United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
R. Adams Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. Knepp II United States Magistrate Judge.
Joanne Acoff (“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).
This matter has been referred to the undersigned for
preparation of a report and recommendation pursuant to Local
Rule 72.2. (Non-document entry dated June 26, 2018).
Following review, and for the reasons stated below, the
undersigned recommends the decision of the Commissioner be
filed for DIB and SSI in January 2015, alleging a disability
onset date of November 22, 2014. (Tr. 276-83). Her claims
were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 151-66,
168-79). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 182-83).
Plaintiff (represented by counsel), and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified at a hearing before the ALJ on
January 23, 2017. (Tr. 34-100). On August 16, 2017, the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision. (Tr.
15-25). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the hearing decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6); see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.955, 404.981, 416.1455, 416.1481. Plaintiff
timely filed the instant action on June 26, 2018. (Doc. 1).
Background and Testimony
1963, Plaintiff was 51 years old on her alleged onset date.
See Tr. 276. She had a twelfth-grade education (Tr.
306), and past work as a home health aide. (Tr. 306-07). At
the time of her application, Plaintiff alleged disability due
to rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure. (Tr. 305).
February 2015 disability report, Plaintiff reported she was
unable to get out of bed some days due to difficulty standing
and walking. (Tr. 330). She had pain in her hands, wrists,
and feet. Id. She was able to cook, clean, and pick
her children up at school, as well as attend events at school
“when able”. (Tr. 331). Plaintiff reported
difficulty sleeping due to pain, but no problems with
personal care. Id. Plaintiff vacuumed, but her
children helped with laundry; it took her approximately a
half-hour longer to complete simple chores than previously.
(Tr. 332). Plaintiff reported social activities of going out
to dinner or the movies approximately twice per month; she
also went to church. (Tr. 334). Plaintiff stated she could
walk only a few feet and had to rest for five minutes before
walking again. (Tr. 335).
October 2015 disability report, Plaintiff reported she could
not lift, pick up, or carry things. (Tr. 354). She wrote that
her “wrists hurt”, her “knees pop, shift,
buckle, swell [and] give out at times, get large.”
Id. Additionally, she stated she required medication
to “make them function and sometimes it takes a couple
days for them to operate.” Id. She said she
needed help getting out of bed and washing clothes.
Id. She “[sat] on a chair to cook for [her]
January 2017 hearing, Plaintiff testified she had previously
worked as a home health aide, but stopped because joint
inflammation made it difficult for her to care for patients.
(Tr. 38). Plaintiff worked approximately 21 hours per week;
she missed work about three times per month in her last few
months of employment. (Tr. 38-40). She also had difficulty
with bending, lifting, and pulling at her prior job. (Tr.
testified she could not work because she had difficulty
standing, picking things up, or “try to care for
somebody.” Id. Plaintiff cooked dinners most
days but sat on a stool in the kitchen to do so. (Tr. 43-44).
Standing was particularly hard on her back and ankles, and
she estimated she could only stand for five to ten minutes.
(Tr. 44). Plaintiff's standing limitation was due to
problems in her back, ankles, and knees. (Tr. 60). She used a
cane when standing or getting up from a seated position. (Tr.
45). She testified this was because she did not “have
any cartilage in [her] knees” and it was difficult to
get up. (Tr. 46). Plaintiff also estimated she could sit for
twenty minutes before her back started throbbing. (Tr. 58).
This bothered her a few times per week. Id.
Plaintiff's impairments worsened during cold or rainy
weather. See Tr. 59-62.
testified she had difficulty lifting a gallon of milk. (Tr.
56) (“Sometimes when I pull it out of the refrigerator,
my hand drops.”). She grocery shopped with a friend,
riding in an electric cart. (Tr. 56-57). Her friend drove
her, reached for items, and carried the groceries; her
children put the groceries away at home. (Tr. 57). Her
children also performed most of the household chores,
including laundry and putting groceries away. (Tr. 43, 57).
a typical day, Plaintiff would get up, take one daughter to
school, and take her two-year-old granddaughter to daycare
around 8:00. (Tr. 63-65). Later, Plaintiff clarified that her
friend drove while she rode as a passenger. (Tr. 80-81). She
typically picked one of her daughters and her granddaughter
up between 3:00 and 3:30, and the two of them cared for her
granddaughter until the child's mother (Plaintiff's
other daughter) came home between 4:00 and 4:30. (Tr. 64-68).
Plaintiff testified she could not pick her grandchild up.
(Tr. 69). During the time she was home alone, Plaintiff
watched television and napped. (Tr. 83-84)
socialize, Plaintiff went to church, and occasionally a
restaurant. (Tr. 69-70).
December 2014, Plaintiff had bloodwork done that showed a
positive rheumatoid arthritis factor and a high sedimentation
rate. (Tr. 436). Her provider referred her to a
rheumatologist due to her bloodwork and symptoms of neck,
elbow, wrist, and knee pain. (Tr. 433). Plaintiff reported
pain aggravated by activity, rest, sleep, and cold or rainy
weather. (Tr. 476).
February 2015 Plaintiff had x-rays of her hands and knees
performed due to pain. (Tr. 370-71). The hand x-rays were
unremarkable, and the knee x-rays showed moderate bilateral
osteoarthritis and ossification at the origin of the MCL
suggesting prior injury. Id.
Plaintiff's initial rheumatology visit in 2015, she
complained of morning stiffness, increased fatigue and
weakness, and joint pain (particularly in her hands, knees,
and toes). (Tr. 422). Plaintiff reported “significant
relief” from the Prednisone prescribed by her primary
care physician for the past month. Id. On
examination, Irfan Raheem, M.D., noted active synovitis in
Plaintiff's hands, swelling without tenderness in her
knees, and swelling in her ankles and feet. (Tr. 423). Dr.
Raheem noted that after laboratory data came back, Plaintiff
would be started on Methotrexate or continue with Tramadol
and Mobic; she started to taper off Prednisone. (Tr. 426).
April 2015, Dorothy Bradford, M.D., performed a consultative
examination of Plaintiff. (Tr. 381-88). Plaintiff reported
left wrist pain and that she could only lift five pounds.
(Tr. 385). She also reported her ankles hurt on stairs, her
knees hurt, and she had morning stiffness lasting an hour.
Id. On examination, Plaintiff's gait, station,
and posture were normal. (Tr. 387). She had synovial
thickening of a finger, and tenderness over her left dorsal
wrist laterally. Id. Her ability to grasp was
abnormal. (Tr. 381). She had no tenderness and normal
strength and range of motion in her upper and lower
extremities. (Tr. 387).
2015, Plaintiff followed up with Bochra Janadeli, M.D. (Tr.
402-05). She reported polyarthralgia/arthritis with morning
stiffness, with no relief from non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory medication, but “remarkable
improvement” in her pain on steroids. (Tr. 402). She
reported a prior attempt to taper the Prednisone, but her
pain got worse, so “she was restarted on [P]rednisone
10 mg daily which seems to work.” Id. On
examination, Dr. Janadeli noted Plaintiff had hand, wrist,
and knee swelling, with mild tenderness, but full range of
motion; she had crepitus in her knees. (Tr. 404). Dr.
Janadeli gave Plaintiff a Kenalog injection for
“immediate relief”, re-started her on
hydroxychloroquine, and instructed her to try to taper
the Prednisone. Id.
August 2015, Plaintiff had a follow up appointment for latent
tuberculosis. (Tr. 399-400). Plaintiff reported feeling