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Jadwin v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 18, 2019

JEFFREY L. JADWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Sarah D. Morrison Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH A. PRESTON DEAVERS CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Jeffrey L. Jadwin (“Plaintiff”), brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (“SSDI”) and Supplemental Security Income benefits (“SSI”). This matter is before the United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation on Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (ECF No. 8), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (ECF No. 13), and the administrative record (ECF No. 7). Plaintiff did not file a Reply. For the following reasons, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court OVERRULE Plaintiff's Statement of Errors and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff applied for disability benefits and supplemental security income on May 13, 2014. (R. at 208.) Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. at 1-6.) Upon request, a hearing was held on February 6, 2017, in which Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. (R. at 45-73.) A vocational expert also appeared and testified at the hearing. (R. at 67-71.) On March 31, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Hartranft (“the ALJ”) issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time after January 2, 2014, the alleged onset date. (R. at 12-26.) On January 31, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review and adopted the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision. (R. at 1-6.) Plaintiff then timely commenced the instant action. (ECF No. 3.)

         II. HEARING TESTIMONY

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that he lived with his wife and dog in a trailer. (R. at 52-53.) Plaintiff further testified that he had a thirty-four-year old daughter. (R. at 52.) Plaintiff stated he had a driver's license and “sometimes” drove to go to the store, but his wife drove to the hearing. (R. at 53.) When asked if he had problems driving, Plaintiff responded that he gets distracted more than he used to. (Id.) Plaintiff testified that his wife is disabled so she does not work outside of the home. (Id.) Plaintiff stated that he was six-foot tall and weighed “probably about” two-hundred and twenty pounds. (R. at 51-52.) Plaintiff further stated that he is a high school graduate, used to have a commercial driver's license, and never had any professional certifications. (R. at 53-54.)

         Plaintiff testified that he thought the last time he worked was in April 2014 building specialty doors for Jeld-Wen Doors. (R. at 54.) Plaintiff further testified that he had to lift “around” one-hundred pounds in that job. (R. at 55.) Plaintiff stated that he worked at Jeld-Wen Doors for seven years and stopped because he “just couldn't do it anymore.” (R. at 55-56.) Plaintiff stated he also worked at a clay mine in “2002, something like that, ” where he drove a rock truck and ran a grinder and front-end loader. (R. at 56, 58.) Plaintiff further stated he worked at the clay mine for “about a year.” (R. at 57.) Between his time working at the clay mine and Jeld-Wen Doors, Plaintiff testified that he worked at Hocking Athens Perry Community which involved flood control. (R. at 58.) Plaintiff stated that in that position he ran a chainsaw to cut trees that fell in creeks and at times had to lift around one-hundred-and-fifty pounds. (R. at 58-59.) Plaintiff further stated he worked in that position for six months. (R. at 58.)

         After discussing his job history, Plaintiff testified that he believes he cannot work due to having no energy. (R. at 59.) Plaintiff further testified that he gets out of bed at noon and by two in the afternoon he “feel[s] like [he] need[s] to lay down because [he] just [doesn't] have the energy.” (R. at 60.) When acknowledging his cirrhosis, Plaintiff testified that he drank “a little bit” but “wasn't no big drinker.” (Id.) Plaintiff further testified that he no longer drinks, and that he stopped drinking when he found out he had cirrhosis of the liver. (Id.) Before that, Plaintiff indicated he was drinking “probably” a six-pack of beer a week. (Id.)

         Plaintiff testified that besides fatigue he also experiences nausea. (R. at 61.) Plaintiff stated that he gets sick and pukes, and when that happens it “makes [him] even weaker.” (Id.) Plaintiff further stated he might “go a couple months” without this occurring, but then it will happen all the sudden and he is “down for a week” and that this will happen at least a couple times a year. (R. at 60, 64.) When acknowledging his hemochromatosis, Plaintiff testified that he is phlebotomized[1] as treatment. (R. at 60.) Plaintiff further testified that he is phlebotomized “whenever ferritin levels get to a certain point.” (Id.) Plaintiff stated that the last time he was phlebotomized was “probably” about a year ago. (Id.)

