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Call v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

July 11, 2019

CASEY CALL, Plaintiff,

          Thomas M. Rose District Judge


          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Casey Call asserts that his many health problems prevent him from working. In August 2016, he turned to the Social Security Administration for assistance by applying for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. After initial administrative proceedings, Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth A. Motta denied Plaintiff's applications based on her conclusion that he was not under a “disability, ” as the Social Security Act defines it. (Doc. #6, PageID #s 71-86).

         In the present case, Plaintiff challenges ALJ Motta's non-disability decision on two main grounds-namely, ALJ Motta committed reversible error in evaluating the medical-source opinions and in evaluating his pain and other symptoms. He seeks an Order remanding this matter for benefits or, at a minimum, for further administrative proceedings. The Commissioner finds no reversible error in the ALJ's decision and asks the Court to affirm her decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that he was under a benefits-qualifying disability starting on August 17, 2015. He was 35 years old on that date and considered a “younger person” under social security law. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c).[2] He has a high-school education and worked as a landscape foreman.

         A. Plaintiff's Background

         Plaintiff testified at the administrative hearing that he lived in his wife and two school-aged children, and his wife's parents. They lived in his wife's parents' house because, since July 2017, he could no longer care for their previous home and property. (Doc. # 6, PageID #s 97-98).

         Plaintiff explained that his ability work as a landscape foreman ended due to Gardner syndrome and his resulting inability to continue with the work. Id. at 99-100.

         “Gardner syndrome is a form of familial adenomatous … that is characterized by multiple colorectal polypus and various types of tumors, both benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous). People affected by Gardner syndrome have a high risk of developing colorectal cancer at an early age….” The dangerous nature of this rare disease is readily seen:

The signs and symptoms of Gardner syndrome vary from person to person. It is … characterized primarily by hundreds to thousands of noncancerous … polyps in the colon that begin to appear at an average age of 16. Unless the colon is removed, these polyps will become malignant…, leading to early-onset colorectal cancer at an average age of 39 years.

Id. As ALJ Motta noted, “There is no doubt that [Plaintiff] has a serious disease….” (Doc. #6, PageID #80).

         When ALJ Motta asked Plaintiff to describe what bothers him the most, he explained, “I thought I would be a lot better off than I am right now that-since I've lost my colon, large intestines-for me, I go to the bathroom 15 to 20 times a day right now. Every bit of it is painful. Every bit of it's painful. Just digesting food is a job in itself for me, along with the … medications, staying hydrated, and staying nourished.” Id. at 101-02. Plaintiff reported that he had a colostomy, leaving him with a colostomy bag. A few months later (in December 2016) he underwent a reversal surgery, thus eliminating his need for a colostomy bag. Id. at 102.

         When asked about his “big issue” with constipation, he responded, “[t]hat was pre-surgery. That was one of my main complaints when I actually had my colon still. But since then, that's no longer an issue for me. It's quite the opposite.” Id. at 102. In this context, “quite the opposite” refers diarrhea for which he takes Imodium 3 times per day and Bentyl but these do not help him. See id. at 102-04. He must be careful to drink enough water with these medications to prevent blockage in his small bowel (he had already experienced 3). Id. at 104. He also took additional medications Promathezine, Zofran, and Reglan for nausea; Sulindac for tumor and polyp suppression; Valium as a muscle relaxer; Tramadol for pain; and Protoniz for ulcers. He does not feel the medications work. Id. at 104. Plaintiff's abdominal pain is “never lower than a 5 or 6, and it goes up to a 9 or 10.” Id. at 110. He starts every day with nausea and vomiting. Id. Plaintiff noted that his disease causes him to be constantly on the lookout for cancer. Id. at 109.

         Plaintiff testified that after he stopped working as a landscape foreman, he worked part time at a gas station as a cashier and stock person. Id. at 100. He was fired from this part-time job because he had too many doctors' appointments. Id. at 106.

         In early 2017, when Plaintiff cared for his children by himself, he microwaved frozen meals, and his children helped with housework. Id. at 106, 108. He relied on family members to help with yardwork because “it is too much.” Id. at 106-07. His other daily activities were very limited. He could do some shopping. Id. He described himself as “a homebody.” Id. at 107. He did Sudoku puzzles but little else. And he sometimes took his children to the park but otherwise could rarely play with them. Id. at 107-08.

         B. Medical Opinions

         i. Sarah Khavari, M.D. - Primary care physician

         In July 2016, Dr. Khavari completed a basic-medical form, noting that she first saw Plaintiff in 2009. (Doc. #6, PageID #526). She reported diagnoses of Gardner syndrome with no change (“s/p”) after his total ...

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