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Wiggins v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

August 6, 2019



          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Matilda Wiggins brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of her applications for period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits, and Supplemental Security Income. She applied for benefits in March 2014, asserting that she could no longer work. The Social Security Administration denied her claims initially and upon reconsideration. After a hearing, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Gregory G. Kenyon concluded that Plaintiff was not eligible for benefits because she is not under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act.

         The case is presently before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (Doc. #7), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #12), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #13), the administrative record (Doc. #6), and the record as a whole.

         Plaintiff seeks a remand of this case for payment of benefits or, at a minimum, for further proceedings. The Commissioner asks the Court to affirm ALJ Kenyon's non-disability decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that she has been under a “disability” since February 10, 2014. She was thirty-nine years old at that time and was therefore considered a “younger person” under Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c). She has a high school education. See Id. §§ 404.1564(b)(2), 416.964(b)(2).[1]

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Kenyon that she has diabetes and her blood sugar is not well controlled. (Doc. #6, PageID #90). She takes insulin but it does not help. Id. When her sugar is high-which happens about three times a week-her head feels like it is going to pop and she gets migraines. Id.

         Plaintiff has pain in her legs that feels like pins and needles are sticking into them. Id. at 76. On a scale from one to ten, she rated her pain at eight. Id. She also experiences weakness in her legs. If she stands up too fast, she gets dizzy and it feels like her legs will go out if she does not sit down. Id. at 75. She falls “pretty regular[ly]”- two to three times a week. Id. at 77. She tried to take Neurontin but it did not help. Id. at 75. She uses a cane when she goes out and also has a seat for her tub. Id. at 78. She did not have her cane at the hearing because she forgot it at her cousin's. Id.

         After Plaintiff fell in the bathtub, she began having midback pain. Id. at 73. She describes it as a sharp pain. Id. at 74. On a scale from one to ten, her pain is at nine. Id. It is aggravated when it rains a lot or if she does too much bending. Id. She uses a heating pad two to three times a week to help with pain. Id. at 74-75. She also takes Aleve about four times a week. Id. at 75. She tried aquatic therapy for a month; “It helped a little bit but not really.” Id. at 90-91. Her doctor recently referred her to physical therapy again. Id. at 74.

         Additionally, Plaintiff has numbness and tingling in her hands. Id. at 77. She has to hold a coffee cup in both hands because her hand is always numb and shaking. Id. She frequently drops things. Id. She also has trouble manipulating small things. Id. Further, she has a lot of numbness in her feet and blistering around her toes. Id. at 76.

         Plaintiff has a lifelong history of asthma. Id. at 85. She uses an inhaler twice a day and a nebulizer twice a week. Id. She smokes half a pack of cigarettes a day. Id. at 86. She is trying to quit smoking but is struggling. Id. If she starts coughing a lot and cannot catch her breath, she goes to the emergency room. Id. at 91. She has gone several times for bronchitis. Id. She last went about two weeks before the hearing because of her breathing and because she fell. Id. They gave her an ankle bracelet, “a new machine to do, ” and a new inhaler. Id.

         Plaintiff has had issues with rectal bleeding for a couple years. Id. at 83-84. She started bleeding two days before the hearing and her doctor planned to see her shortly after the hearing. Id. at 84. Her doctor does not know what is causing the bleeding. She is looking for a new doctor. Id.

         Plaintiff is 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 401 pounds. Id. at 71. Her primary care doctor, Dr. Obeid, recommended she have gastric bypass surgery and warned her that if she does not, “something bad could happen to [her].” Id. at 92.

         Plaintiff has bipolar disorder. Id. at 78. She has mood swings three times a week. Id. She has also struggled with depression since her mom passed away in 2003. Id. at 79. She has crying spells around the time of year her mom passed and during holidays. Id. She thought about suicide once but could not do that to her child. Id. at 80. She has a lot of problems because she is lonely. Id. Plaintiff has difficulty concentrating on one thing at a time. Id. at 79. For example, “I could be watching TV, and it's like I just black out. I don't know what went on for the next little bitty minute.” Id. at 80. She could not concentrate or keep up with a fast pace when she worked at a peanut factory. Id. at 88.

         In addition, Plaintiff has anxiety disorder. Id. at 78. She has panic attacks, especially around other people, and trouble leaving the house. Id. at 81. She only leaves three times a week-bible study on Wednesday, church on Sunday, and socializing with a neighbor. Id. at 81-82. She sometimes has “a whole lot of anxiety” about going to church but she makes herself go. Id. at 82. If she goes to the store, she hurries to get in and out. Id. She closes herself off to the world because her problems stem from being friends with the wrong kind of people and doing drugs. Id. at 81. She only sees one woman who wants to exercise with her but it is “really hard” for Plaintiff. Id.

