United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
M. Rose District Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff Jennifer
Turner's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
and Supplemental Security Income. She brings the present case
challenging those denials and asserting she is under a
work-precluding disability due to pain in many areas of her
body-mainly in her feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders,
hands, back, and neck. Her challenges focus on the decision
by Social Security Administrative Law Judge Mark Hockensmith
who found that she was not under a disability because, in
large part, she could still perform a limited range of
sedentary work with some limitations. Plaintiff contends that
ALJ Hockensmith failed to properly evaluate her pain and the
opinions of various physicians.
was forty years old-a “younger” person-on the
date she alleges she became disabled (April 19, 2012).
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c). She has at least a
high-school education, and she worked over the years as a
home health attendant.
a hearing held by ALJ Hockensmith, Plaintiff's counsel
explained that Plaintiff had been diagnosed at age sixteen
with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Counsel pointed out that
the state agency's initial review of Plaintiff's
record found her limited to sedentary work with additional
limitations on her ability to use her hands.
testified during the hearing that she is married and has one
minor-age child and two adult-age children. She is five feet
tall and weighed 293 pounds. She has difficulty climbing and
descending stairs because her knees feel like they want to
give out, and they “pop.” (Doc. #6,
PageID #94). Her last work, as a home health
attendant, ended in June 2014 because she could no longer get
on her knees as her job duties required. She could not scrub
a bathtub and had trouble helping people into the bathtub.
She could not take the trash out of one man's home
because it required climbing a steep hill. She could not get
up the hill due to pain; “it was hurting so bad,
” she noted. Id. at 97. After working during
the day, she would swell up, particularly if she had done a
lot of cleaning. Her pain felt worse in her shoulders, hands,
feet, and legs than other areas of her body. She has pain
each day always at the level of eight on a one to ten scale.
She also gets very swollen. Describing her swelling, she
said, “I feel like I have elephant feet.”
Id. at 100.
also told the ALJ, “Once I get up and start moving, the
pain-that pain does not stop [for] at least a good three or
four hours….” Id. Her pain in the
morning is in her feet and ankles, and she cannot bend her
feet. The pain in her ankles and feet continues throughout
the day. Id. at 102. Plaintiff has back pain that
never goes away. Her hands are swelled in the morning, and
she cannot do much with them until the swelling goes down.
But, even just holding a phone will cause them to swell
again. Id. at 102. She also explained, “I
don't think there is anything I can't do with my
hands, but I … cannot do it for long periods of
time.” Id. at 103.
shoulders are always sore and she cannot touch them. When she
uses her arms a lot during the day, “they will
burn.” Id. at 101. “It's like a
sting, ” she says, and she can't raise her arms
above her head. Id.
she manages to do around the house include washing dishes and
light housecleaning, as long as she takes breaks because the
work requires standing. Her daughter helps with housework.
Plaintiff cannot wash pans-they are too heavy for her hands
to tolerate. She is able to vacuum two rooms, but it causes
her a lot of shoulder pain-a “stinging, burning
pain.” Id. at 104.
experiences bad days and good days. During a bad day, she
will sometimes go to bed because her arms hurt so bad. Her
ankles sting and burn and feel feels like they're just
going to break” with every step she takes. Id.
at 109. Bad days happen four days per week. On a good day,
her pain level would be in the five range all day.
Id. Her treating rheumatologist Dr. Candice Flaugher
told her to get a cane because she had fallen a couple of
times when her knees and ankles gave out. Dr. Flaugher told
her to use the cane on days when her ankles feel weak. Dr.
Flaugher also instructed her to take the cane with her when
she was going to a place that might have steps. Id.
explained that she has experienced her problems with pain
since age sixteen and it was just getting worse, particularly
her shoulders, hand, feet, and ankles. Id. at
parties rely on the ALJ's factual summary, highlighting
the particular evidence that is presently at issue. Those
highlights, in part, reveal the following about
Plaintiff's medical records.
Flaugher's treatment records document that Plaintiff had
severe and persistent pain throughout her body. Examination
revealed small Heberden's and Bouchard's nodes on
Plaintiff's right and left hands. Id. at 381,
386, 530, 535. She had these nodes on March 18, 2013 when Dr.
Flaugher also observed “normal range of motion, muscle
strength, and stability in all extremities with not pain on
inspection.” Id. at 386, 535. Such nodes
result from osteoarthritis and/or degenerative joint disease.
See Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary at
268, 904 (19th ed. 2001). Plaintiff also had positive
crepitus, a cracking sound, in both her knees. See
id. at 482.
2014, Dr. Omita Oza examined Plaintiff at at the request of
the state agency. (Doc. #6, PageID #s 451-57). Upon
physical examination, Dr. Oza observed that Turner's
fingers were somewhat swollen, but no discrete synovitis. The
range of motion in Plaintiff's hips, shoulders, and knees
was reduced because of her size (on that day, she measured
five feet tall and weighed 290 pounds). Id. at
455-56. She displayed full range of motion in her wrists and
elbows. Dr. Oza found “very minimal tenderness on
palpation of lower spine.” Id. Plaintiff had
flatfeet but walked without favoring any particular lower
extremity. Id. Dr. Oza diagnosed osteoarthritis
secondary to obesity and history of seronegative
polyarthropathy. Id. And, based on the examination,
Dr. Oza opined that Plaintiff's “physical
examination is ...