United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Knepp, II Magistrate Judge
Bilal Shabazz (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint
against the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to deny disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). (Doc. 1). The district court has
jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c) and 405(g).
The parties consented to the undersigned's exercise of
jurisdiction in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Civil Rule 73. (Doc. 4). For the reasons stated below, the
undersigned affirms the decision of the Commissioner.
filed for DIB and SSI on December 20, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of October 2, 2008. (Tr. 205-17). His
claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr.
141-56, 160-71). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 172-74).
Plaintiff (represented by counsel), and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified at a hearing before the ALJ on
December 8, 2015. (Tr. 32-77). On February 3, 2016 the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision. (Tr.
12-26). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the hearing decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5); see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.955, 404.981, 416.1455, 416.1481. Plaintiff
timely filed the instant action on March 14, 2017. (Doc. 1).
Background and Testimony
was born on July 6, 1964, was 44 at his alleged onset date,
and was 51 at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 24, 80). He had a
high school education and previously worked as a machine
feeder, which is medium, unskilled work. (Tr. 39-40, 62,
254-55). Plaintiff claimed he became disabled in October
2008. (Tr. 211).
testified he could not keep a job because of verbal and
physical altercations with supervisors and coworkers. (Tr.
40, 58). He carried a utility knife or an ice pick, prompted
by increased anger and irritability toward people. (Tr.
40-41). He felt ready to “snap at any moment”,
and kept the knife with him “just to slash
somebody's neck . . . or just rip their midsections so
their intestines are falling out.” (Tr. 41). One prior
job ended when he broke a coworker's nose, and another
ended for punching someone in the mouth. Id.
Plaintiff could cook, clean, do laundry, and go shopping.
(Tr. 46-49). He did not have friends, did not socialize, and
testified to getting confrontational with a neighbor who
knocked on his door. (Tr. 48). To avoid violent
confrontations, Plaintiff said he kept to himself. (Tr.
55-56). Plaintiff's prescribed medication reduced his
angry flare-ups, but also left him heavily sedated. (Tr.
relevant medical evidence exists from the alleged onset date
until December 2013, when Plaintiff saw Neal Goldenberg,
M.D., of Frontline Services for mental health issues. (Tr.
405-06). Plaintiff told Dr. Goldenberg he had problems with
his temper, and would smash and break things when frustrated.
(Tr. 405). Dr. Goldenberg noted a twenty-year history of
homelessness, including a ban at a homeless shelter because
of a confrontation with a staff member, along with repeated
difficulties holding a job due to Plaintiff's inability
to accept criticism. Id. He isolated himself, and
Dr. Goldenberg described him as irritable. Id.
Plaintiff reported daily bouts of depression, along with
passive suicidal ideation, but had no history of attempts nor
a plan to attempt suicide. Id. Plaintiff came to the
evaluation appropriately groomed, fully oriented, and had a
normal stream of conversation with reality-based thoughts.
(Tr. 406). His memory was intact, and Plaintiff denied any
hallucinations. Id. His capacity for abstract
thinking was intact. Id. Dr. Goldenberg diagnosed
Plaintiff with Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Chronic
Adjustment Disorder with mixed depression and anxiety.
Id. Plaintiff was prescribed Citalopram and
Hydroxyzine, with the recommendation that he participate in
therapy, counseling, and anger management. Id.
October 2014, Plaintiff again visited Dr. Goldenberg. During
the examination, Plaintiff told Dr. Goldenberg his medication
helped control the violent impulses and behavior, but caused
him to feel sedated. (Tr. 442). Dr. Goldenberg noted
Plaintiff's loud and occasionally dramatic speech, along
with his paranoia and his “having to destroy and smash
things”. Id. Plaintiff continued to cope by
self-isolating. Id. Plaintiff reported a
misunderstanding with a case worker that did not result in
Plaintiff smashing things. Id.
December 2014, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Goldenberg and
continued his complaints of sedation from Seroquel. (Tr.
441). Plaintiff told Dr. Goldenberg “I'm happy with
the way things are.” Id. He continued
isolating himself from others, but Dr. Goldenberg noted
Plaintiff seemed ultimately okay with the isolation.