         Plaintiff has a history of substance abuse. Id. at 82-83. She used cocaine and crack and drank alcohol. Id. at 83. She last used three years before the hearing. Id. She has some criminal history associated with her substance abuse. Id. She once stole her cousin's TV and game system and her aunt's credit card.

         Plaintiff lives in an apartment by herself. Id. at 72. She is able to take care of her personal needs. Id. at 87. On an ordinary day, she sits at home, looks at her four walls, and sometimes does word-search puzzles. Id. at 88. She usually spends three or four hours a day lying down, which is how she is most comfortable. Id. at 92. She cleans twice a week. Id. at 89. She can sweep the floors but has a hard time wringing out a mop. Id. She sometimes does laundry (although it is hard to carry the bags) and has not been cooking recently. Id. She does not have a driver's license because she did not pay old fines. Id. at 72. Plaintiff estimates that she can lift ten to fifteen pounds, stand for ten minutes, walk about five minutes, and sit for about thirty minutes. Id. at 85.

         B. Medical Opinions

         i. Remon Obeid, M.D.

         Plaintiff's primary-care physician, Dr. Obeid, opined in March 2015 that she is “permanently unable to work secondary to her condition of hemorrhaging of the gastrointestinal tract.” Id. at 738. In August 2015, he completed a Medical Impairment Questionnaire. He opined that Plaintiff can sit for fifteen minutes at one time, work for four hours per day, and lift five pounds on an occasional basis. Id. at 965. She cannot not stand for any period of time. Id. She can occasionally bend, stoop, balance, manipulate with her hands, and raise her left or right arm over shoulder level. Id. at 966. She needs to occasionally elevate her legs at or above her waist during an eight-hour workday. Id. Dr. Obeid indicated that Plaintiff experiences moderate pain. Id. She has significant problems with anxiety and/or depression that markedly limit her ability to withstand the stresses and pressure of ordinary work activity. Id. He concluded that Plaintiff is unable to perform full-time, competitive work over a sustained basis without missing work more than two times a month or being off task more than fifteen percent of the workday due to her impairments, medical appointments, and/or treatment. Id.

         In March 2016, Dr. Obeid completed a second Medical Impairment Questionnaire. He indicated that Plaintiff's pertinent medical history includes asthma, back pain, overweight, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, malaise, fatigue, and osteoarthritis of her knee. Id. at 1799. His opinions generally remained the same as his August 2015 opinions. However, he indicated that Plaintiff could stand for fifteen minutes and work for two hours per day. Id. Her level of pain is moderate to severe. Id. at 1800.

         ii. Jewell Giedroyce, LPCC-S, LSW

         In March 2016, Plaintiff's counselor, Ms. Giedroyce, completed a mental impairment questionnaire. Id. at 1788-91. She opined that Plaintiff's bipolar disorder and anxiety “interfere with her functioning with people and a work environment.” Id. at 1789. Her signs and symptoms include, for example, poor memory, sleep disturbance, difficulty thinking/concentrating, social withdrawal or isolation, decreased energy, and persistent irrational fears. Id. at 1788. Plaintiff is working to stabilize her symptoms through counseling and medication from a psychiatrist, and her prognosis is limited to fair. Id. at 1789. Ms. Giedroyce indicated that Plaintiff has extreme deficiencies of concentration, persistence, or pace resulting in failure to complete tasks in a timely manner. Id. at 1790. Further, her ability to understand and remember directions and perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances is extremely limited. Id. Ms. Giedroyce concluded that Plaintiff would miss work an average of three times per month because of her mental impairments or treatment. Id.

         iii. Vicki Warren, Ph.D., & Bonnie Katz, Ph.D.

         Dr. Warren reviewed Plaintiff's records in May 2014. Id. at 109-20. She found Plaintiff had four severe impairments-affective disorders, anxiety disorders, diabetes mellitus, and “osteoarthrosis and allied disorders.” Id. at 113. She opined Plaintiff has a mild restriction of activities of daily living, mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning, moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, and no repeated episodes of decompensation. Id. at 113-14. Further, she “can perform tasks in a relatively static setting that does not have strict production standards.” Id. at 117.

         In November 2014, Dr. Katz reviewed Plaintiff's records and affirmed Dr. Warren's assessment. Id. at 135-47.

         iv. Diane Manos, M.D., & William Bolz, M.D.

         Dr. Manos reviewed Plaintiff's records in August 2014. Id. at 109-20. She opined that Plaintiff could lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently. Id. at 115. She can stand and/or walk for six hours and sit for six hours. Id. She can frequently climb ramps/stairs, balance, kneel, crouch, or crawl. Id. at 116. She can occasionally climb ...

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