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Smith v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

January 23, 2018


          Walter H. Rice, District Judge.


          Sharon L. Ovington, United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Saninyanata Smith brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income. She applied for benefits on September 27, 2013, asserting that she could no longer work a substantial paid job. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Gregory G. Kenyon concluded that she was not eligible for benefits because she is not under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act.

         The case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (Doc. #7), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #8), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #9), and the administrative record (Doc. #6).

         Plaintiff seeks a remand of this case for payment of benefits or, at a minimum, for further proceedings. The Commissioner asks the Court to affirm ALJ Kenyon's non-disability decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that she has been under a “disability” since September 27, 2013. She was forty-six years old at that time and was therefore considered a “younger person” under Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). She has a high school education. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.964(b)(4).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Kenyon that she has bipolar disorder. (Doc. #6, PageID #99). She has difficulty interacting with other people-“they agitate me, I don't trust them because of all the things, trauma and things, I've been through. ...” Id. at 99-100. She also has “a lot” of anger and irritability. Id. at 99. Plaintiff gets into arguments with her mom, brother, son, grandkids, and neighbors. Id. at 100. She does not like the public and prefers to stay inside her house where she feels safe. Id. at 106. She estimated that she leaves approximately once per week. Id.

         Since she was seven years old, Plaintiff has experienced paranoia and is “always thinking somebody [is] against me ….” Id. at 102. She hears voices every day: “they just tell me to do things I know I shouldn't be doing.” Id. at 107-08. She has five or six crying spells per day every day. Id. at 109. She has trouble concentrating and paying attention to things. Id.

         Plaintiff's mental health problems sometimes lead her to hurt herself: “I'm so frustrated with all th[ese] mental things, hearing voices sometime[s], telling me to do stuff. So I got bruises sometime[s] from … hitting myself or … things like that. I cut holes in my head. … I take scissors and … I just cut ….” Id. at 100-01. She has been doing it since she had a mental breakdown in 2009. Id. at 101. Plaintiff has thoughts of killing herself at least three times a week. Id. at 102-03. She has also had thoughts of killing her son. Id. at 104. She explained, “he has Tourette's. And I[‘ve] been taking care of him all his life … And he called me bitches and he been dogging me out for a very long time. Ever since he was small. … I just get tired of it … he's one of the people on my list if he didn't leave me alone, … I wanted to destroy him. …” Id. at 105. In a thirty-day period, Plaintiff generally has thoughts of hurting others twenty times. Id.

         Doctors at Day-Mont prescribe medications for her but “[t]hey [have] been switching them around, … trying to figure out what's going wrong.” Id. at 109. Because of the high turnover rate at Day-Mont, she has seen many different doctors and therapists. Id. at 109-10. She feels that she cannot “get the balance and order” that she needs. Id. at 110. She is attempting to switch to Mahajan Therapeutics. Id. Plaintiff's medications make her drowsy and she usually sleeps twelve hours per day. Id. at 112. “Once I take my medicine I'm drowsy, I can't function, I can't cook, I can't do things that I normally do when I'm not taking my medicine to take care of myself. I'm checking doors, I'm sleeping. I'm doing what I got to do, but then I'm up and I'm staggering.” Id.

         Plaintiff is not able to take care of her personal needs. Id. at 113. She sometimes goes an entire week without changing her clothes or bathing. Id. Care Source recently assigned Plaintiff people to take care of her hygiene, help her cook, take her to the doctor, clean her house, and help her out. Id. at 97.

         On December 15, 2014, Plaintiff fell in a pothole in a parking lot and injured her right hand and ankle. Id. at 95. She then had a nervous breakdown and needed to go to Kettering Hospital. Id. at 95-96. Her family-care physician recently gave her a sleeve to wear on her hand and referred her to a specialist. Id. at 116. Because of the injury, she cannot write or lift anything. Id.

         Plaintiff also has problems with her bowels. Id. at 117. She recently had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital because her bowels “locked up.” Id. She also experiences incontinence with accidents every day.

         Plaintiff lived in a condo/apartment by herself but planned to move the Friday after the hearing. Id. at 96. She has a driver's license but is not able to drive because of her medication. Id. at 97. She has one son and three grandchildren. Id. at 96. She is not able to take care of her grandchildren. Id. at 111.

         On a typical day, Plaintiff is “[h]ome, alone, watching TV, barely eating, taking my meds. I've got to eat a little something and drink something to do that. … I don't have a life.” Id. at 115. When asked if she had any hobbies or things she liked doing, Plaintiff responded: “I love the lord, but when I was small I was witness to a preacher running over a little boy … and I asked the cop … ‘What happened?' And he said, ‘He was drunk.' And I heard that baby's body rolling up under that car, he drug him and so I love being in God's houses, but I don't trust … the people in there ….” Id. at 114. She went to church three weeks before the hearing and enjoyed it. Id.

         B. Medical Opinions

         i. Scott D. Shaw, M.D.

         Dr. Shaw, Plaintiff's treating physician, completed interrogatories on August 28, 2015. Id. at 961. He indicated that he had treated her for atypical nevi, decreased hearing, arthralgias, vaginitis, climacteric, and a history of psychiatric disorder that is treated by her psychiatrist. Id. at 962. He opined that because of Plaintiff's significant psychological problems, she does not have the ability to be prompt and regular in attendance or the ability to withstand the pressure of meeting normal standards of work productivity and work accuracy without significant risk of decompensation or worsening of her impairments. Id. She cannot demonstrate reliability or complete a normal work day or work week without interruption from psychological and/or physically based symptoms and cannot perform at a consistent pace without unreasonable numbers and length of rest periods due to her psychiatric instability. Id. at 963.

         Plaintiff has swelling, tenderness, and decreased strength and range of motion in her right wrist. Id. at 963, 966. She can frequently lift up to five pounds. Id. at 963. Further, her right-wrist swelling and tenderness affect her ability to handle, finger, feel, and push/pull. Id. at 965. Her psychological issues impair her abilities to see and speak. Id. Dr. Shaw found that she did not have the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work. Id. at 967. He opined that Plaintiff is “unable to perform any significant work assignments due to psychiatric illness. She is followed by a psychiatrist. …” Id.

         ii. ...

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