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Stover v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

February 27, 2018

TODD D. STOVER, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff, Todd D. Stover, filed this action seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his Title II Social Security Disability Benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income Disability applications. For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court REVERSE the Commissioner of Social Security's non-disability finding and REMAND this case to the Commissioner and the Administrative Law Judge under Sentence Four of § 405(g).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Prior Proceedings

         Plaintiff filed applications for Title II Social Security Disability Benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Disability Benefits on July 30, 2013, and August 5, 2013, respectively, alleging disability since May 24, 2012. (See Doc. 8, Tr. 76-105, PAGEID #: 114-43). Plaintiff's claims were denied initially on November 20, 2013 (id., Tr. 136-142, PAGEID #: 174-80), and upon reconsideration on February 24, 2014 (id., Tr. 147-53, PAGEID #: 185-91). He filed a Request for Hearing on March 20, 2014. (Id., Tr. 158-59, PAGEID #: 196-97).

         Administrative Law Judge Christopher Tindale (the “ALJ”) held an administrative hearing by videoconference on December 3, 2015. (Id., Tr. 42, PAGEID #: 80). On April 19, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Id., Tr. 21, PAGEID #: 59). Plaintiff requested review of the administrative decision to the Appeals Council (id., Tr. 20, PAGEID #: 58), which denied his request on April 27, 2017, and adopted the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision (id., Tr. 1, PAGEID #: 39).

         Plaintiff filed this case on June 23, 2017 (Doc. 1), and the Commissioner filed the administrative record on September 8, 2017 (Doc. 8). Plaintiff filed a Statement of Specific Errors (Doc. 9), the Commissioner responded (Doc. 11), and Plaintiff filed a Reply (Doc. 12).

         A. Relevant Testimony at the Administrative Hearing

         Plaintiff testified that he was 5'8” and weighed 190 pounds, although he indicated that his weight fluctuates frequently based on his diabetes. (Doc. 8, Tr. 48, PAGEID #: 86). Plaintiff explained that his last job was at Special Metals, where he worked as a spot grinder, but his “hands kept getting number [sic], and [he] couldn't even hold onto the grinder.” (Id., Tr. 51, PAGEID #: 89). Because of the problems with Plaintiff's hands, Dr. James R. Bailes, Jr. M.D., wrote him a “light duty excuse” to return to work, but Special Metals said they could not accept that excuse, as there were no light duty jobs available. (Id., Tr. 52, PAGEID #: 90). Consequently, Plaintiff was terminated. (Id.).

         In terms of his diabetes, Plaintiff testified that he has struggled to maintain his sugar levels, and has utilized insulin pumps and insulin shots for treatment. (Id., Tr. 53, PAGEID #: 91). At the hearing, Plaintiff stated that he recently returned to using an insulin pump:

Plaintiff: I've had a lot of ups and downs with my sugar. It's, it's got a sensor built in that's not working very well for me, and it doesn't seem to be very accurate.
Attorney: How so? What's going on with the sensor? What's it telling you?
Plaintiff: Well, they said that because of the amount of time that I wore the pump before, and that I took shots, I have extensive scar tissue around the areas that I can put the sensor, and it doesn't read as well when it's in scar tissue, I guess. But it just, it doesn't give me an accurate reading.
Attorney: How far off has it been?
Plaintiff: Well, the other day my sugar was 45, and the meter said it was 100. So I mean it was, I was about to go down. And according to that meter, it was saying I was fine.

(Id., Tr. 53-54, PAGEID #: 91-92).

         Plaintiff also testified that his low sugar levels cause him to experience hypoglycemic episodes, which he refers to as “seizures.” (Id., Tr. 49, 54, PAGEID #: 87, 92). According to Plaintiff, his license was suspended as a result of one of these seizures. (Id., Tr. 49, PAGEID #: 87). Plaintiff experienced several of these seizures in 2011 and 2012, and his most recent episode occurred six or seven months before the hearing: “I was walking to the field at my father's house trying to go get my kids, and I just collapsed. And whenever I woke up, they were stuffing ice cream in my mouth and trying to get sugar in me. I had bitten my tongue really bad.” (Id., Tr. 54, PAGEID #: 92). Plaintiff explained that when he experienced the seizures he would often bite his tongue and “wake up with a severe headache, and [not be able to] remember what's happened at all.” (Id., Tr. 54-55, PAGEID #: 92-93).

         Plaintiff also testified that he first experienced neuropathy connected to his diabetes in 2011, with “just a little bit of numbness in [his] hands and feet.” (Id., Tr. 55, PAGEID #: 93). Plaintiff explained that it kept getting worse and it “got[] to the point where it felt like someone was tying ropes around my limbs, and just pulling them tight until I just couldn't feel my hands and feet anymore.” (Id.). Plaintiff experienced this pain every day and was unable to take the typical medicine prescribed to treat the pain because of his low blood sugar. (Id., Tr. 55-56, PAGEID #: 93-94). Instead, Plaintiff was prescribed Lyrica, but it gave him severe heartburn, indigestion, and he experienced no relief. (Id., Tr. 56, PAGEID #: 94). Unable to get relief, Plaintiff turned to methadone:

I went to Dr. Bales [sic]. He had gave me the nerve pain relief medicine that didn't work. I couldn't get help anywhere. I ended up going to a methadone clinic in Huntington. And I went there for quite some time, and then got addicted to the methadone...Dr. Bales [sic] didn't like the fact that I was taking it, so they suggested that I get off of that. So that's when I, I went to a doctor to get off the methadone treatment.


         Plaintiff testified that following carpal tunnel surgery in 2013, his neuropathy in his hands improved although he was still experiencing neuropathy in his feet. (Id., Tr. 57, PAGEID #: 95). He stated that it felt “like somebody had untied whatever was around my wrist. I mean it did help for awhile.” (Id.). However, Plaintiff stated that his hands started to bother him again and he developed trigger finger in several fingers. (Id., Tr. 58, PAGEID #: 96). More ...

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