Id. During the visit, Plaintiff's speech was
somewhat rapid, and he was vaguely paranoid about other's
February 2015, Plaintiff told Dr. Goldenberg he was still
irritable when someone approached him
“foolishly”, but nothing was new. (Tr. 440). He
was walking away from potentially explosive situations, had
no recent violence or outbursts, and still tended to isolate.
Id. Plaintiff reported continued use of his
medication, which was helpful but caused sedation.
Id. His affect remained constricted. Id.
saw Dr. Goldenberg in July and September 2015. (Tr. 463-469).
He said he was “doing ok” in July. (Tr. 465).
Plaintiff continued to isolate himself. (Tr. 465, 469). In
July, he handled a potential conflict assertively without
violence (Tr. 465), but in September reported he “got
explosive” with his mom and sister, who then were not
speaking with him as a result (Tr. 469). He continued to
carry a weapon. (Tr. 469). Dr. Goldenberg noted no recent
examples of physical altercations, despite his past history.
(Tr. 468). Dr. Goldenberg worried about the prospect of any
conflict escalating to violence. (Tr. 469).
House, Ph.D., conducted a psychological consultative
evaluation of Plaintiff in February 2010. (Tr. 301-08).
Plaintiff had a “very mild menacing quality”,
according to Dr. House, though Plaintiff did not actively
present himself as menacing. (Tr. 304). He had an
“angry undercurrent” with a “brittle
quality to his presentation”. Id.
Plaintiff's speech was “marked by pressure”
but understandable and did not lack content. Id.
During the examination, Plaintiff's eye contact was
adequate, and no overt delusional material was elicited in
the interview. (Tr. 305). He had a mild paranoid quality, but
was not evasive or suspicious. Id. Plaintiff told
Dr. House he intermittently became depressed, and could also
be impulsive. (Tr. 304-05). Plaintiff stated he had impulsive
thoughts about an airplane crash from his time in the
military, and about a childhood incinerator blast that did
not do significant physical damage but still prompted
flashbacks. (Tr. 305). He also experienced mood swings and
depersonalization. Id. He told Dr. House he can be
with people he knows but avoids crowds. Id.
Plaintiff could “feel the jealousy of envious
people”, prompting Dr. House to believe Plaintiff had
some enemies at the homeless shelter where he
stayed. Id. His insight into his current
situation and overall level of judgment appeared mildly
limited. (Tr. 306). Dr. House concluded that the Plaintiff
suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(“PTSD”), which mildly limited his ability to
maintain attention and concentrate, along with his ability to
perform simple repetitive tasks. (Tr. 307). His ability to
withstand pressures and stresses associated with day-to-day
work activity appeared markedly limited due to his PTSD, as
was his ability to relate to others, though he did not appear
to require immediate supervision in the management of his
daily activities. Id. His ability to adapt appeared
moderately limited. Id.
January 2014, Dr. Goldenberg completed a Mental Status
Questionnaire for the Disability Determination Services. (Tr.
408-10). In the questionnaire, Dr. Goldenberg noted Plaintiff
was highly irritable, got into fights, and had a poor
response to direction and criticism. (Tr. 409). “He
becomes agitated and aggressive in situations where he is
criticised [sic] by supervisors or fellow employees. This has
led to verbal and physical altercations. He has also been
destructive of property when frustrated with supervisor at
work”, Dr. Goldenberg noted. Id. He considered
Plaintiff's adaptation skills fair. Id.
Plaintiff had an appropriate appearance at this examination,
along with normal conversation flow, no signs of anxiety or
thought disorders, and fully intact cognitive functioning.
(Tr. 408). Dr. Goldenberg considered Plaintiff fully capable
of remembering, understanding, and following directions;
maintaining attention; sustaining concentration, persisting
at tasks, and completing them in a timely fashion. (Tr. 409).
During this office visit, Plaintiff reported he was
“maintaining and managing”, though still enduring
some anxiety and depression. (Tr. 426). Plaintiff noted some
improvement with medication, and Dr. Goldenberg doubled his
dosage of Citalopram to 40 mg. (Tr. 426).
January 2014, Patricia Semmelman, Ph.D., a state agency
reviewing psychologist, listed Plaintiff's affective
disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder as
severe impairments. (Tr. 87). She opined Plaintiff could
complete simple, routine work tasks in a static environment
with simple, superficial interactions with coworkers and
supervisors, and without fast-paced production requirements
or direct contact with the general public. (Tr. 89-90). Dr.
