United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
District Judge Walter H. Rice
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS 
L. OVINGTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Social Security Administration provides Disability Insurance
Benefits 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); see Bowen v. City of New
York, 476 U.S. 467, 469-70 (1986).
Christopher West applied for Disability Insurance Benefits,
asserting he was under a disability starting on February 23,
2012. His applications and evidence worked their way through
preliminary denials leading up to review by Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) Elizabeth A. Motta. Finding Plaintiff not
disabled, ALJ Motta denied his application for benefits.
(Doc. #8, PageID #s 39-56).
brings the present case contending (in part) that ALJ Motta
incorrectly weighed medical evidence, including the opinions
provided by his treating psychologist Paul Deardorff, Ph.D.
Plaintiff seeks a remand of this case preferably for payment
of benefits but alternatively for further proceedings. The
Commissioner finds no error in the ALJ's decision and
asks the Court to affirm rather than remand.
was thirty years old on his asserted disability onset date.
He has at least a high-school education. He worked in the
past as a District Manager responsible for managing several
dozen newspaper-delivery employees.
testified before ALJ Motta that he injured his back while
working in 2011. Despite several surgeries, he remains in
low-back pain with leg numbness. His pain is sharp and goes
from his lower back through his groin, legs, feet, and toes.
Because of this, his upper back tightens, causing him
additional pain. He explained to ALJ Motta that his back
“went out” five times before he stopped working.
“I could not even put clothes on…, ” he
said, “or even take a shower or anything for at least a
week or so after every time it went out.” (Doc. #8,
PageID #67). To treat his pain, he takes Ibuprofen
800, Flexeril, and Omeprazole. The most he can comfortably
lift and carry is ten pounds. Any more weight feels like it
is crushing him. Id. at 77. He cannot walk without
extreme back pain; he needs to alternate between sitting and
standing constantly throughout the day. Id.
has mental-health difficulties. Twice a month, he saw
psychologist Dr. Deardorff for counseling. Each month, he
also saw psychiatrist Ramakrishna Gollamudi, M.D., who
prescribed Xanax, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin. Id. at 69.
This medication took a “tiny bit of the edge off”
Plaintiff's symptoms. Id. at 74. But his
medication caused him to become drowsy, dizzy, tired, a
little nauseated. Id. at 76.
times a week, Plaintiff's psychiatric symptoms emerge in
a singular way. He explained, “I get stuck in what I
call loops where I will pace back and forth for half an hour
to sometimes hours[, ] repeating the same sentence over and
over again….” Id. He also has described
his “blackouts” as “where I might get into
the car a drive for 15 minutes and all of a sudden not know
why I'm in the car or where I'm going. I forget
things. I put things in the wrong places all the time.”
testified that he had “significantly worse”
psychological problems at the time of the ALJ's hearing
(in July 2014) than he'd had when he stopped working in
2012. Id. at 71. He told the ALJ, “I have
depression, extreme anxiety to the point of where I regularly
throw up and have non-stop diarrhea. I … will fall
over. I've become very angry and violent.”
Id. He had never been arrested, but he added,
“I probably came close the other day when I almost took
a machete into the DMV….” Id. at 72. He
cannot leave his house “without … just
constantly thinking about murdering people.”
Id. He once attempted to commit suicide. Whether or
not he sleeps well depends on his level of anger and anxiety.
A couple times a month, he will not sleep for days. Other
times he will sleep all day. Id. at 75.
Plaintiff is in a large group of people, he gets very anxious
and very paranoid. He carries weapons wherever he goes. He
My car's literally full of weapons right now. I
immediately start thinking about torturing, raping, and
murdering people, and I can't not do that now. I have so
many things going through my head that I can't focus,
which will sometimes lead me to kind of start falling
over…. [T]here's so much noise going on in my head
that that drives the anger and then the pain, obviously, adds
Id. at 78.
the day, Plaintiff cooks very basic stuff, not a full meal.
