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Jackson v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

August 26, 2019


          Walter H. Rice District 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).

         Finding himself unable to work due to bipolar disorder, Plaintiff Kevin Jackson applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. He asserted that starting on August 1, 2013 and continuing thereafter, he had been under a disability. Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Mark Hockensmith disagreed. He concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability and denied Plaintiff's applications for benefits. (Doc. #6, PageID #s 168-77).

         Plaintiff brings the present case contending (in part) that ALJ Hockensmith erred when evaluating the medical source opinions and medical evidence. 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 twenty-seven years old on his asserted disability onset date. He has the equivalence of a high-school education and worked in the past as a fast-food worker and a cook.

         A Social Summary Report on September 9, 2014 from the Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services identified Plaintiff's “current disabling medical conditions” as “Severe Bipolar” and Depression/Anxiety.” Id. at 44, 820. His accompanying symptoms-specifically those that prevented him from working-were identified as “unable to concentrate, rash emotional changes, mental illness.” Id.

         Plaintiff testified during the hearing ALJ Hockensmith held that he had been in psychological treatment all his life, since he was a child. Id. at 204. He described his bipolar symptoms as follows:

Well, when I'm depressed, I'm in bed all the time. I'm - I want nothing to do with anybody, I don't do anything. I don't cook, I don't clean, I don't eat. I don't do anything.
Now, when I'm mania, I'm all over the place. I am yelling, I'm screaming, I'm hurting myself, I'm feeling hot. I'm feeling, I just feel crazy. I don't know how to explain it properly without just using the word crazy.

Id. at 206-07.

         His medications were often changed. He vividly explained, “They've been guinea pigging me and for the rest of my life.” Id. at 207.

         Plaintiff described himself as “a very loner kind of a person.” Id. at 198. He said he had a few friends but mostly communicated with them online. Id. “Very occasionally…, ” he will eat out with his friend Lucas, “and he's a loner too.” Id. Plaintiff is in constant contact with his mother but does not talk with his father or any other family member. Id. at 198-99.

         The administrative record documents Plaintiff's history of extensive mental-health treatment at South Community Mental Healthcare. See, e.g., PageID #s 644-754, 764-818, 912-1140, 1142-1284. Plaintiff testified that he either saw one of his case managers every day or they called him. Id. at 205. He characterized his treatment program as “very intensive.” Id. His case managers made sure his medications needs were met and also assisted with his other needs. Id.

         Plaintiff acknowledged that he had past problems with heroin use:

[I]t all started like, 2012. Like, I didn't really start doing drugs until then I was trying to self-medicate myself …. Here we are now, I mean, it's 2016. I was on it a very long time, but it was like periods of time. Because I had a lot of clean time too in between all of that. I've had six months clean in between that, about a year and a half ago before this

Id. at 199.

         Plaintiff estimated that he had been fired from at least eighteen jobs for being too unpredictable. Id. at 190, 202, 206. That is eighteen job terminations by only age thirty. Id. at 202. A state agency work-history tool is consistent with this. See id. at 610. Plaintiff testified that he had never been able to hold a job for longer than six months, and his longest stint of employment was with a fast-food restaurant. See id. at 170, 203. In 2016, he was terminated from his fast-food job after suffering nervous breakdowns and, ultimately, being taken to the hospital in an ambulance after his coworkers called the police. Id. at 192-93. Plaintiff was able to get a job in July 2016 at another fast-food restaurant because his friend is the boss there. Id. at 194. However, there were times when he had to call in sick or leave early because he was trying to hurt himself. Id. at 195.

         Plaintiff told ALJ Hockensmith that his caseworkers at South Community recommended he work on ...

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