United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
FREDERICK E. TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE
J. LIMBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Frederick E. Taylor (“Plaintiff”) requests
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security Administration (“Defendant”)
denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). ECF Dkt. #1. In his brief on the merits,
filed on May 26, 2017, Plaintiff asserts that the
administrative law judge's (“ALJ”) decision
is not supported by substantial evidence. ECF Dkt. #13.
Defendant filed a response brief on June 21, 2017. ECF Dkt.
#14. Plaintiff did not file a reply brief.
following reasons, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the Court
AFFIRM the ALJ's decision and dismiss Plaintiff's
case in its entirety with prejudice.
December 5, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for DIB. Transcript (“Tr.”) at 14. Plaintiff also
filed an application for SSI on May 2, 2014. Id. The
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Id. Plaintiff then requested a hearing, which was
held on October 29, 2015. Id. at 476. On December
18, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
claims. Id. at 11. Subsequently, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review. Id. at 6.
Accordingly, the December 18, 2015, decision by the ALJ
stands as the final decision.
filed the instant suit seeking review of the ALJ's
December 18, 2015, decision on January 11, 2017. ECF Dkt. #1.
On May 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed a brief on the merits. ECF
Dkt. #13. Defendant filed a response brief on June 21, 2017.
ECF Dkt. #14. Plaintiff did not file a reply brief.
RELEVANT MEDICAL AND TESTIMONIAL EVIDENCE
first visited Paul Garfinkle, M.D., an ophthalmologist, in
July 2010 for an evaluation for diabetic retinopathy. Tr. at
185. Dr. Garfinkle diagnosed Plaintiff with severe diabetic
retinopathy and recommended treatment to stabilize his eyes
and prevent further progression. Id. Plaintiff
continued to receive treatment from Dr. Garfinkle through
2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Id. at 165-86. On
several occasions, Dr. Garfinkle indicated that Plaintiff did
not check his blood sugar and used only over-the-counter
reading glasses. Id. at 167-68, 170, 172.
March 2011, Plaintiff saw Suzanne Morgan, D.O., and
complained of eye problems. Tr. at 206. Dr. Morgan diagnosed
eye damage from uncontrolled diabetes, and indicated that
Plaintiff had “very poor insight” into his
diabetes and needed to control his sugar intake. Id.
Dr. Morgan stated that Plaintiff needed to take his
medication as prescribed and “get labs” as
directed. Id. In June 2011, Dr. Morgan indicated
that Plaintiff “adamantly refused insulin” and
refused any injections. Id. at 207. Plaintiff told
Dr. Morgan that he was doing well and had no significant
complaints in September 2011. Id. at 208-209. Dr.
Morgan indicated that Plaintiff was not monitoring his diet,
exercising, or testing his blood sugar level at home, and
that he was noncompliant with medications. Id. at
208-10. Dr. Morgan advised Plaintiff of the consequences of
uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, including loss of
vision. Id. at 210.
told Dr. Morgan that he was doing well in January 2012. Tr.
at 214. Dr. Morgan again noted Plaintiff's noncompliance
with diet, exercise, and sugar testing. Id.
Plaintiff again refused insulin, indicating that he would
instead change his diet. Id. at 215. Dr. Morgan also
noted Plaintiff's noncompliance in May 2012. Id.
at 217. Plaintiff denied any problems regarding his insulin
in September 2012, and told Dr. Morgan that he drank soda
daily and did not watch his diet, exercise, or test his blood
sugar levels. Id. at 220. Dr. Morgan again warned
Plaintiff of the consequences of his noncompliance and
informed him that his eye issues would improve or stabilize
if his diabetes was better controlled. Id. at 222.
In April 2013, Dr. Morgan echoed this warning and adjusted
Plaintiff's medication. Id. at 228. In July
2013, Plaintiff informed Dr. Morgan that he was running short
on his medication and was “going to try to get
disability” because his eyes were “very
bad” and he was “no longer able to work.”
Tr. at 229. Dr. Morgan again noted Plaintiff's continued
noncompliance, including drinking soda daily, failing to
check his blood sugar levels, and a poor diet. Id.
Plaintiff was again told that his eye issues would improve or
stabilize if his diabetes were better controlled.
