United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Knepp II United States Magistrate Judge
Tondanell Barron-Green (“Plaintiff”) filed a
Complaint against the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to deny disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). (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. 14). For the reasons stated below, the
undersigned affirms the decision of the Commissioner.
filed for DIB and SSI in May 2015, alleging a disability
onset date of April 9, 2010. (Tr. 262-69). Her claims were
denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 197-202,
207-18). Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 219-20).
Plaintiff (represented by counsel), and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified at a hearing before the ALJ on
June 6, 2017. (Tr. 95-131). On November 15, 2017, the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled in a written decision. (Tr.
16-25). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the hearing decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-4); see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.955, 404.981, 416.1455, 416.1481. Plaintiff
timely filed the instant action on July 23, 2018. (Doc. 1).
Background and Testimony
was born in March 1964, making her 46 years old on the
alleged onset date, and 53 years old on the date of her
hearing. See Tr. 262. She had past work as the
manager of a group home and as a security guard. (Tr. 105,
107-08). Plaintiff left her job due to arthritis in her legs
which kept “giving out” on her. (Tr. 107).
testified that diabetic nerve pain and arthritis through her
legs and feet were her most significant medical problems; she
“just c[ouldn't] move around” like she used
to. (Tr. 108). Plaintiff also had arthritis in her left hand
and neck. (Tr. 110). She treated her nerve pain with various
over-the-counter and prescription medications, of which, the
gabapentin helped “a little bit”. (Tr. 109-10).
She treated her arthritis with a combination of Tylenol and
Meloxicam, which she again stated helped “a little
bit”. (Tr. 111). Plaintiff did not like receiving shots
in her knee and was uncomfortable with the idea of a knee
replacement. (Tr. 111-12).
estimated she could lift “maybe about twenty
pounds”. (Tr. 112). She did not stand often; she sat
and lay down “a lot” and was “uncomfortable
all the time.” (Tr. 112-13). Plaintiff stated she could
not walk to the corner of her street without tiring or
sitting down. (Tr. 113).
lived with her four adult sons and two granddaughters (ages
eight and twelve). (Tr. 101-02). She performed some
“light” household chores such as making her bed
and vacuuming the floors; her sons did the rest. (Tr.
102-03). Plaintiff bathed and dressed herself but it took her
“a while”. (Tr. 103). She did not cook meals for
the family, but could prepare simple meals for herself.
Id. Her sons and daughter-in-law grocery shopped.
did not belong to any clubs or social organizations; she saw
her mother, who lived close by, once a month. (Tr. 103-04).
She did not drive due her medications which made her tired;
her son drove her places when needed. (Tr. 104). Plaintiff
did not have any hobbies; she watched television “a
saw internist Brenda Smith, M.D., for a new patient visit in
September 2010. (Tr. 395). She reported trouble sleeping,
fainting/blackouts, nervousness/anxiousness, depression,
joint pain (bilateral hands), joint stiffness (bilateral
ankles), low back pain, and neck pain. (Tr. 396-97). Dr.
Smith noted Plaintiff had diabetes mellitus which was
“fairly well controlled.” (Tr. 396). She
diagnosed, inter alia, unspecified joint pain. (Tr.
October 2014, Plaintiff reported left-hand pain and
“[e]pisodic” knee pain to Gaby Khoury,
(Tr. 441-43). She denied numbness or tingling in her feet.
(Tr. 442). On examination, Plaintiff had mild tenderness over
the medial aspect of her left knee with no effusion, and mild
tenderness over her left hand (mostly near the carpal bones).
(Tr. 443). Plaintiff saw Dr. Khoury again in December 2014;
she reported occasional numbness and tingling in her feet.
(Tr. 439). In June 2015, Plaintiff reported diffuse muscle
pain, but denied numbness or tingling in her hands and feet.
(Tr. 434). She told Dr. Khoury that she had not been in
sooner due to lack of insurance. Id. On examination,
Dr. Khoury found Plaintiff had intact sensation and normal
distal pulses in her feet. (Tr. 435).
