United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Knepp II, United States Magistrate Judge.
Ralph Tomeoni (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint
against the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) seeking review of the
Commissioner's decision to deny disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). (Doc. 1). The district court
has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c) and
405(g). The parties consented to the undersigned's
exercise of jurisdiction in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and Civil Rule 73. (Doc. 12). For the reasons below,
the undersigned affirms the decision of the Commissioner.
filed for DIB on January 14, 2015, alleging a disability
onset date of September 7, 2014. (Tr. 250-51). His claims
were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 188-91,
204-06). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on December 15,
2015. (Tr. 211-12). Plaintiff (represented by counsel), and a
vocational expert (“VE”), testified in front of
the ALJ on March 14, 2017. (Tr. 132-54). On June 16, 2017,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision.
(Tr. 107-23). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4); see 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.955, 404.981. Plaintiff timely filed
the instant action on March 14, 2018. (Doc. 1).
Background and Testimony
was born in April 1967, making him 47 years old on the
alleged onset date. See Tr. 250. Plaintiff had past
work in retail management where he was responsible for daily
store operations, inventory control, employee training, and
general customer service. (Tr. 135). He could no longer work
because he “blacked out” while working and had
numbness in his arms. (Tr. 136). Plaintiff had neck pain,
which triggered migraines; the migraines in turn triggered
the blackouts. Id. Plaintiff took medication to
prevent the neck pain which would “somewhat”
prevent the migraines and blackouts. (Tr. 136-37).
was involved in a car accident in 2012 that resulted in left
arm numbness, tingling in his fingers, and severe pain on the
left side of his neck. (Tr. 139). He returned to work
following the accident, but often called in sick due to these
symptoms. Id. Plaintiff's migraines increased
following the accident, to “[a]t least three times a
month”, each lasting eight to ten hours. (Tr. 144). He
had neck surgery in August 2012, which did not significantly
improve his symptoms. (Tr. 140). Following the surgery,
Plaintiff tried spinal injections, physical therapy, aquatic
therapy, chiropractic treatment, therapeutic massages, and
stem cell treatments. Id. These offered only
“temporary” relief. Id.
February 2014, Plaintiff was injured at work when a box fell
on him and “aggravated discs three and four”;
doctors did not recommend surgery for this back injury. (Tr.
had numbness in both extremities, including both shoulders
where he also experienced “constant pain”. (Tr.
141). The pain affected Plaintiff's ability to carry
things and reach for objects above his head. Id.
Plaintiff also experienced cramping in his hands along with
“constant” numbness and tingling. (Tr. 141-42).
also testified to numbness and tingling in his lower back, as
well as pain and pressure from one of the discs in his back.
(Tr. 142). This general back pain was aggravated by walking,
sitting, or standing. Id. He was unable to lift more
than five pounds. (Tr. 142-43). He used a TENS unit in
combination with lying down to treat this pain; he previously
took pain medication but doctors discontinued it because it
did not help. (Tr. 143-44).
lived alone; he cooked and cleaned for himself but had a hard
time doing so. (Tr. 146-47). He completed simple cleaning
tasks like vacuuming, lifting laundry, and lifting laundry
detergent, but doing so caused him pain, such that he had to
spread the tasks out over a period of time. (Tr. 147).
the house less frequently than before on account of his
depression, but went to the chiropractor, the grocery store,
and the post office. (Tr. 147-48). He went to the grocery
store two to three times a week because he could not carry
much at once. (Tr. 148). While at home, he spent the majority
of his time reading news online, but pain prevented him from
doing so for an extended period of time. Id.
Plaintiff also did not sleep well on account of pain and
muscle spasms. (Tr. 148-49).
early 2012, Plaintiff injured his neck in a car accident and
underwent a neck operation shortly thereafter. See
Tr. 345, 341. He also participated in physical therapy and
took pain medication for the injury. Id. Plaintiff
underwent a cervical spine operation in August 2012.
See Tr. 317.
2014, Plaintiff treated with Stacy Schmotzer, M.D., for neck
pain with stiffness which radiated down to his left arm. (Tr.
565). Plaintiff reported the severe neck pain triggered
migraine headaches. Id. On examination, Plaintiff
had discomfort with palpation along his lower cervical spine
and increased pain in his right arm and shoulder with
abduction. Id. Dr. Schmotzer prescribed pain
medications and recommended Plaintiff follow up with his
spine surgeon and pain management specialist. Id. In
August, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Schmotzer for low back
pain. (Tr. 315). She found Plaintiff had tenderness
throughout his lumbar spine, intact sensation and full
strength in both legs, and negative straight-leg raises
treated with chiropractor Steven Papandreas, D.C., from
August 2014 to March 2015 for neck pain. (Tr. 397-500). At
his initial visit, Plaintiff reported “severe”
neck pain, headaches, dizziness, bilateral weakness in his
upper extremities after being struck in the head at work with
a 350-pound metal gazebo. (Tr. 496). At the time of his last
appointment with Dr. Papandreas and throughout his treatment,
Plaintiff's prognosis remained “guarded and
uncertain”. (Tr. 399, 442, 446, 450). Dr. Papandreas
regularly noted that Plaintiff “reported feeling better
after the treatment, ” (Tr. 407, 411, 415, 419, 423,
442, 446, 450), and that his condition was “well
controlled at this time” and improving (Tr. 442, 446,
450, 454, 458, 462).
December 2014 and January 2015, Plaintiff saw neurologist
James Anderson, M.D., for neck pain and bilateral arm
pain/numbness. (Tr. 511-15). Plaintiff reported intense neck
pain was aggravated by “sitting, walking, standing,
lifting, weather, and range of motion” and alleviated
by rest and lying down. (Tr. 515). Dr. Anderson observed a
herniated disc at ¶ 3-4, spontaneous fusion across the