Id. at 231. The same advice was given to Plaintiff
in August 2013. Id. at 233.
October 2013, Plaintiff saw Dr. Garfinkle and was diagnosed
with macular edema that was stable. Tr. at 256. Plaintiff
returned to Dr. Morgan in November 2013 and acknowledged that
he did not check his blood sugar at home and did not take
insulin with snacks, which generally consisted of one or two
hotdogs in the afternoon. Id. at 234. Plaintiff
declined a dietary consultation. Id. at 236. As
before, Dr. Morgan advised Plaintiff that his eye issues
would stabilize or improve if his diabetes was better
controlled. Id. In January 2014, Dr. Morgan noted
that Plaintiff's blood sugar was elevated, despite his
claims that he was compliant with medications and was eating
“pretty good.” Id. at 237, 271.
Plaintiff indicated that he was only taking insulin with
larger meals and not with snacks, such as a cheese sandwich
or a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Id. at 237.
Plaintiff denied any headaches, lightheadedness, or
dizziness. Id. In February 2014, Plaintiff informed
Dr. Morgan that his eyes bothered him and that he was still
waiting on a disability determination. Id. at 275.
Plaintiff stated that he did not have problems with insulin,
and that he skipped doses when he was not at home and rarely
took mealtime insulin more than twice a day. Id. Dr.
Morgan continued Plaintiff's medication and noted that
she would look into various types of syringes Plaintiff could
use to administer the doses. Id. at 277.
February 2014, Dr. Garfinkle diagnosed Plaintiff with severe
non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy in both eyes. Tr. at
258-59. In March 2014, Dr. Garfinkle completed an assessment
of Plaintiff's vision and noted glare, decreased vision,
light sensitivity, and difficulty focusing. Id. at
315. Plaintiff's visual acuity after best correction in
his right eye was 20/40 and 20/80 in his left eye.
Id. Dr. Garfinkle found that Plaintiff could: rarely
use depth perception and accommodation; occasionally perform
activities involving near and far acuity and color vision;
frequently perform activities involving field of vision; work
with large and small objects; avoid ordinary hazards; and
perform activities without requiring unscheduled breaks
during the day. Id. at 316.
told Dr. Morgan in March 2014 that he only took his insulin
twice a day, instead of three times per day as prescribed,
and that he had no difficulty reading the units on the
syringe when he used reading glasses. Id. at 278.
Also in March 2014, Dr. Morgan completed a “Diabetes
Mellitus Medical Source Statement.” Id. at
318-21. Dr. Morgan indicated that she had treated Plaintiff
for three years for uncontrolled diabetes with retinopathy,
hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity, with symptoms
including fatigue, difficulty walking, retinopathy, and
uncontrolled blood sugar. Id. at 318. It was noted
that Plaintiff had significant limitations due to vision loss
secondary to retinopathy, was at risk for hypoglycemia, and
experienced depression. Id. at 318-19. Dr. Morgan
assessed that Plaintiff could: sit for two hours at a time,
up to two hours total in a day; stand for fifteen minutes at
a time, for less than two hours a day; and walk one block at
a time and would need to walk every thirty minutes.
Id. at 319. Continuing, Dr. Morgan indicated that
Plaintiff: would need to take unscheduled breaks twice per
day; must avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, high
humidity, and cigarette smoke; would have difficulty due to
vision impairment; and would be capable of low stress work.
Id. at 321. Dr. Morgan indicated that
Plaintiff's “largest limitation is his vision
impairment” which had progressed while Plaintiff was
under her care. Id.
April 2014, Plaintiff told a Social Security representative
that his vision was becoming worse and that it was difficult
to read fine print. Tr. at 36. Plaintiff did not have
problems watching television and he was able to drive, and he
stated that he had an appointment with his eye doctor in June
2014 and would inquire about glasses at the appointment.
Id. Later in April 2014, Leslie Green, M.D., opined
that Plaintiff could perform light work with additional
postural limitations. Id. at 38. Dr. Green did not
include any environmental limitations in her functional
assessment. Id. at 39.