         Plaintiff next testified about his mental health issues. (Id.) Plaintiff stated he went to Six County, Inc. for anger issues. (R. at 61-62.) Plaintiff explained his anger as “things make [him] mad a lot easier than it used to” and that he was “not as patient as [he] used to be.” (R. at 62.) Plaintiff stated that “bad drivers” and “people [who don't] do their job” make him angry. (R. at 66.) Plaintiff also stated he has a hard time sleeping sometimes. (R. at 62.) Plaintiff also testified that he has problems with concentration and that he will “be talking about one thing and digress for 20 seconds and try [to] get back to what [he] was talking about, and [he] forget[s] what [he was] talking about.” (R. at 65.)

         Plaintiff testified that in a typical day he gets up, takes his medicine, sits down and watches television until he gets tired, and then lays down to sleep for a while. (R. at 63.) Plaintiff further testified that when he wakes up he will get something to eat and watch television again until he goes to bed. (Id.) Plaintiff stated that he thought he napped at least three hours a day. (R. at 64.) Plaintiff testified that he experiences cramping in his hands and swelling in his abdomen, ankles, feet, legs, and heart. (R. at 65-66.)

         B. Vocational Expert Testimony

         George W. Coleman III testified as the vocational expert (“VE”) at the February 2017 hearing. (R. at X, 195.) The VE testified that Plaintiff's past work included assembler/subassembler, a medium strength level, semi-skilled job, heavy as performed; grinder/miller, a medium strength level, semi-skilled job, medium as performed; front-end loader, a medium strength level, semi-skilled job, medium as performed; and construction worker II, very heavy strength level, unskilled job, very heavy as performed. (R. at 67-68.)

         The ALJ asked the VE to assume that Plaintiff was capable of working at the light exertional level; could frequently climb ramps or stairs but not ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; was capable of occasional stooping; would need to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat and cold, excess humidity, and wetness as well as excessive vibration and exposure to work place hazards such as unprotected heights and machinery; was capable of simple, routine, and repetitive tasks involving only simple work-related decisions with few, if any, work place changes; could work at occupations that did not require strict production quotas or fast-paced work; and could work in occupations which did not require interaction with the general public and only occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors. (R. at 68-69.) Assuming all of these limitations, the VE testified that Plaintiff would not be capable of any of his past work. (R. at 69.)

         Assuming a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's educational and vocational background, along with the restrictions in the previous question, the VE testified that the individual could perform work at light, unskilled levels, including the jobs of office helper, clerical assistant, cafeteria attendant, and mail room clerk. (R. at 69-70.) The ALJ asked the VE about an employer's tolerance for being off task in unskilled employment. (R. at 70.) The VE testified that it would be up to between ten and twelve percent over an eight-hour work period. (Id.) The VE further testified that in his experience the tolerance for absenteeism in unskilled work was a half a day to a day per month. (R. at 71.)

         III. MEDICAL RECORDS

         A. Physical Impairments

         1. Jeffrey Haggenjos, D.O.

         Plaintiff saw his primary care physician, Dr. Haggenjos in April 2014 for follow-up after a hospital admission. (R. at 403-10.) During this follow-up visit, Plaintiff reported feeling fatigue, nausea, and dizziness after moving. (R. at 403.) Dr. Haggenjos noted that Plaintiff suffered from NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis), referred him to Nephrology, and prescribed him medication. (R. at 407.)

         On May 14, 2014, Plaintiff saw Dr. Haggenjos for follow-up after a hospital admission. (R. at 478-84.) Plaintiff complained of swelling in his feet and abdomen, depression, and requested a refill of Tramadol. (R. at 478.) Dr. Haggenjos listed Plaintiff's diagnoses as electrolyte imbalance; HTN (hypertension); cardiac arrhythmia; abdominal pain, other specified site; smoking; weight loss; CAD (coronary artery disease); nausea; thrombocytopenia; NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis); and CRF (chronic renal failure), unspecified stage. (R. at 481- 82.) Dr Haggenjos prescribed a variety of medications. (R. at 482.)

