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Collins v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 30, 2019

JOHN F. COLLINS, Plaintiff,




         Plaintiff John F. Collins (Collins or claimant) challenges the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner), denying his applications for a period of disability (POD), disability insurance benefits (DIB), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423, 1381 et seq. (Act). This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The issue before the court is whether the final decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, conclusive. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that the Commissioner's final decision be affirmed.


         On September 28, 2015, Collins protectively filed applications for a POD and DIB, and for SSI benefits, with both applications alleging disability beginning May 20, 2012. (R. 9, Transcript (“tr.”), at 15, 217-218, 224-227, 245-247, 248-256.) Collins's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 9, tr., at 68-85, 86-103, 104-105, 106-119, 120- 121.) Thereafter, Collins filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). (R. 9, tr., at 153-154.)

         The ALJ held the hearing on September 26, 2017. (R. 9, tr., at 29-67.) Collins appeared at the hearing, was represented by counsel, and testified. (Id. at 31, 33-61.) A vocational expert (VE) attended the hearing and testified. (Id. at 31, 61-67.)

         On January 18, 2018, the ALJ issued his decision, applying the standard five-step sequential analysis to determine whether Collins was disabled. (R. 9, tr., at 15-23; see generally 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a).) Based on his review, the ALJ concluded Collins was not disabled. Id. at 22-23.

         The Appeals Council denied Collins's request for review, thus rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 9, tr., at 1-3.) Collins now seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The parties have completed briefing in this case.

         Collins presents a single legal issue for the court's review, challenging the ALJ's discussion of Mr. Collins's statements under Social Security Ruling 16-3P (SSR 16-3P). (R. 11, PageID #: 880.)


         Collins was born in 1972, and was 40 years old on the alleged disability onset date. (R. 9, tr., at 21, 33, 217.) Accordingly, Collins was considered a younger individual age 18-49 for Social Security purposes. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563, 416.963. Collins has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. (R. 9, tr., at 21, 36-37, 248, 250.) He has past work as cook-food prep worker and as a material handler. (R. 9, tr., at 62-63.)


         Disputed issues will be discussed as they arise in Collins's brief alleging error by the ALJ. As stated above, Collins filed applications for a POD and DIB, and for SSI benefits, on September 28, 2015. (R. 9, tr., at 15, 217-218, 224-227.) Collins listed his physical or mental conditions that limit his ability to work as: “major depressive disorder, panic disorder, blood pressure.” Id. at 249. Collins asserts that his sole assignment of error concerns the ALJ's assessment of his statements and not the findings of his physicians (R. 11, PageID #: 880); therefore, the court will present only a limited summary of the medical evidence.

         Collins had a physical consultative examination on November 14, 2013, conducted by Chimezie Amanambu, M.D. (R. 9, tr., at 489-495.) Collins stated that his chief complaint was that he was unable to work because of his major depression. Id. at 493. Manual muscle testing was within normal ranges for strength and range of motion in all areas. Id. at 489-492. Collins had no headache, neck pain, chest pain, abdominal pain, or other joint pains, and he was able to perform his activities of daily living. Id. at 493. Dr. Amanambu did not find any limitations on Collins's ability to sit, stand, walk, kneel, bend, twist or crawl. Id. at 495. The doctor opined that Collins could perform medium work, but recommended a psychological evaluation to determine whether claimant's depression would affect his ability to work productively. Id.

         On January 5, 2016, state agency reviewing psychologist, Lisa Foulk, Psy.D., concluded that Collins has medically determinable impairments (MDIs) of affective disorders (primary), anxiety disorders (secondary), personality disorders and essential hypertension. (R. 9, tr., at 77.) Dr. Foulk assessed that Collins had mild restriction of activities of daily living; he also assessed moderate difficulties in maintaining social functioning and in maintaining concentration, persistence or pace. Id. at 78 (Psychiatric Review Technique). On reconsideration, state agency reviewing psychologist, Courtney Zeune, Psy.D., adopted Dr. Souder's Psychiatric Review Technique findings on March 22, 2016. Id. at 111-112.

         State agency reviewing physician Gerald Klyop, M.D., prepared a case analysis of the physical medical evidence, on January 27, 2016. (R. 9, tr., at 76-77.) Dr. Klyop reported that Collins claimed disability due to high blood pressure, but found that the evidence showed claimant's blood pressure and diabetes are controlled by medication with no complications from these conditions. Id. at 77. On March 21, 2016, state agency reviewing physician Maria Congbalay, M.D., concurred, upon reconsideration, with Dr. Klyop's physical assessment. Id. at 110-111.

         On October 24, 2017, Robert F. Dallara, Ph.D., prepared a psychological evaluation concerning Collins. (R. 9, tr., at 811-818.) In preparing his evaluation, Dr. Dallara reviewed some treatment notes, but the evaluation primarily consisted of a clinical interview with the claimant who “served as the sole but at times only fair informant.” Id. at 811. No. psychological testing was conducted. Id. at 813. Dr. Dallara reported that there was “a possibility of a Cognitive Disorder; however there was insufficient evidence to advance the diagnosis.” Id. at 814. The psychologist offered “diagnostic impressions” of “Persistent Depressive Disorder” and “Unspecified Anxiety Disorder.” Id. Dr. Dallara assessed mild limitations in claimant's ability to do mental work-related activities, such as understanding, remembering, and carrying out instructions, due to depression and anxiety. Id. at 816. He found moderate impairment of claimant's abilities to interact appropriately with others in a work setting. Id. at 817.

         IV. ALJ's DECISION

         The ALJ made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law in ...

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