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McQuown v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

June 13, 2019



          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Matthew McQuown applied for period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income on February 7, 2013, asserting that he could no longer work a substantial paid job. His claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Emily Ruth Statum concluded that he was not eligible for benefits because he is not under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act.

         Plaintiff appealed and the Appeals Council remanded his case back to an ALJ with instructions to obtain updated treatment records; further consider the nature, severity, and limiting effects of all of Plaintiff's impairments; reconsider his residual functional capacity assessment; and obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on Plaintiff's occupation base. After a second hearing, ALJ Eric Anschuetz determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability and accordingly, was not eligible for benefits. Plaintiff brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of his applications for benefits.

         The case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (Doc. #7), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #12), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #13), and the administrative record (Doc. #6).

         Plaintiff seeks a remand of this case for payment of benefits or, at a minimum, for further proceedings. The Commissioner asks the Court to affirm ALJ Anschuetz's non-disability decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that he has been under a “disability” since February 1, 2009. He was forty-one years old at that time and was therefore considered a “younger person” under Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c). He has at least a high school education. See Id. §§ 404.1564(b)(4), 416.964(b)(4).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Anschuetz that he stopped working in 2009 because he had a herniated disc in his back and was no longer able to lift or move anything. (Doc. #6, PageID #101). He worked in a warehouse as a shipping and receiving clerk. Id. at 104. His job included “[c]onstant shifting of ATM-like machines. Shifting, moving, palletizing. Constant bent over.” Id. at 105. He frequently had to lift and/or carry a hundred pounds. Id. After leaving his job in 2009, he tried to work with drywall construction and then roofing but was not able to do either job. Id. at 104.

         When asked to describe his back pain, Plaintiff responded, “It's kind of like … you got the wind knocked out [of] you…. It feels like you're getting hit all over with a sledge hammer.” Id. at 131-32. His pain affects his ability to talk to people or concentrate/focus on tasks. Id. at 132. At home, he spends three-quarters of the day lying on his left side-the only thing that helps relieve his pain. Id. Plaintiff does not lift anything that weighs more than ten pounds. Id. at 133-34. He has a cane but only uses it at home because he is embarrassed to use it in public. Id. at 131. As a result of his back problems, Plaintiff is unable to stoop. He cannot reach the bottom of his fridge and he has fallen many times trying. Id.

         Plaintiff takes Vicodin and muscle relaxers three times a day and an extended-release medication, Hysingla, for pain. Id. at 111. If his pain level is “very high, ” he takes more. Id. His pain level increases if he gets up or sits down. He tossed and turned in bed the night before the hearing and was in “extra pain” because of it. Id. at 112. Before the hearing, he took a muscle relaxer, Motrin, Lyrica, and Vicodin. Id. Lyrica makes him “very tired” and “very groggy.” Id. at 132. As a result, he takes naps during the day. Id.

         A year before the hearing, he had back surgery-a laminectomy. Id. at 101. After surgery, Plaintiff's doctor told him that his spine crumbled in his hands. Id. His doctor prescribed Fosteum to harden Plaintiff's bones so that he can have a fusion surgery. Id. at 109-10. Surgery helped Plaintiff's sciatica pain in his left lower leg. Id. at 102. However, he still has sciatic pain in his neck, left arm, and lower back down to his left knee. Id.

         Plaintiff has difficulty with his hands/wrists. He drops things sometimes-“Kind of lose my grip just out of the blue.” Id. And, he also has pain from time-to-time. At first, the pain was constant but at the time of the hearing, it was sporadic. Id. Dr. Mubarak told Plaintiff that he probably had carpal tunnel syndrome, and Plaintiff thinks he confirmed the diagnosis after “an EGM or MG.” Id. at 133.

         Plaintiff struggles with anxiety and depression. Id. at 113. He has not seen a psychologist or psychiatrist. Instead, his family-care provider, Granetta L. Rittenour, CNP, treats him. Id. Lyrica, which he takes for pain, helps his anxiety and he also takes cyclobenzaprine at night. Id.

         During the day, Plaintiff watches TV. Id. at 134. He also goes on quick trips to the grocery and/or gas station. Id. at 134-35. A friend takes him, as he does not have a driver's license. Id. at 134. He lost his license because he was not able to afford insurance after he was laid off. Id. at 135.

         B. Vocational Expert's Testimony

         Theresa Trent, a vocational expert, also testified at the hearing before ALJ Anschuetz. She classified Plaintiff's past work into two jobs: (i) shipping and receiving clerk-medium exertional level (heavy as performed by Plaintiff), SVP 5, skilled; and (ii) sheet metal worker-medium exertional level, SVP 3, unskilled. Id. at 137.

         The ALJ asked Ms. Trent a hypothetical:

Assume an individual the same age, education and work experience as Mr. McQuown, who can lift 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently. Who can stand and/or walk for a total of six hours during an eight-hour work day. Who can sit for a total of six hours during an eight-hour work day. Can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. Can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. Can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. Due to mental health impairments, he's limited to performing simple, routine, repetitive tasks, but not at a production rate. He can have occasional interaction with supervisors, coworkers and the public. He must have the option to sit or stand ...

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