         On June 25, 2014, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Haggenjos due to an edema of his lower legs. (R. at 538-43.) Plaintiff also complained of pain and swelling in his lower back. (R. at 538.) Dr. Haggenjos prescribed Plaintiff albuterol and recommended that he quit smoking. (R. at 541.) Also in June 2014, Dr. Haggenjos completed a questionnaire on behalf of the state agency in which he opined that Plaintiff was unable to work. (R. at 475-77.) An x-ray of Plaintiff's lumbar spine taken in July 2014 showed mild lumbar spondylosis. (R. at 546.)

         On October 7, 2014, Dr. Haggenjos completed a medical source statement in which he determined that Plaintiff could lift and carry ten pounds on an occasional basis; less than ten pounds on a frequent basis; and stand/walk about two hours per day and sit for six hours per day. (R. at 650-51.) Dr. Haggenjos opined that Plaintiff needed the opportunity to shift from sitting to standing/walking at will and would sometimes need to lie down at unpredictable intervals during an eight-hour working shift. (R. at 651.) Dr. Haggenjos further opined that Plaintiff could never crouch, squat or climb ladders, and could rarely twist, stoop (bend), or climb stairs. (Id.) Additionally, Dr. Haggenjos opined that Plaintiff's fingering (fine manipulation), handling (gross manipulation), and feeling were affected by his impairment, but his reaching (including overhead) and pushing/pulling were not affected. (Id.) Dr. Haggenjos indicated that Plaintiff should avoid all exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, high humidity, wetness, cigarette smoke, perfumes, soldering fluxes, solvents/cleaners, fumes/odors/gases, dust, and chemicals. (R. at 652.) Dr. Haggenjos noted that Plaintiff is unable to handle stress and is likely to miss more than four days of work per month. (R. at 652.)

         2. Genesis HealthCare

         In January 2014, Scott Wegner, M.D. evaluated Plaintiff for thrombocytopenia. (R. at 348-51.) Dr. Wegner noted that Plaintiff did not suffer from any abnormal bleeding or thrombotic events. (R. at 350.) Dr. Wegner indicated that Plaintiff's recent lab work was positive for Hepatitis C and his thrombocytopenia is likely a consequence of Hepatitis C. (R. at 348-49.) Dr. Wegner recommended that he undergo weekly therapeutic phlebotomies to reach his target ferritin level. (R. at 349.) Dr. Wegner also discussed smoking and tobacco cessation with Plaintiff. (R. at 348.)

         Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital on April 21, 2014, complaining of abdominal pain and hypertension. (R. at 397.) Plaintiff was sent to the emergency department by Dr. Haggenjos for evaluation because his blood pressure was 260/110. (R. at 373.) At Dr. Haggenjos' office, Plaintiff reported he had been feeling “out of sorts” for a couple of days. (Id.) He also complained of some left-sided abdominal pain. (Id.) Dr. Haggenjos noted that there was no associated nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, or constipation. (Id.) In the emergency department, Plaintiff's blood pressure was 210/190. (Id.) A CT of Plaintiff's abdomen showed findings compatible with hepatic cirrhosis, as well as moderate ascites, however there was no evidence of aortic dissection or aneurysm. (R. at 390.)

         Plaintiff was again admitted to the hospital in May 2014, due to elevated creatinine. (R. at 419.) Regarding Plaintiff's liver disease, the emergency room physician found his abdomen to be soft and a fluid wave was not detected. (Id.) The emergency room physician noted that Plaintiff had been on Lasix and ACE inhibitor therapy and he had acute renal failure likely due to the combination of both and therefore needed to have adjustments made in his medication. (Id.) In September 2014, Plaintiff presented to the emergency department complaining of high blood pressure, headache, and nausea. (R. at 564-65.) An x-ray of Plaintiff's chest indicated mild cardiac enlargement. (R. at 566.)