He does the laundry if his wife carries it for him. He does
very little yardwork. His wife mows the lawn a lot. Although
he sometimes mows the lawn, he needs to use back braces and
takes “a bunch of medication, Icy Hot, and stuff to get
through it.” Id. at 72. He goes to the store
with his wife but goes as early as possible to avoid people.
Id. at 75. He tries “not to leave the house as
much as possible.” Id. at 73. He does not have
friends due to his psychological difficulties. He does not
talk with his family and sees them once a year. As far as
hobbies, he has a computer but only uses it to check the
news. He does not have a social media account. He plays
guitar, drums, base, and keyboard but can do so only for
fifteen minutes because he has difficulty focusing.
Id. at 75-76. He had not played in a band for seven
or eight years. He reads but it is difficult for him to keep
focused, so he flits from one thing to the next.
medical records reveal that in November 2013, psychologist
Nicole Leisgang, Psy. D., examined him. She observed that he
was cooperative. He was clean and neat in appearance. He
appeared nervous by displaying noticeable facial fidgeting.
He also fidgeted with his hands, avoided eye contact, and
laughed nervously at times. Dr. Leisgang noticed that
“[h]e also spoke in a somewhat monotone voice and was
generally sullen…. He did not appear to exaggerate or
minimize his difficulties. He was adequately
motivated.” Id. at 402. Dr. Leisgang reported
that Plaintiff “responded honestly and candidly on the
first half of the MMPI-2 [Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory]….” Id. at 403. Despite this
reference to the first half of the MMPI, Dr. Leisgang
accepted the results of this personality test as “valid
and suggestive of anxious and depressed mood.”
Id. at 404; see 403 (“His responses
were suggestive of anxious and depressed mood.”). Dr.
Leisgang further wrote, “In order to assess his effort,
the Rey-15 Item Memory test was administered. [He] reproduced
15 out of 15 items. His performance on this measure was not
suggestive of an intentional attempt to exaggerate memory
deficits.” Id. at 403.
Leisgang diagnosed Plaintiff with generalized anxiety
disorder and depressive disorder NOS and opined that these
conditions stemmed from his workplace injury. Id. at
404-05. Dr. Leisgang recommended counseling and psychiatric
consultation, with a goal of increasing his social
in December 2013, Plaintiff began counseling with Rebecca
Sammartino-Marple, MSW, LSW. Id. at 929. Ms.
Sammartino-Marple diagnosed Plaintiff with depressive
disorder NOS. She found that Plaintiff's “symptoms
are current barriers to returning to work. He has verbalized
distress regarding his poor sleep, anger, racing
thoughts.” Id. Plaintiff's twice monthly
counseling with Ms. Sammartino-Marple continued for nearly
one year. At its conclusion in November 2014, she noted that
Plaintiff confirmed his ongoing violent thoughts, nightmares,
racing thoughts, social isolation, poor attention and
concentration, and poor sleep. She noted that he was
“not adequately responding to psychotherapy at this
time.” Id. at 888.
November 2014, psychologist Paul Deardorff, Ph.D., evaluated
Plaintiff upon referral from Ms. Sammartino-Marple. He was,
at that time, receiving workers' compensation due to his
depression. Id. at 135. Plaintiff told Dr.
Deardorff, in part, “‘I pace around the house
… I say the same thing over and over … I get
stuck.'” Id. at 336. Plaintiff stated that
he was easily angered and had violent, racist, and hateful
thoughts. Id. at 335-36. He said, “basically I
hate everyone ….” Id. at 336. Dr.
Deardorff observed the following:
[Plaintiff] was a cooperative man with whom rapport was
adequately established. He was clean and neat in appearance.
His grooming and hygiene [were] good. He appeared to be
anxious as he maintained minimal eye contact and displayed
slight but noticeable facial flushing. He displayed no other
autonomic or motoric indications of anxiety. His thought
processes were clear and logical. His complaints of pain
could be indicative of a somatic focus. His comments were
suggestive of obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors but
he displayed no other abnormalities of mental ...