2014, Dr. Morgan indicated that Plaintiff reported no
problems with his medication regime. Tr. at 281. It was noted
that Plaintiff had changes in his vision due to diabetic
retinopathy and that he denied any lightheadedness or
dizziness. Id. In July 2014, Dr. Garfinkle indicated
that Plaintiff's vision was 20/25 in his right eye and
20/80 in his left eye, without correction. Id. at
260. Dr. Garfinkle stated that Plaintiff's retinopathy
was severe but stable and that his macular edema was not
visually significant, and stressed the importance of blood
sugar control to prevent the progression of the retinopathy.
Id. at 263, 297.
told Dr. Morgan in September 2014, that he was feeling well,
but had run out of medication. Tr. at 285-86. Dr. Morgan
noted that Plaintiff was noncompliant with diet and exercise,
and that his blood sugar level remained unchanged.
Id. at 285. It was recommended that Plaintiff
undergo an endocrinology consultation, but Plaintiff declined
due to the cost. Id. at 288. In November 2014,
Plaintiff complained to Dr. Morgan of occasional eye pain in
sunlight, but denied any issues otherwise. Id. at
264. Plaintiff also complained to Dr. Morgan about swelling
in his feet and athlete's foot in December 2014.
Id. at 289. In February 2015, Plaintiff told Dr.
Morgan that both of his eyes bothered him and that he was
waiting on disability. Id. at 275. Plaintiff
acknowledged that he drank soda daily, rarely checked his
blood sugar, was concerned about using syringes because of
his vision difficulties, and rarely took insulin three times
per day as prescribed. Id.
March 2015, Plaintiff reported to the emergency room,
complaining of swelling in his right foot and a wound on his
big toe. Tr. at 378, 386. Plaintiff was prescribed pain
medication and an antibiotic, and was told to follow up with
the wound clinic. Id. at 381, 386. That same week, a
CT scan revealed a fatty liver and a few mildly enlarged
lymph nodes. Id. at 362. Plaintiff returned to the
emergency room the following week and requested more pain
medication for his right leg and big toe. Id. at
367, 375-76. Pain medication was prescribed and Plaintiff was
given information on diabetic foot care. Id. at 371,
374-75. An electroencephalogram performed near the end of
March 2015 showed no evidence of radiculopathy or myopathy.
Id. at 353-54. An eye examination performed by Dr.
Garfinkle the following day showed that Plaintiff's
diabetic retinopathy was stable and that his macular edema
was not visually significant. Id. at 166, 330. Dr.
Garfinkle noted that Plaintiff did not check his blood sugar
regularly, declined to administer any treatment, and
recommended a follow-up treatment in six weeks. Id.
at 165, 330. In May 2015, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Garfinkle
for treatment, noting that his blood sugar had been running
around 200, although he did not check it regularly.
Id. at 331. Dr. Garfinkle again assessed diabetic
retinopathy, severe and stable, and diabetic macular
degeneration, not visually significant. Id. at 334.
returned to the emergency room in June 2015, complaining of
unresolved right leg swelling. Tr. at 387. An evaluator
expressed concern over congestive heart failure and admitted
Plaintiff for an evaluation. Id. at 387, 390.
Plaintiff indicated that he had gained eighty pounds over the
last six months and that his activities were limited due to
leg pain. Id. at 393. A cardiologist opined that
Plaintiff's issues were related to his morbid obesity and
likely sleep apnea, and expressed concerns about congestive
heart failure. Id. at 394. Akbar Shar, M.D., found
it “quite evident” that Plaintiff had room to
improve his diet, which was high in calories and essentially
uncontrolled. Id. at 395. Plaintiff's blood
sugar was elevated to 395, and the clinician noted that
Plaintiff had been noncompliant with a diabetic diet and had
been eating cheeseburgers from an outside vendor while he was
hospitalized. Id. at 399.
returned to Dr. Garfinkle in June 2015 reporting that his
vision was stable and that he had no pain or discomfort,
although it sometimes took him a while to focus. Tr. at 335.
Dr. Garfinkle measured Plaintiff's visual acuity as 20/30
in his right eye and 20/80 in his left eye, and assessed
stable diabetic retinopathy and improved muscular edema.
Id. at 342.
returned to the emergency room in July 2015 complaining of
general malaise. Tr. at 408-18. Testing showed negative blood
cultures, but additional testing showed medication-induced
renal failure. Id. at 408-18, 431. An abdominal CT
scan was unremarkable, and Plaintiff was ...