Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kennedy v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

July 1, 2019

GINA M. KENNEDY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          James L. Graham, Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KIMBERLY A. JOLSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Gina M. Kennedy brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). For the reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court OVERRULE Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (Doc. 10) and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed her applications for DIB and SSI on February 16, 2011, alleging that she was disabled beginning February 3, 2011. (Doc. 7, Tr. 159). After her application was denied initially and on reconsideration, the Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”) held the hearing on January 15, 2013. (Tr. 35-66). On February 22, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. (Tr. 16-28). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6). Plaintiff appealed the decision to this Court. See Kennedy v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2:14-cv-419 (S.D. Ohio). The Court remanded the case to the Commissioner under Sentence Four of § 405(g). The Appeals Council vacated the ALJ decision and ordered a remand. (Tr. 964-68). A second administrative hearing was held on July 10, 2015. (Tr. 840-76), and about four months later, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. (Tr. 801-38). The Appeals Council again denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 719-26).

         Plaintiff filed the instant case seeking a review of the Commissioner's decision on July 2, 2018 (Doc. 1), and the matter is now ripe for consideration. (See Docs. 7, 10, 12).

         A. Relevant Hearing Testimony

         The ALJ usefully summarized Plaintiff's hearing testimony:

The claimant testified that she is 64 inches tall and that she weighs 273 pounds. She lives alone in an apartment. The claimant has no dependent children. She had a driver's license but she does not have an automobile. She receives transportation to the grocery store and to appointments through the “Recovery Zone” organization. The claimant has been involved with that organization for five years. She attends group therapy sessions at the Recovery Zone five days per week. The claimant testified that she experiences anxiety and depression. She testified that she has not had any problems with substance abuse. Prior to moving into her apartment, the claimant lived in a group home through the Recovery Zone. She testified that she lacks motivation. She is able to prepare simple meals in a microwave oven. She does her own laundry. The claimant testified that she does not have a boyfriend. She visits with family members including her parents and siblings. The claimant shops and has no difficulty relating to other persons she encounters in the community. She attends church regularly (once per week). A friend picks her up and drives her to church. She occasionally goes to a movie or out to eat with her friend. The claimant uses a computer to play games and watch movies. She reads but not very often. The claimant is able to attend to her own personal grooming and hygiene needs. However, upon questioning by her attorney, the claimant qualified that testimony by stating that she only showers once per week and that she does not like to brush her teeth. The claimant testified that she is able to sleep adequately with the use of CPAP therapy and medication. She testified that she becomes mentally overwhelmed and that she experiences panic attacks. The claimant complained of poor concentration and memory deficits. She can only sustain concentration for about 30 minutes at a time. The claimant also complained of mood swings and lack of energy. The claimant takes prescribed medication for her alleged symptoms and impairments (Exhibits 15E and 24E).

(Tr. 804).

         B. Relevant Medical Background

         In her decision, the ALJ also summarized Plaintiff's medical diagnoses and symptoms:

