United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
M. Rose District Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS 
L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.
Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff Crystal
Fitez-Skeens' June 2014 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
her many health problems, including serious, chronic, and
debilitating pain. Her contentions focus on the decision by
Social Security Administrative Law Judge Benjamin Chaykin,
who concluded that she was not under a disability because, in
large part, she could still perform a limited range of light
work. Plaintiff contends that ALJ Chaykin failed to properly
evaluate her symptoms including her pain.
Commissioner contends that substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's evaluation of the severity of Plaintiff's
symptoms and the impact her symptoms, including pain, have on
her work abilities.
was thirty-one years old-a “younger” person-at
the time of the ALJ's decision. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1563(c). She has a high-school-equivalent
education. Her employment and earnings over the years have
testified during a hearing held by ALJ Chaykin that she has
two young children and is not married. At the time of the
ALJ's hearing (May 2016), she worked twenty hours a week
at a nail salon as a fingernail technician owned by her
mother. She usually worked five days a week from 10:00 to
2:00, depending on how much pain she was in. Her mother was
sympathetic to Plaintiff's health problems and allowed
her to miss work “quite often.” Id. at
212. She testified that she missed at least two to three work
days per week. She worked on commission so her earnings
depended upon how many customers she could handle, usually
two to four each workday. When no customers needed her
assistance, she usually answered the phone. (Doc. #6,
PageID #s 207-08). The ALJ found that neither this
work nor any work Plaintiff performed after late February
2016 constituted substantial gainful activity. Id.
also told the ALJ that in 2014, she underwent carpal-tunnel
surgery in both hands. The surgery “helped to a certain
extent.” Id. at 210. Yet she still felt
numbness extending up her arms. When she started working as a
fingernail technician, the numbness radiated through her neck
and shoulders. After she completed a 4-hour shift at work,
her hands would be numb yet also feel like they were trying
to wake up. Id. at 212-13. She explained that she
did not think she could continue working at the end of a
shift because her hand numbness would continue to worsen.
knees have also caused her significant problems. She's
endured three surgeries on her left knee and one on her right
knee. She can stand for only ten to fifteen minutes.
She's had additional problems with back pain and
additional treatments for them: injections, steroids,
physical therapy. She told the ALJ that back surgery is in
the two-year period before the ALJ's hearing, Plaintiff
had gained weight. She attributed this to “[s]tress,
physical limitations that stress [her] out, make [her]
depressed and eat….” Id. at 215. She
cannot exercise. She noted, “I tried to walk a little
bit but there's only so much I can do but I can't do
actual exercises now.” Id.
has also experienced mental-health difficulties. She listed
her diagnoses for the ALJ as post-traumatic stress disorder,
anxiety, depression, and another diagnosis she could not
recall. She felt nervous and scared, and she's
disappointed in herself. She further testified about the
connection between her pain and her mental-health
Well, like when I'm working and stuff and I feel the pain
coming on and it's getting worse and it's getting
stronger, I feel more like my heart starts racing, I feel
more anxiety, I feel more depressed because I'm like oh
my God I can't do this again, you know, I feel bad about
not being able to do stuff with my children and work and
having to rely and depend on everybody else.
Id. at 216.
a typical day, Plaintiff helped her children get ready for
school. Her fiancé usually took them to school. If she
did not go to work, she would sit or lie on the couch and not
“really do much.” Id. at 217. During the
day, she watched TV and read to pass the time. She did not
use social media or spend time with friends. She
“doesn't really have any friends.”
Id. She was able to do some dishes but she can't
stand for very long. She swept the floor and did a lot of
laundry. Yet, when she tried to do too much with her arms
(folding laundry or maneuvering things), her shoulders, neck,
and hands started hurting. Her hands would get numb when she
did a lot of laundry. Id.
driving was limited. She drove herself to and from work but,
other than that, she drove only to and from doctor
appointments. Id. at 205.
to ALJ Chaykin's decision, he concluded that Plaintiff
was not under a disability by conducting the 5-step
evaluation required by social security law. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). His more significant findings
began with his conclusion that Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease in her lumbar spine
and cervical spine; degenerative joint disease in her knees
with residuals of corrective surgery; obesity; carpal tunnel
syndrome with residuals of corrective surgery; hypertension;
and anxiety disorder. The ALJ next found that Plaintiff's
impairments did not automatically constitute a
disability. (Doc. #6, PageID #s 177-83).
then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity or
the most she could do despite her impairments. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a); see also Howard v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 276 F.3d 235, 239 (6th Cir.
2002). Doing so, he found that despite Plaintiff's