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Goffe v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

July 29, 2019

JAMES GOFFE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          Walter H. Rice District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS [1]

          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         The Social Security Administration provides Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income to individuals who are under a “disability, ” among other eligibility requirements. A “disability” in this context refers to “any medically determinable physical or mental impairment” that precludes an applicant from engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); see Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 469-70 (1986).

         Plaintiff James Goffe applied for a Disability Insurance Benefits, a period of benefits, and Supplemental Security Income, stating that his disability started on August 1, 2014. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mark Hockensmith-and hence the Social Security Administration-denied Plaintiff's applications based on the conclusion that he was not under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act. (Doc. #6, PageID #s 59-73).

         Plaintiff brings the present case contending (in part) that ALJ Hockensmith erred when evaluating the medical evidence, including the opinions of his treating physician, Dietrice Eileen Chapman, MD. Plaintiff seeks a remand of this case for payment of benefits or, at a minimum, for further proceedings. The Commissioner finds no error in the ALJ's decision and asks the Court to affirm rather than remand.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff was forty-three years old on his asserted disability onset date. He has a high-school education and worked in the past as a construction superintendent and a construction worker.

         The ALJ discussed the medical evidence in his decision and the parties refer to the ALJ's factual references without repeating them. The undersigned will do likewise, in the interest of judicial economy, and will also highlight some of the medical evidence.

         X-rays of Plaintiff's thoracic and lumbar spine in November 2014 revealed mild degenerative changes, most significant at ¶ 5-S1. (Doc. #6, PageID #928). Physical examination disclosed decreased range of motion, tenderness, pain, and spasm in his thoracic and lumbar back. Id. at 863. A few days later, a physical-therapy evaluation noted that Plaintiff exhibited pain, decreased strength, decreased range of motion, decreased flexibility, joint hypermobility/hypomobility, and decreased function due to chronic low back pain. Id. at 1048-1049.

         In December 2014, Plaintiff underwent a neurosurgical evaluation. Id. at 382-86, 1043-47. The examination revealed a “very antalgic gait with wide, short steps.” Id. He had limited range of motion at the waist, and straight-leg raise was positive at 40 degrees on the left and 90 degrees on the right, and caused him lumbar pain. Id. at 1047. A CT scan in mid-December 2014 revealed advanced degenerative disc changes at ¶ 5-S1 with central and bilateral foraminal stenosis. Id. at 388-89, 575, 1041.

         A physician performed an EMG on Plaintiff in May 2015. The test showed:

1. Findings consistent with a moderate sensorimotor peripheral neuropathy likely due to his history of DM [diabetes mellitus]
2. Focal acute neuropathic abnormalities noted in the bilateral lower lumbar paraspinas, which are non-specific findings in the absence of neuropathic changes in the lower limb musculature. These may be related to focal early nerve root irritation, muscle injury, or significant facet arthropathy.

Id. at 576.

         Plaintiff's physical exam in April 2016 showed decreased range of motion in his lumbar spine with tenderness, pain, and spasm. Id. at 893. He was using a cane and reported ...


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