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Minerd v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.


          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Margaret L. Minerd applied for Supplemental Security Income in January 2014 asserting that she could no longer work due to her health problems and their negative impact upon her. A social security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), Benjamin Chaykin, determined that Plaintiff's health problems did not constitute a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act. He therefore denied Plaintiff's application.

         Plaintiff brings the present case challenging ALJ Chaykin's decision with regard to her work limitations caused by her Crohn's flare-ups. She maintains that the ALJ erred in finding she could perform work that limited her to being off task during 5% of the workday and erred in failing to find that she could only perform work that permitted her to be off task more than 10% of the workday. She relies on her testimony concerning her need for lengthy bed rest when she experiences a Crohn's flare-up, the increase in the frequency of these flare-ups, and her additional problems with nausea, vomiting, and arthritis in her tailbone and hipbone secondary to Crohn's disease. These problems plus uncontrolled bowel movements and fatigue would cause her to be off task more than 10% of the work day, a work preclusive limitation, according to a vocational expert.

         The Commissioner argues that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, or the most she could do despite her impairments. See Howard v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 276 F.3d 235, 239 (6th Cir. 2002). This includes the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff was limited to being off task for 5% of the workday. The Commissioner further contends that, although Plaintiff has waived any credibility-based argument, the ALJ properly evaluated her credibility and substantial evidence supports the ALJ's credibility findings.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff was 36 years old on the date she filed her application for Supplemental Security Income. This placed her in the Social Security Administration's category of younger person. 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c). She is considered, under social security law, to have a limited education. She worked in the past as a cashier and a waitress.

         Plaintiff testified during a hearing before ALJ Chaykin that most of the time she does not feel well due to “back and hip problems from the ankylosing spondylitis and … Crohn's.” (Doc. #4, PageID #s 245, 254-55). She gets nauseated “and sick and then a lot of times [she's] depressed.” Id. Most days she just lies in bed. Id. She stays in bed for a large part of the day, or the whole day, “at least a couple times a week probably.” Id.

         On days when her Crohn's disease flares up, she wears an adult diaper. When asked how often she has a Crohn's flare-up, she answered, “This year I've been-it's been quite often. I've been hospitalized … several times for it this year but normally, I mean, well, I guess on my good years maybe a couple of times a year…, I'll have flare[-]ups and it's not an everyday thing….” Id. at 251. She clarified that during the two years before the ALJ's hearing in November 2015, her flare-ups steadily became more frequent and more painful. She noted, ‘[T]his year alone has been incredibly bad.” Id. at 263. She suffered 9 or 10 flare-ups, about one per month, during 2015. Id. at 263-64. Her flare-ups can last for a few days to a few weeks, and she has been hospitalized for 30 days (in 2003) or more because of that condition. Id. at 264, 269.

         Plaintiff's last job, working as a cashier, ended when she lost control of her bowels in front of customers. She noted, “I was embarrassed so I left.” Id. at 251. The joint pain Plaintiff experiences due to Crohn's disease limits her ability to sit or stand. If she sits too long, she must stand up; if she stands too long, she must sit down. Id. at 261. She estimated that she can stand for 15 minutes before needing to sit down. She can sit for 30 to 40 minutes. Id. at 265-66. Lying down helps relieve her pain by taking pressure off her lower back and hip.

         Plaintiff also suffers from bipolar disorder. When she experiences a manic episode, she has “an unbelievable surge in energy…, ” id. at 259, and she engages in careless spending. She also does things that she normally cannot do but “ends up paying for it.” Id. She sees her psychiatrist, Dr. Gainer, who monitors her condition and adjusts her medications. Id. She testified that her bipolar disorder would affect her ability to perform a job because she gets really nervous around others. Her anxiety also causes her to be paranoid. She added, “I always feel like people are talking about me or … judging me or something.” Id. at 261.

         Plaintiff attends church on Sundays. She does not go to stores or do anything outside her home. She explains, “That's a problem-my life is just about-doctors….” Id. at 261. During a typical day, she mainly watches television and sleeps. She engages in social networking on Facebook and with friends through church.

         As to the medical evidence of record, Plaintiff has provided a detailed description of those records, and the Commissioner relies on the ALJ's detailed description. There is no need to repeat their cogent descriptions, and the most pertinent evidence will be discussed when addressing the parties' arguments.

         Turning to the medical evidence, Plaintiff generally agrees with the ALJ's summary. A few ...

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