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Roach v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

February 15, 2018

DAVID KEITH ROACH, II, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH A. PRESTON DEAVERS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, David Keith Roach, II, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for supplemental security income. This matter is before the Chief United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (ECF No. 10), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 15), Plaintiff's Reply (ECF No. 16), and the administrative record (ECF No. 9). For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court OVERRULE Plaintiff's Statement of Errors and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income in May 2013 asserting disability from congestive heart failure and blood clots with an onset date of December 1, 2012. (R. at 126.) Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Upon request, a hearing was held September 15, 2015, at which Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. (R. at 39- 82.) A vocational expert also appeared and testified at the hearing. (R. at 76-82.) On November 23, 2015, ALJ Irma J. Flottman issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from April 22, 2013, the date the application was filed. (R. at 16-34.) On September 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review and adopted the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision. (R. at 1-3.)

         II. HEARING TESTIMONY

          A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         At the September 2015 administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that he is forty-five years old and lives with his parents. (R. at 46.) Plaintiff stated that, between April 2013 and September 2015, he gained and lost approximately sixty pounds. (R. at 47.) Plaintiff also stated that he is a high school graduate and has a driver's license. (Id.)

         Plaintiff testified that he contracted a virus in December 2012. (R. at 54.) Plaintiff further testified that in February 2013, the virus began attacking his internal organs. (Id.) Plaintiff stated that, on March 3, 2013, he was hospitalized with congestive heart failure, pneumonia, blood clots in his heart and lungs, and problems with his liver and kidneys. (Id.) Plaintiff testified that he was hospitalized again in April 2013. (Id.) Plaintiff also testified that, after a medical test on April 10, 2013, he went into cardiac arrest, received CPR, and was on life support for approximately a week. (R. at 55.) According to Plaintiff, he was too weak to undergo necessary surgery to insert a defibrillator. (Id.)

         Plaintiff testified that he suffers from fluid retention and takes a diuretic daily. (R. at 56.) Plaintiff stated that he is restricted to two liters of fluid intake per day. (R. at 72.) Plaintiff also testified that he suffers from shortness of breath and chest pains and that he carries and uses nitroglycerin tablets “quite often.” (R. at 56.) According to Plaintiff, he takes up to twenty-five nitroglycerin tablets per month. (R. at 72.) Plaintiff stated that his chest pains are easily triggered by physical activity or simple anxiety. (R. at 56.) Plaintiff testified that he takes lisinopril, carvedilol, and warfarin. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, his blood clots are now controlled by the medication.

         Plaintiff testified that he does not walk much, “just normal trips around the house . . . maybe . . . walk outside to the patio.” (R. at 63.) Plaintiff also testified that he cannot climb stairs without taking a break. (R. at 65.) Plaintiff opined that he could not walk a block and that he could not be on his feet long without needing to sit down and take a break.” (R. at 63.) Plaintiff testified that he cannot stand for thirty minutes and cannot sit at a desk longer than twenty or thirty minutes. (R. at 64.) According to Plaintiff, he lies down approximately three times a day from thirty minutes to three hours at a time. (Id.) Plaintiff stated that he cannot lay flat on his back because his lungs fill with fluid. (Id.)

         Plaintiff testified that he does not help with household chores. (R. at 64.) According to Plaintiff, he does “[a]s little as possible.” (R. at 66.) Plaintiff stated that he does not read, but he does watch television and drives. (R. at 66, 70.) Plaintiff also stated that he does not socialize. (R. at 67.) Plaintiff testified that he suffers from anxiety and panic attacks that cause accelerated heartrate, elevated blood pressure, tightness of the jaw and neck, and numbness in his arm. (R. at 68.) Plaintiff also testified that he experiences “extreme rage.” (Id.)

         B. Vocational Expert Testimony

         The ALJ proposed a series of hypotheticals regarding Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to the VE. (R. at 78-81.) Based on Plaintiff's age, education, and work experience and the RFC ultimately determined by the ALJ, the VE testified that Plaintiff could perform jobs available in the national economy, including addresser, document preparer, and pari-mutuel ticket checker. (R. at 79.)

         III. MEDICAL RECORDS

         A. Riverside Methodist Hospital

         On March 5, 2013, Plaintiff was admitted to Riverside Methodist Hospital with congestive heart failure. (R. at 254-331.) A transthoracic echocardiogram performed March 6, 2013, showed evidence of dilated cardiomyopathy, moderate dilation of the left ventricular chamber size, and severely decreased left ventricular systolic function with an estimated global ejection fraction of less than twenty percent. (R. at 265-266, 318-320.) The left ventricular internal dimension diastolic (LVIDd) was measured at 6.37 cm. (R. at 319.) A subsequent echocardiogram performed on March 11, 2013, showed an estimated global ejection fraction of between twenty and twenty-five percent. (R. at 321-322.)

         On April 5, 2013, Plaintiff was again admitted to Riverside Methodist Hospital due to cardiac concerns relating to tachycardia and increased edema. (R. at 334-453.) An echocardiogram performed April 6, 2013, showed an estimated ejection fraction of twenty-twenty five percent and an LVIDd of 6.48 cm. (R. at 426-427.) A heart catheterization was performed on April 10, 2013, showing an ejection fraction of less than fifteen percent. (R. at 473.) The catheterization findings also documented complete occlusion in the right coronary artery, left anterior descending, and ramus intermedius, with intact collateral flow. (Id.) Plaintiff's doctors determined he was not a candidate for coronary artery bypass grafting. (R. at 352, 383-388.) Another echocardiogram was conducted on April 11, 2013, showing an ejection fraction of less than twenty percent and a LVIDd of 6.3 cm. (R. at 428-430.) The same day, during this hospitalization, Plaintiff went into cardiac arrest and required resuscitation. (R. at 352-356.) Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital on April 19, 2013. (R. at 466-471.)

         On June 6, 2013, Plaintiff returned for a follow-up appointment and reported that he was doing much better. (R. at 474.) Plaintiff cancelled his PET scan for myocardial viability and indicated he would not agree to bypass surgery if indicated by testing, to an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or to continue to wear his life vest in spite of the risk that might exist. (R. at 474.) On June 26, 2013, Plaintiff met with Sreedhar Billakanty, M.D., to again discuss a defibrillator implant. (R. at 507-511.) Dr. Billakanty indicated that Plaintiff's symptoms were consistent with Functional Class III at that time. (R. at 507.) Plaintiff again declined defibrillator implantation, instead choosing an observation strategy. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's doctors conducted an echocardiogram on July 3, 2013, showing severely decreased left ventricular systolic function, an estimated ejection fraction of twenty-five to thirty percent, and an LVIDd of 6.16 cm. (R. at 530-532.) Plaintiff was seen in the cardiology clinic again on March 27, 2014. (R. at 628-634.) Dr. Billakanty observed that Plaintiff “has done remarkably well in recovering.” (R. at 628.) Dr. Billakanty characterized Plaintiff as “very active without any signs of shortness of breath, chest ...


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