United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. KNEPP II, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Joanne Marie Maki (“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”). (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. 12). For the reasons stated
below, the undersigned reverses the decision of the
Commissioner and remands for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
filed for DIB in September 2015, alleging a disability onset
date of April 23, 2015. (Tr. 267-68). Her claims were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 212-15, 219-21).
Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 226-27). Plaintiff
(represented by counsel), and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified at a hearing before the ALJ on
June 16, 2017. (Tr. 139-81). On November 27, 2017, the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision. (Tr.
10-21). 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. Plaintiff timely filed the
instant action on April 9, 2018. (Doc. 1).
Background and Testimony
May 1957, Plaintiff was 58 years old on her amended alleged
onset date, and 60 at the time of the ALJ hearing.
See Tr. 149, 267. She had an associate's degree
in accounting and business management (Tr. 149), and past
work as a job costing clerk and cost estimator (Tr. 167-68).
time of the hearing, Plaintiff lived with her husband. (Tr.
148-49). Plaintiff testified she was fired from her prior job
“after months of coming in late” two to three
times per week. (Tr. 151). She also took leave due to her
irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”) and asthma.
Id. Plaintiff believed she was unable to work due to
the fact that stress caused her IBS to flare up, as well as
asthma and anxiety. (Tr. 152).
testified to IBS flare-ups at least once or twice per week;
she took dicyclomine. (Tr. 156). Her IBS was better since
being off work “[b]ecause the stress level [is]
also testified to difficulty getting along with coworkers and
authority figures, in part because she was nervous speaking
to others. (Tr. 157). Plaintiff specifically had difficulty
with two co-workers, and one supervisor at her last job. (Tr.
157-58). However, she “got along fine” with a
previous supervisor. (Tr. 161). Plaintiff also cried at work,
and got in trouble for not finishing tasks. (Tr. 161-62).
Toward the end of her employment, Plaintiff was
“constantly worried about whether [she] was going to
lose [her] job under new management or [due to the] health
issues [she] was experiencing.” (Tr. 162).
able to interact with her family members, but had some
difficulty with her twin sister. (Tr. 158-59). She also
stayed in touch with friends, but did not belong to any clubs
or organizations. (Tr. 159).
Medical Evidence Physical
to her alleged onset date, in January 2013, Plaintiff went to
North Shore Gastroenterology due to abdominal pain, gas, and
diarrhea. (Tr. 386). Plaintiff reported an October 2012
emergency room visit for diarrhea and vomiting, and a
negative CT scan. Id. Plaintiff ultimately underwent
surgery and had her gallbladder and appendix removed.
Id. Plaintiff was instructed to proceed with a
colonoscopy with biopsy. (Tr. 386-87).
2014, Plaintiff went to University Hospitals Elyria Medical
Center with right-sided “crampy” abdominal pain.
See Tr. 484-500. Plaintiff was prescribed Percocet
and Phenergan (Tr. 488), and diagnosed with diarrhea on
discharge (Tr. 497). At an appointment later that month,
Plaintiff reported severe diarrhea with over ten stools one
morning. (Tr. 708).
March 2015, Plaintiff told a provider that she had been doing
well until recently when her cramping abdominal pain
recurred. (Tr. 705). She reported alternating diarrhea and
constipation. Id. The provider prescribed a trial of
Bentyl to treat possible bowel spasm. (Tr. 707). That same
month Plaintiff underwent a CT enterography due to
diverticulitis, generalized abdominal pain, diarrhea, and
IBS. (Tr. 401). It revealed diffuse bowel wall thickening and
diverticulosis of the sigmoid colon without evidence of acute
diverticulitis. (Tr. 403).
2015 small bowel series showed rapid small bowel transit
time, and an unremarkable appearance of the small bowel with
no significant residual bowel wall thickening or edema
corresponding to the region of abnormality detected on the
CT. (Tr. 396-97). At a follow up visit later that month,
Plaintiff was noted to have “occasional crampy pain in
low abdomen followed by diarrhea”. (Tr. 571). Her
medications were helpful, and the diarrhea resolved on its
own. Id. The provider also noted Plaintiff
“ha[d] many days of normal solid stool as well.”
Id. On examination, Plaintiff had a normal abdominal
examination. (Tr. 572). The provider noted Plaintiff was
“[c]urrently doing well” and “currently
stable on fiber and [B]entyl.” (Tr. 573).
November 2015, Plaintiff reported three to four “formed
to loose stools” daily, and “some right lower
quadrant crampy pain from time to time . . . but [it] is not
severe and does not travel.” (Tr. 675). She noted the
pain improved with Bentyl. Id. Plaintiff denied
abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea
and vomiting; on examination, she had normal bowel sounds and
her abdomen was soft and not tender. (Tr. 676). The provider
noted Plaintiff was “[c]urrently doing well and
actually much better [since] she has been away from her job,
which was quite stressful for her.” (Tr. 677).
made similar statements and the provider noted similar
findings in December. (Tr. 717). The provider noted
Plaintiff's “crampy pain” was improved on
dicyclomine, and he increased her dosage. (Tr. 719).
Plaintiff reported increased stress after losing her job and
having her house remodeled. Id.
December 2015, Plaintiff told a consultative psychologist
that she had abdominal cramping and bowel urgency and went to
the bathroom seven to eight times per day. (Tr. 680). She
always used the bathroom before leaving the house and had to
know where a bathroom was when she was out. Id.
Plaintiff also reported cramping and diarrhea with anxiety.
January 2016 mental health visit, Plaintiff reported she did
not think she could work due to her IBS. (Tr. 562).
appointment in August 2016, Plaintiff reported diarrhea,
heartburn, and indigestion, but denied abdominal pain,
constipation, nausea, or vomiting. (Tr. 891). Plaintiff
reported symptoms “approximately once or twice weekly
that last for a day” including crampy abdominal pain
followed by urgent diarrhea. (Tr. 892). She described two to
four “formed to loose” stools daily and noted her
symptoms could be improved within the day with medication.
Id. The provider noted Plaintiff had IBS which was
“now stable with [approximately] 2 days a week where
she may have episodes of crampy pain, diarrhea, improve[d]
with Bentyl and dicyclomine”. (Tr. 894)
December 2015, State agency physician Steven McKee, M.D.,
reviewed Plaintiff's records and opined Plaintiff could:
occasionally lift and/or carry twenty pounds; frequently lift
and/or carry ten pounds; stand and/or walk a total of about
six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit about six hours in an
eight-hour workday; and occasionally climb ramps, stairs,
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. (Tr. 193-94).
March 2016, State agency physician Gerald Klyop, M.D.,
offered an identical opinion, with an added restriction to
avoid concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants. (Tr.
from the Far West Center in August 2015 show Plaintiff was
diagnosed with an adjustment disorder with depressed mood,
and assigned a Global Assessment of Functioning
(“GAF”) score of 55. (Tr. 515). She reported a recent
job loss with subsequent feelings of anxiety and depression.
(Tr. 516). Plaintiff reported anxiety triggered by problems,
particularly financial ones. (Tr. 517). On examination, she
had a frustrated mood, broad affect, normal speech,
ruminating thought process, good memory, fair concentration,
and excessively talkative behavior. (Tr. 516); see
also Tr. 522. Plaintiff was angry about her previous
employer and how her complaints were handled. (Tr. 517). She
self-reported a depressed mood, loss of appetite, fatigue,
and low motivation. Id. She stated she was
“extremely nervous”, with mood ...