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Hoblit v. Berryhill

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

February 15, 2018

RONDA HOBLIT, Plaintiff,

          Thomas M. Rose District Judge


          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Ronda Hoblit brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income. She applied for benefits on March 1, 2011, asserting that she could no longer work a substantial paid job. In early 2012, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Amelia G. Lombardo concluded that Plaintiff was not eligible for benefits because she was not under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act.

         Upon its review, the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council remanded ALJ Lombardo's decision. In August 2013, ALJ Lombardo issued a second decision, again concluding that Plaintiff was not under a disability. This time around the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Consequently, Plaintiff sought review in this Court. See Hoblit v. Commissioner of Social Security, 3:14-cv-461, (S.D. Ohio October 21, 2015) (Rice, D.J.). Upon the parties' joint stipulation, this Court remanded the case pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further administrative proceedings. Id.

         Meanwhile, in January 2015, Plaintiff filed a new application for Supplemental Security Income. The Social Security Administration granted her new application, finding her eligible for benefits. (Doc. #7, PageID #s 2140, 2313-30). By then she had turned age 50 and met the all the eligibility requirements, including, in part, her status as a “person closely approaching advanced age.” See 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(d).

         This leaves Plaintiff's March 1, 2011 application-the one this Court remanded- in the midst of its administrative proceedings pending before the Appeals Council. The Appeals Counsel identified many flaws in ALJ Lombardo's August 2013 decision and consequently remanded the matter for further proceedings before an ALJ. The case was thereafter assigned to ALJ Benjamin Chaykin who held a hearing and later issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not under a disability before her established disability onset date of October 18, 2014. (Doc. #7, PageID #1973). Plaintiff brings the present case challenging ALJ Chaykin's decision that she was not under a disability starting on the date of her application continuing through the date ALJ Chaykin found her disabled. Consequently, the non-disability period remaining at issue is March 1, 2011 until October 17, 2014 (after which she was under a disability and entitled to benefits, as the Administration found).

         Plaintiff presently contends that the ALJ erred by rejecting every treating medical-source opinion, by impermissibly acting as a medical expert, and by misinterpreting the medical record and the nature of fibromyalgia. She asserts, moreover, that she was essentially per se disabled during the time period in question based on her hospitalizations and treatment alone.

         The Commissioner maintains that the ALJ complied with the Appeals Council's remand order and properly evaluated Plaintiff's fibromyalgia and the medical opinions of record.

         II. Additional Background

         Plaintiff asserts that she has been under a “disability” since January 14, 2011. She was forty-six years old at that time, and was therefore considered a “younger person” under Social Security Regulations during the time period presently at issue. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). She has a limited education. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.964(b)(3). She worked many years ago as a nurse assistant and automobile salesperson but has no past relevant work experience. See Doc. #7, PageID #1971.

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Chaykin that she is not able to return to work because she cannot sit or stand for long periods of time. Id. at 2052, 2061. She explained, “I'm lucky if I can stand for two minutes.” Id. at 2052. She also indicated that she can stand comfortably for about five minutes. Id. at 2060. When she does stand, it bothers her knees. Id. Sitting comfortably lasts two minutes for her. Id. at 2059. She has a lot of pain in her hips and legs. Id. In testimony the ALJ later declined to credit, Plaintiff stated that she had used a wheelchair for about five years. Id. at 2053; see PageID #1965.

         Plaintiff testified that she does not walk very often because when she does, she falls. Id. at 2059. She uses a walker inside her house because it is hard to get around in the wheelchair. Id. at 2053. In addition, Plaintiff's right shoulder hurts all the time. Id. at 1054. She had surgery to repair a broken clavicle bone, but it did not improve her pain. Id.

         Plaintiff has pain from fibromyalgia every day. Id. at 2062. “[I]t flares every day. I never have relief from it. And it's something that's going to live with me the rest of my life.” Id. at 2063. For treatment of her fibromyalgia, Plaintiff sees Dr. Linn three times a month. Id. at 2062-63. Plaintiff testified that she takes a lot of pain medication but “it doesn't do anything.” Id. at 2061. She does not have any side effects. Id.

         Plaintiff also struggles with mental-health issues. Id. at 2056. In January 2011, she was hospitalized after attempting suicide by taking a lot of pills. Id. In August 2012, she got mad at her children and husband: “I just flared off and I took some of my medicine, Vicodin, and I just tried to kill myself. I didn't want to be around no more.” Id. at 2057. Plaintiff presented to Good Samaritan Hospital in June 2014, after she punched a wall and injured her hand. Id. at 2058.

         In 2011, 2012, and 2013, Plaintiff had violent outbursts-“at least five times a day.” Id. at 2058. During these outbursts, she threw things and “would go after a person and then stop because … if [she] did it[, ] they were going to turn [her] into the police and [she] didn't want to go to jail….” Id. at 2059. The people she went after were her daughters. Id.

         Plaintiff received mental-health treatment with Dr. Gentile in the CAM program.[2]Id. at 2056. However, Dr. Gentile left and at the time of the hearing, she saw Dr. Budding. Id. at 2056, 2063. She saw Dr. Budding twice a month and attended counseling at CAM three times a month. Id. at 2064. Plaintiff takes medication for her mental-health symptoms, but it does not help and she still has flare ups. Id. at 2065

         In addition, Plaintiff said that she is unable to work because she does not “comprehend things. If they were to give [her] a thing to do and [said] a lot of tasks that [she] would have to do, [she] can't remember them.” Id. at 2061.

         Plaintiff lives with her parents and her daughter. Id. at 2050. She has another daughter who lives with her husband. Id. Plaintiff's parents are in good health and take care of her. Id. at 2052. Plaintiff does not have a driver's license and has not one for at least ten years. Id. at 2051. She went to tenth grade in school and has not obtained a GED. Id. at 2052. She has not worked in ten to twelve years. Id.

         B. Medical Opinions

         Vadak ...

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