on January 15, 2015. Dr.
Ignat prescribed a course of steroids because Rodarmer
reported increased pain. (Tr. 379.)
January 20, 2015, Rodarmer returned to his
chiropractor for cervical spine pain. (Tr. 358.)
Rodarmer attributed it to an awkward sleeping position.
(Id.) The chiropractor performed spinal and tissue
manipulation to the cervical area. (Id.) Rodarmer
returned to his chiropractor on January 23, 2015, reporting
improvement with treatment. (Tr. 357.) On examination, he
exhibited mild spasms with palpitation. (Id.)
January 26, 2015, Rodarmer visited Dr. Ignat. He reported
increased pain in his spine and shoulders, along with chest
tightness. (Tr. 378.) He also indicated improvement since his
last visit, with “only mild” lumbar spine pain
radiating into the buttocks. (Id.) Dr. Ignat
continued to prescribe Simponi. (Id.)
visited his chiropractor six more times over January and
February 2015. (Tr. 351-356.) He reported continued cervical
spine pain, attributing it to various activities, including
using a snow plow, illness, and painting. (Tr. 355, 354,
353.) On March 3, 2015, Rodarmer's cervical spine was
“mildly sore.” (Tr. 352.) His chiropractor noted
Rodarmer had “improvements with cane.”
March 12, 2015, Rodarmer established with Munketh Salem, DPM,
a podiatrist. (Tr. 368.) He reported pain in the ball of his
right foot, after slipping on a flight of stairs.
(Id.) Rodarmer indicated this pain increased with
ambulation, and rated the pain as 5/10. (Id.) On
examination, the muscle strength in his foot and ankle was
5/5. (Tr. 369.) Rodarmer was unable to dorsiflex the ankle
beyond a neutral position with his knee extended.
(Id.) Dr. Salem noted no edema, but there was pain
with palpation to the right foot. (Id.) An x-ray of
Rodarmer's right foot revealed no acute pathology or
fracture, but he did have moderate degenerative joint disease
throughout the foot. (Id.) Dr. Salem noted
Rodarmer's “current pain is very minimal” and
due to a hammertoe deformity and capsulitis in the joints at
the ball of the foot. (Tr. 370.) Dr. Salem prescribed
Rodarmer a course of steroids. (Id.)
returned to Dr. Salem on April 22, 2015. (Tr. 364.) He had
continued pain in his right foot, which was intermittent in
nature. (Id.) Dr. Salem taped and splinted
Rodarmer's toes, prescribed steroids, and recommended
custom orthotics. (Tr. 366.)
visited Dr. Ignat on April 20, 2015. Dr. Ignat noted
Rodarmer's condition was “still active, not
controlled on medications.” (Tr. 376.) On examination,
Rodarmer's hips were tender with decreased range of
motion and his shoulders exhibited crepitus, but with a
normal range of motion. (Id.) His cervical spine
range of motion was normal, but his lumbar range of motion
was decreased. (Id.) He had severe tenderness in his