October 2015 x-ray of Plaintiff's spine - performed due
to neck pain radiating to the left arm - revealed mild
narrowing of the C5-C6 intervertebral disc space with
spurring from the inferior endplate of C5 and minimal
narrowing of the C4-C5 intervertebral neural foramen on the
right side. (Tr. 468). These were described as “mild
degenerative changes”. Id.
saw Dr. Khoury again in November 2015 to discuss x-ray
results and neck pain. (Tr. 473). Plaintiff's neck pain
was ongoing with occasional tingling in her left thumb. (Tr.
475). Further, Plaintiff reported feeling depressed with
decreased motivation and changes in appetite and sleeping
habits. Id. Dr. Khoury diagnosed neck pain and
depression. (Tr. 476).
in November 2015, Plaintiff attended a consultative
examination with Eulogio Sioson, M.D. (Tr. 451-55). Plaintiff
reported pain in her lower back, knees, neck, and ankles.
(Tr. 451). The pain in her knees and ankles arose after
walking for five minutes, going up/down ten steps, or
standing less than five minutes. Id. She
“sometimes” drove; she did her own laundry,
“light” cleaning, cooking, dishes, and grocery
shopping. Id. Her son did the “heavy”
household chores. Id. Plaintiff could dress, shower,
button, tie, and grasp. Id. She could not comb her
hair due to shoulder pain. Id. Plaintiff estimated
she could lift and carry five pounds and rated her pain at
7/10. Id. Plaintiff also reported a history of
depression, brought on by her daughter's death in 2012.
Id. She had suicidal thoughts in the past with no
attempts, poor sleep, and poor appetite. Id.
Plaintiff felt tired “all the time” and hopeless
“sometimes”. Id. She had memory and
concentration issues and “sometimes” heard
voices. Id. On examination, Dr. Sioson found
Plaintiff walked normally with no assistive device; she lost
her balance trying to heel/toe walk, and declined to squat
due to back pain. (Tr. 452). She could get on and off the
examination table. Id. Plaintiff had tenderness in
her left knee and limited range of motion in her left
shoulder (which she attributed to her neck pain).
Id. She could grasp and hold a 1.6-pound dynamometer
and manipulate with each hand; she could handle a clipboard,
personal items, pill containers, and papers. Id. Dr.
Sioson also found Plaintiff had tenderness in her neck and
lower back and negative straight leg tests. Id. She
was alert, oriented, and cooperative with no abnormal
behavior. Id. Dr. Sioson diagnosed neck/back/joint
pain, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus with probable
peripheral neuropathy. Id.
November 2015, Plaintiff attended a consultative examination
with psychologist J. Joseph Konieczny, Ph.D. (Tr. 457-60).
Plaintiff reported recent depression and an overall history
of depression since her daughter's death in 2012. (Tr.
458). She was tearful during the session and reported daily
crying episodes. Id. Plaintiff had some
tremulousness in her legs during the session, stating
“I get nervous”. Id. Plaintiff appeared
well groomed with adequate hygiene. Id. She had some
psychomotor retardation. Id. Plaintiff was subdued
and tearful, but cooperative. Id. She had adequate
motivation and participation throughout the evaluation.
Id. Plaintiff had clear and coherent speech but poor
eye contact. Id. She was oriented to person, place,
and time; showed no indication of impairment in her ability
to concentrate or attend tasks, and showed no deficits in her
ability to perform logical abstract reasoning. (Tr. 458-59).
Plaintiff also had fair insight and judgment. (Tr. 459).
saw Carla Baster, D.O., in December 2015 because her knee
“went out” as she walked out a door; she fell,
twisted her leg, and landed on her back. (Tr. 579). Plaintiff
reported pain from her hip to her knee. Id. On
examination, she had generalized knee pain and “very
limited” range of motion. Id. Dr. Baster found
Plaintiff difficult to examine because Plaintiff could not
flex her knee. Id. Further, Dr. Baster found
Plaintiff had tenderness through her lateral hip and upper
leg; she refused a range of motion examination in this area.
Id. Dr. Baster diagnosed a left knee strain and
ordered x-rays. (Tr. 580). A left hip x-ray revealed
“no acute osseous or ...