Semmelman also opined Plaintiff would have mild restrictions
in daily living activities and maintaining concentration,
persistence, or pace, and moderate difficulties in
maintaining social functioning. (Tr. 86).
March 2014, Cynthia Waggoner, Psy.D., also a state agency
reviewing psychiatrist, agreed with Dr. Semmelman's
opinion that Plaintiff was limited to simple, routine tasks
in a static work environment free from fast-paced production
requirements and no contact with the general public. (Tr.
134). She opined Plaintiff remained capable of simple,
superficial interactions with coworkers and supervisors.
Id. She found the February 2010 opinion of Dr. House
(Tr. 301-08) less persuasive for its lack of substantial
support from other evidence in the record and its heavy
reliance on the subjective reports provided by Plaintiff.
September 2014 Plaintiff saw Dr. Goldenberg again. (Tr.
436-37). Dr. Goldenberg completed a Mental Residual
Functional Capacity Assessment, noting Plaintiff was markedly
limited in his ability to maintain attention and
concentration for extended periods, to perform activities
within a schedule, to sustain an ordinary routine without
special supervision, and to work in coordination with or
proximity to others without being distracted by them. (Tr.
436). Dr. Goldenberg also found Plaintiff markedly limited in
his ability to complete a normal workday and workweek without
interruptions, to interact appropriately with the general
public, to accept instruction and criticism from supervisors,
to get along with coworkers, and to maintain socially
appropriate behavior. (Tr. 437). To support his conclusions,
Dr. Goldenberg noted Plaintiff had been homeless or
incarcerated most of his life. Id. Plaintiff was
frequently in verbal altercations, and was highly
distractible and irritable, Dr. Goldenberg noted, adding
“I would not want him to be in a regular workplace for
fear of violence towards coworkers”. Id.
2015, Mark Anderson, M.S., CDMS, LPC, assessed
Plaintiff's residual employability. (Tr. 444). Plaintiff
told Mr. Anderson his medication left him fatigued. (Tr.
446). On a typical day, Plaintiff said he would be awake for
an hour before falling asleep for another one or two hours
because of the medication's side effects. Id. He
carried a weapon, either an ice pick or a utility knife, and
he said he feared he would use a knife in a workplace to
attack a coworker. Id. Plaintiff had no work skills
that could transfer to other occupations, Mr. Anderson
opined, due to Plaintiff's serious psychological symptoms
and medication side effects. Id. His diagnosed PTSD,
depression and Explosive Disorder, along with a Purdue
Pegboard test result below the first percentile were offered
as evidence by Mr. Anderson to support his conclusion that
Plaintiff was not employable. (Tr. 448-49).
vocational expert appeared and testified at the hearing
before the ALJ. (Tr. 62-64). The ALJ asked the VE to consider
an individual with Plaintiff's age, education, and work
experience, who was limited in the way ultimately found by
the ALJ's RFC. (Tr. 17). The VE testified such an
individual could not perform Plaintiff's past work, but
could perform other jobs in the national economy. (Tr.
February 3, 2016 decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the
insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through March 31, 2014, and had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since his alleged onset date of October 2,
2008. (Tr. 14). He had severe impairments of peripheral
vascular disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic
adjustment disorder with mixed depression and anxiety,
intermittent explosive disorder, and paranoid personality
disorder, but these impairments did not meet or medically
equal the severity of a listed impairment individually or in
combination. (Tr. 14-15). After consideration of the record,
the ALJ concluded Plaintiff had the RFC to:
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) and
416.967 (b) except the claimant has the ability to complete
simple, routine tasks in a relatively static work environment
without demands for meeting fast paced production
requirements. He has the capacity for simple, superficial
interactions with co-workers and supervisors on an infrequent
basis but should not have direct contact with the general
(Tr.17). She then concluded Plaintiff was unable to perform
his past relevant work as a machine feeder. (Tr. 24). However
considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, he
could perform other jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy. (Tr. 25). Therefore, the ALJ concluded
Plaintiff was not disabled from his alleged onset date of
October 2, 2008, through the date of her decision. (Tr. 26).