         3. William Salt, M.D.

         In June 2014, Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Salt, a gastroenterologist, at the request of Dr. Haggenjos. (R. at 471-74.) Plaintiff reported he suffered from dyspnea with exercise, leg/ankle swelling, palpitations, fatigue, weight loss, cold intolerance, abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, gas, nausea, vomiting, easy bruising, back pain, muscle weakness, stiffness, anxiety, and depression. (R. at 472.) Dr. Salt noted that Plaintiff exhibited widespread gray skin psoriasis. (Id.) Furthermore, Dr. Salt opined that Plaintiff was a “poor historian.” (Id.) Dr. Salt concluded that “[i]t is clear that [Plaintiff] is chronically ill with liver disease and needs to be evaluated at a liver transplantation center.” (R. at 473.)

         4. OSU - Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

         Joshua Peck, M.D. saw Plaintiff in February 2015 for follow-up regarding his liver disease. (R. at 653.) Dr. Peck noted that Plaintiff reported he was “doing very well” since last being seen. (Id.) Dr. Peck recommended continuing with esophageal variceal screening every one to two years and adherence to a strict two gram, low sodium diet. (R. at 655.) Also in February 2015, Douglas Levin, M.D. indicated that Plaintiff's creatinine levels were “considerably better” and that he was heterozygous for the C282y gene “suggesting his iron levels reflect the hepatitis C and alcohol.” (R. at 671.) In May 2015, Plaintiff reported to Dr. Peck that he had not gained anymore weight and did not believe he had an increase in swelling. (R. at 931.) Dr. Peck recommended that Plaintiff undergo an MRI as soon as possible and continue with the esophageal variceal screening and low sodium diet. (R. at 933-34.) In March 2016, Plaintiff saw Anthony Michaels, M.D. for a follow-up. (R. at 977.) Plaintiff denied having any new medical problems or hospitalizations since his previous clinic visit. (Id.) Dr. Michaels recommended screening every six months because of Plaintiff's cirrhosis. (R. at 978.)

         E. State Agency Review

         In July 2014, after reviewing Plaintiff's medical record, Maria Congbalay, M.D., opined that Plaintiff could lift twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; stand/walk for about six hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday. (R. at 83.) Dr. Congbalay also found Plaintiff could frequently climb ramps/stairs; occasionally stoop (bend at the waist); and never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. (Id.) Dr. Congbalay further found that Plaintiff should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness, humidity, noise, vibration, and fumes/odors/dusts/gases/poor ventilation/etc. (R. at 84.) Moreover, Dr. Congbalay indicated Plaintiff should avoid moderate exposure to hazards such as machinery and heights. (Id.) In March 2015, Diane Manos, M.D. reviewed the record upon reconsideration and affirmed Dr. Congbalay's assessment. (R. at 119-21.)

         B. Mental Impairments

         1. Six County, Inc./Steven Scrimenti, Ph.D.

         Plaintiff presented to Six County, Inc. for a mental health assessment with licensed psychologist, Dr. Stephen Scrimenti, in April 2015. (R. at 714-22.) Plaintiff reported that his primary problem was anger, but he also had difficulty with depression and anxiety. (R. at 714.) Dr. Scrimenti noted that there was no evidence of suicidal or homicidal ideations or actions, mania, violence, psychosis, or substance abuse. (Id.) On mental status examination, Dr. Scrimenti found Plaintiff to be physically unkempt with poor hygiene, slumped in posture, slowed in general body movements, and soft in amplitude/quality of speech. (R. at 717.) Dr. Scrimenti diagnosed impulse control disorder and anxiety disorder. (R. at 720.)

         In July 2015, Plaintiff related problems related to anger and depression. (R. at 729.) Dr. Scrimenti noted their session focused on normal versus abnormal anger and that Plaintiff's depression appears to be solely mood based with no self-denigration. (Id.) On August 13, 2015, Plaintiff indicated he had no problems with anger since his last session. (R. at 731.) Plaintiff reported the same on September 3, 2015. (R. at 733.) On September 17, 2015, Plaintiff reported problems with depression and anger, but none with anxiety. (R. at 735.) Dr. Scrimenti noted that Plaintiff's “depression is occasional, and tends to be focused on the realistic possibility of a liver transplant.” (Id.) On October 29, 2015, Plaintiff reported no current problems with ...


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