There is evidence of mental health treatment for symptoms of depression and anxiety (Exhibits 2F to 5F, 7F, 12F, 13F, 30F, 3lF, 50F and 5lF). Depressive disorder NOS (not otherwise specified) and generalized anxiety disorder were diagnosed (Exhibit 2F at 10). There is evidence of episodes of psychological symptom exacerbation in 2011 with apparent suicidal ideation (Exhibits 2F, 3F and 7F). Situational factors (e.g., unemployment, homelessness, financial difficulties, family relationship issues) seem to have been at the root of these episodes (see, for example, Exhibits 3F at 3 and 9; 30F at 70; 5lF at 2). On each occasion, the claimant was effectively treated within a matter of a few days. Her condition stabilized and she was released from treatment. Personality disorder was also diagnosed (Exhibit 7F at 10). Generally (and over an extended period of time), the claimant was assigned Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores in the range of “5l-60” (Exhibits 5F, 7F and 5lF at 49). GAF scores in the range of “5l-60” are indicative of “moderate” symptoms (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed [DSM IV-TR], Text Revision, Washington, D.C., American Psychiatric Association, 2000, pp. 32-34). The claimant's primary mode of treatment was psychotropic medication (see Exhibits 7F and 30F).
Mental health treatment records indicate that the claimant “has no notable substance use difficulties” (Exhibit 7F at 5). She has good hygiene skills and no difficulty with the performance of household chores and regular and routine daily activities (Exhibit 7F at 5). There was no evidence of thought disturbance. The claimant displayed normal judgment and insight as well as appropriate behavior. Her memory was intact. She was oriented and alert. Thought content was normal. The claimant demonstrated the capacity to stay on task (Exhibit 7F at 4).
It was noted that the claimant has difficulty coping with stress but that “under low stress, [she] can maintain her attention and tolerate frustration well” (Exhibit 12F at 3). She becomes angry without much provocation. Her symptoms were responding to prescribed medication and treatment (Exhibit 12F at 4). It was reported that the claimant exhibited stable mood with no panic attacks (Exhibit 13F at 6).

(Tr. 807).

         The ALJ also considered the individual records of Plaintiff's care providers and treatment centers:

1. Therapist Tracy Detwiler and Psychiatrist Dr. Linda Griffith (Treatment Records from 2012- 2015)
Therapist Tracy Detwiler, PA-C, reported that the claimant was “doing well” with treatment (Exhibit 50F at 31). It was reported that the claimant had a boyfriend with whom she was going out to eat but that they had broken up. Even so, the claimant reported “doing very well” in terms of her mental status (Exhibit 50F at 7).
Ms. Detwiler assessed the claimant's mental functioning capabilities on October 1, 2012 (Exhibits 30F at 2-3 and 32F). According to Ms. Detwiler, the claimant's social functioning capabilities are “markedly” impaired in all respects (i.e., an inability to function from 26 percent to 50 percent of the time during any given work day or work week). Her ability to tolerate customary work pressures is also “markedly limited.” The claimant would likely miss work five or more days per month due to her impairment in the estimation of Ms. Detwiler. Ms. Detwiler indicated that the claimant's ability to maintain sustained concentration and persistence is “moderately limited” (i.e., an inability to function from 11 percent to 25 percent of the time during any given work day or work week). Her ability to respond appropriately to changes in work setting and to behave predictably and reliably and in an emotionally stable manner are both “markedly” limited (Exhibit 32F at 2).
Another (similar) assessment was completed by Ms. Detwiler and co-signed by Linda Griffith, M.D., a psychiatrist, on June 11, 2015 (Exhibit 45F). In this assessment, it was reported that the claimant's functional capabilities were compromised to an even greater (i.e., “extreme”) extent. For example, the claimant's ability to work in coordination with other persons without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes and her ability to respond appropriately to co-workers and peers were both characterized as “extremely” impaired (i.e., an inability to function over 50 percent of a given work day or work week). In all other respects (with the exception of ability to maintain personal appearance and hygiene which was rated as “moderately” limited), the claimant's ability to maintain concentration and her adaptability were rated as “markedly” or “extremely” impaired (Exhibit 45F at 2-3).

(Tr. 807-08).

         2. Therapist Ann Nash (2012 Assessment)

Ann Nash, PC, (a therapist with Consolidated Care), completed an assessment of the claimant's mental functioning capabilities on July 20, 2012 (Exhibit 15F). Ms. Nash concluded that the claimant's social interaction capabilities are all “markedly” impaired. Except for the ability to carry out instructions and complete tasks independently (which Ms. Nash rated as “moderately” impaired), the claimant's capacity to sustain concentration and persistence was rated as “markedly” impaired in all respects. The claimant's capacity for adaptability was rated as “markedly” limited in all respects with the exception of ability to remember locations, procedures and instructions and ability to be aware of normal hazards and take necessary precautions both of which were rated as “moderately” limited (Exhibit 15F at 3). Ability ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.