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Sorrells v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

August 15, 2019


          Thomas M. Rose, District Judge



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Jennifer Sorrells 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 July 2014, asserting that she could no longer work a substantial paid job. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Benjamin Chaykin concluded that she was not eligible for benefits because she is not under a “disability” as defined in the Social Security Act.

         The case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (Doc. #7), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #10), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #11), and the administrative record (Doc. #6).

         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 Chaykin's non-disability decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that she has been under a “disability” since February 2, 2013. She was forty-one 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)(4), 416.964(b)(4).[2]

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Chaykin that she last worked as a part-time bus driver in February 2011 before she had back surgery. (Doc. #6, PageID #69). Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful and she did not return to work. Id. at 69. Indeed, her back was worse after surgery.

         Plaintiff could not remember when she last saw a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon; she thought it may have been in 2013. Id. at 70. She sees a pain specialist, Dr. Ahmed, for her back pain. He gives her injections but they do not work. Id. at 71. According to Plaintiff, there is nothing else they can do to help her. Id. The last time she tried physical therapy, they discontinued it because they did not want her to make the wrong move and risk being paralyzed. Id. at 73.

         Dr. Henderson diagnosed Plaintiff with fibromyalgia around 2005. Id. at 77. She takes Lyrica and Mobic. Id. at 78. Her medications help with, for example, her right-leg spasms and leg lock. Id.

         She has pain in her ankles, legs knees, hips, low-to-middle back, and shoulders. Id. at 73. She also has “regular pains … throughout.” Id. The pain is worse on the right side of her body than her left side. Id. Her pain medication can sometimes lower her pain but she always has it. Id. at 74. She has some side effects from her medications, including drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, and blurred vision. Id.

         Plaintiff also has problems with her neck. She saw a surgeon about her neck pain but he did not want to do surgery. Id. at 71. “They said I had a bulge or something on there…. And some arthritis and stuff ….” Id. Her rheumatologist gave her injections in the back of her neck and shoulders. Id. He also prescribes medication. Id.

         Plaintiff's neck problems cause headaches in the back of her head and migraines. Id. at 82. Additionally, the pain sometimes travels down to the middle of her back. Id. at 83. She cannot turn her head without pain. Id. When she drives, she just uses her mirrors rather than moving her head. Id.

         On her right side, she has a drop foot. Id. at 73. Plaintiff has an AFO foot brace that is “supposed to support my foot so I won't fall as much ….” Id. at 79. If she does not wear the brace, her foot drags and she trips on it. Id. at 80. With the brace, she is able to drive but sometimes encounters difficulties, for instance, when braking, “I can push down, and I notice, at times, it'll get jammed on the brake, and I jerk.” Id. at 80.

         Plaintiff has on-and-off problems with her hands. Id. at 83. Her right is worse than her left. Id. at 83. She explained that sometimes when she is holding on to something, it will just drop. Id.

         Plaintiff takes medication for her depression and anxiety. Id. at 74-75. Unfortunately, they do not help. Id. at 75. She saw a counselor at Day-Mont West in 2015. At the time of the hearing, she had just received another referral to see a counselor. Id. at 79.

         Plaintiff has two children. Her daughter, a student at the University of Toledo, lives in an apartment in Toledo. Plaintiff's twelve-year-old son lives with her daughter. Plaintiff goes back and forth between staying in Dayton-with her father or friends-or Toledo, with her daughter. Id. at 66. When Plaintiff is in Toledo, she drives her son to school two or three times a week. Id. at 67-68. However, her daughter drives her back and forth between Toledo and Dayton because she cannot drive for that long. Id. at 68. If she tried drive by herself, “It would almost feel like my waist is coming detached, [I'd] be in so much pain.” Id. Further, her right leg would start having muscle spasms and lock up. Id. As a passenger, she alternates between laying the seat back and sitting up. Id.

         On a typical day, Plaintiff takes her son to school, returns home, lays around, and watches TV. Id. at 75. When she is home, she is usually in bed. Id. at 82. She is not able to sleep during the night and often sleeps on and off throughout the day. Id. at 75. She makes microwave dinners. Id. She cannot cook at the stove because if she stands for longer than ten minutes, her pain increases. Id. at 76. If she sits for too long, it puts pressure on her hips and she has to lie down to release the pressure. Id.

         Plaintiff has no hobbies and does not go out much. Id. at 78. Although she stays at her friends' houses, she does not “hang[] out” with friends. Id. She sometimes goes grocery shopping with her son or daughter. Id. at 76. If she goes by herself, she has a hard time remembering what to get. Id. at 76-77. She also has difficulty putting heavy items in her cart and taking them out. Id. at 77. Because of these difficulties, she only goes by herself when she needs a couple things. Id. She used to play basketball but cannot anymore. Id. at 78. She can go swimming from time to time but not like she used to. Id. Her doctor recommended she go to a pool and walk around in the water. Id.

         B. Medical Opinions

         i. Thomas W. ...

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