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White v. Berryhill

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

March 28, 2018

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


          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Sharon White applied for Supplemental Security Income in December 2013, 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), Anne Sharrard, determined that Plaintiff's health problems did not constitute a “disability” as defined by the Social Security Act. She therefore denied Plaintiff's application.

         Plaintiff brings the present case challenging ALJ Sharrard's decision. She identifies three main issues: Whether the ALJ erred in conducting a proper pain analysis under Sixth Circuit Precedent; whether the ALJ erred in her assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity[1]; and, whether new and material evidence warrants remand. (Doc. #11, PageID #936).

         The Commissioner argues that an Order affirming ALJ Sharrard's decision is warranted because substantial evidence supports her assessment of Plaintiff's residual functional capacity and her findings regarding Plaintiff's lack of credibility. The Commissioner further contends that a remand is not warranted under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. Background

         Plaintiff was 51 years old on the date she filed her application for Supplemental Security Income. This placed her in the Social Security Administration's category of a person closely approaching advanced age. 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(d). She has a high school education and worked in the past as an auto-parts-assembly worker and an instrument technician.

         Plaintiff testified during a hearing before ALJ Sharrard that she is unable to work due to constant pain. (Doc. #8, PageID # 97). If she walks for 30 to 40 minutes, her “legs just start shaking.” Id. She returns home because her legs feel like they “are about to collapse.” Id. She then needs to lie in bed for 2 days before she can attempt again to walk for that length of time. Id. at 98.

         She has severe low-back pain with numbness in her leg, occasional neck pain, and severe headaches. Id. at 100, 108-09. She explained, “I'm in constant pain all the time … all day long. All day long. It's ever since the [car] accident is nothing but pain. It's a horrible life.” Id. at 108. She rated her average pain a 7 out of a scale of 0 to 10 (no pain to serious pain requiring a hospital visit). Id. at 113. Plaintiff's pain wakes her up at twice a night. Id. at 116. Due to her pain, Plaintiff testified that she stays in bed most of the time. Id. at 103. Specifically, Plaintiff testified that at least 3 times a week she will lie in bed for 6 hours or more due to pain. Id. at 110-111.

         To treat her pain, Plaintiff has participated in physical therapy, takes prescription medications, and was given a cream to apply for pain. Id. at 99, 107-08. In addition, she exercises at home. But, her pain returns as soon as she completes physical therapy, and if she pushes herself to hard, she will get re-injured and lie in bed for 2 days. Id. at 100. Plaintiff testified that medications make her unable to think straight and unable to drive. Id. at 114. She also testified that she has been prescribed medical devices, a cane and a back brace, to assist her. Id. at 111-12. While she has needed a cane since 2013, and had been previously offered one, she was unable to afford it and could only obtain one when her insurance agreed to pay. Id. at 112.

         During the day, Plaintiff vacuums a little but this increases her pain, so she does not vacuum her home enough. She grocery shops once a month with her mother and brother, but she does not carry any grocery bags. Id. at 105.

         Plaintiff testified that she can sit for 5 to 10 minutes before having to move. She can lift 5 pounds. Id. at 106, 113-114. She does not like to be around crowds and does not like anyone to come near her. She noted, “I'm just miserable.” Id. at 110. She also mentioned that, in addition to pain, the reason she could not remain employed at Walmart was her lack of patience. Id. at 123-24. Plaintiff worked at Walmart from November 2012 to February 2013. Id. at 257.

         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.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         Plaintiff's eligibility to receive Supplemental Security hinged on whether she was under a “disability” as defined under social security law. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A)-(d)(2)(A), 1381a; see also Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470 (1986). To determine if she was under such a disability, ALJ Sharrard evaluated the evidence under the Social Security Administration's 5-step procedure. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4). Moving through step 1, the ALJ found at steps 2 and 3 that Plaintiff's impairments-including her severe impairments of-“degenerative disc disease of lumbar spine, osteoarthritis, depression, and adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features-did not automatically entitle her to benefits. (Doc. #8, PageID #s 63-70).

         At step 4, the ALJ found that the most Plaintiff could do despite her impairments- her residual functional capacity, see Howard v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 276 ...

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