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Rutledge v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

August 20, 2019


          Walter H. Rice, District Judge


          Sharon L. Ovington, United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Terry Rutledge brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income. He applied for benefits on May 20, 2015, asserting that he could no longer work a substantial paid job. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mark Hockensmith concluded that he was not eligible for benefits because he 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. #8), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #9), 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 Hockensmith's non-disability decision.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff asserts that he has been under a “disability” since October 1, 2012. He was fifty-three years old at that time and was therefore considered a person “closely approaching advanced age” under Social Security Regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(d). He has a high school education. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.964(b)(4).

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Hockensmith that his ankles swell almost every night and hurt. (Doc. #6, PageID #s 71, 75). If he is on his feet too long, his feet and ankles swell during the day. Id. at 76. He generally spends sixty to seventy percent of his time during the day lying down or elevating his feet. Id. Plaintiff falls because his ankle rolls in and his foot twists. Id. at 74. In a one-month period, he fell fifteen to twenty times. Id. at 74. His doctor prescribed a cane, and he has braces permanently inside his shoes. Id. at 74-75.

         Plaintiff has arthritis in his neck. Id. at 74. He also has problems with his back. Id. at 71. He has a sharp pain that goes down through his back and up under his shoulder blade. Id. at 74. He has trouble turning certain ways and is sometimes unable to get up and out of bed. Id. at 71. If he tries to lift heavy items, it bothers his lower back. He guessed that he could lift twenty-five pounds. Id. at 74, 77. But he also testified that it is “kind of hard” to lift a gallon of milk. Id. at 71. Sometimes when he tries to pick up a gallon, pain shoots up his arm and he feels like he will drop it. Id. at 77.

         He has arthritis in his hands and they hurt. Id. at 71. He has braces for his wrists that he is supposed to wear at night. Id. If his hands start hurting, he wears the braces during the day. Id. The night before the hearing, he fell asleep without them. His wrist swelled up and hurt. Id. Sometimes Plaintiff cannot pick anything up; “When they [are] like this, I can't feel nothing. That's why they [are] red.” Id.

         Plaintiff had a heart attack and was in the hospital for three days. Id. at 76. He still has chest pain. When he has chest pain, his doctor told him to take nitroglycerine, lie down, relax, and do nothing. Id. at 75. He estimated that he takes one nitroglycerine a week. Id. at 76.

         Plaintiff has diabetes mellitus. He takes a shot with each meal and a 24-hour shot. Id. at 71. He struggles with his blood sugar: “I take home shots when I wake up in the morning. My blood sugar might be like 180/190. If I eat something, it goes to 389, and I can take that shot, but it still ain't going to come down to about 350 something.” Id. at 77. When his blood sugar is that high, his head hurts and he gets dizzy. Id. He takes gabapentin for neuropathy. Id. at 75.

         Plaintiff found out that he had cataracts when he was driving at night in the rain and he almost went off the road because lights blinded him. Id. at 72. His vision was so bad that he could not pass the vision test to get his license. Id. at 73. Plaintiff had cataract surgery in 2014 and he “can see pretty good.” Id. at 74. He has a “light prescription.” Id. at 74 At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff had lived with his mother for two years, since she had back surgery. Id. at 70. He is not able to do much around the house because he knows he will fall. Id. at 75. He might wash dishes or something like that. Id. at 75. His son comes over to cut the grass and take out the trash. Id. at 75. Plaintiff is able to drive but does not when he takes his medications (because they make him drowsy) or when he is in pain. Id. at 71. Plaintiff's pain keeps him from leaving the house about two times a week. Id. at 77.

         III. Standard of Review

         The Social Security Administration provides Supplemental Security Income to individuals who are under a “disability, ” among other eligibility requirements. Bowen v. City of New York,476 U.S. 467, 470 (1986); see 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a). The term “disability”-as defined by the Social Security Act-has specialized meaning of limited scope. It encompasses “any medically determinable physical or mental impairment” that precludes an applicant from performing a significant paid job-i.e., ...

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