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Jackson v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 4, 2019


          Walter H. Rice District Judge



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Martin Jackson brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of his application for Supplemental Security Income. He applied for benefits on December 4, 2014, 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. #8), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #9), Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. #10), 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 June 5, 2008. At the time of his application, he was fifty 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 limited education. See Id. § 416.964(b)(2).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at the hearing before ALJ Hockensmith that he injured his left ring finger and as a result, cannot use his left hand. (Doc. #6, PageID #s 80-81). He had several surgeries to repair his finger. Id. However, his condition has stayed the same or, as he said, “I believe it's permanent because I was at the point of getting it cut off.” Id. at 81. He is still in pain and wears a splint most of the time. Id. at 80-81. He drops things almost every day because he has trouble with his grip. Id. at 86.

         Plaintiff also injured his right index finger-slamming it in a car door. Id. at 79. It is constantly in pain and there is nothing that can be done to fix it. Id. at 80. He is not able to make a tight fist. Id. He also has trouble buttoning his shirt. Id.

         Additionally, Plaintiff has a seizure disorder. Id. at 82. His seizures are usually unexpected but, if he thinks one is coming, he tries to be around other people so they can help him. Id. When he wakes up from a seizure, he does not know where he is “for a little while.” Id. During his most recent seizure, he “came out of it” when the paramedics were there. Id. at 87. At the hospital, he laid in bed for an hour because he felt drained and it was hard to get up. Id. When he went back home, he had a second seizure that he does not remember at all. Id. at 88.

         When Plaintiff walks, he runs out of breath. Id. at 85. Further, because he has been in a lot of car accidents, his “back is really tuckered out too.” Id.

         Plaintiff lives at his mother's house with two of his brothers. Id. at 77. He does not have a driver's license; his friends normally drive him around. Id. at 77-78. He goes to the grocery store but needs someone to go with him. Id. at 85, 87. During the day, he usually sits around and watches TV. Id. at 83. He sometimes has a hard time remembering what happened at the beginning of a TV show. Id. at 86. He also spends time with his brothers. Id. at 84. Sadly, one of his brothers recently died of cancer. Id. He helps with laundry. He puts clothes into the washing machine but his mom takes them out, folds them, and puts them away. Id. at 83-84. He sometimes forgets to move clothes from the washer to the dryer. Id. at 87.

         B. Medical Opinions

         i. Michael C. Rymer, M.D.

         Dr. Rymer, Plaintiff surgeon, completed a medical statement on June 22, 2016. He diagnosed left ring finger dislocation of unspecified interphalangeal joint and right index finger trauma with open wound. Id. He indicated that Plaintiff injured his left ring finger in March 2015. Id. at 1658. He first had surgery (ORIF) on July 16, 2015. Id. On August 20, 2015, Plaintiff underwent a second surgery to remove hardware. Id. And, he had fusion surgery on March 31, 2016. Id. Plaintiff injured his right index finger in May 2016. Id.

         Dr. Rymer opined Plaintiff could occasionally use his left and right hands for fine and gross manipulation. Id. He can occasionally lift and/or carry ten pounds. Id. He cannot frequently lift or carry any weight. Plaintiff's soft-tissue injury has been under continuing surgical management aimed towards restoring major function of his left hand. Major function of his left hand has not been restored or is not expected to be restored within 12 months of onset. Id. Plaintiff could not perform full-time competitive work on a sustained basis without missing work more than two times a month or being off task 15% of the workday due to his impairments, medical appointments, or treatment. Id. at 1659.

         ii. Anna Roetker, M.D.

         Dr. Roetker completed two basic medical assessments-one on December 3, 2015 and one on December 22, 2016. Her responses were essentially the same. She diagnosed allergic rhinitis, seizure, insomnia, and alcoholic liver disease. Id. at 652, 1912. He has had the seizure disorder since April 2012 and is on antiepileptics. Id. Likewise, his liver disease began in April 2012. Id. There is no treatment other than abstaining from alcohol. Id. His insomnia is recent, beginning in December 2015. Id. She opined that Plaintiff's health status is poor but stable. Id.

         Dr. Roetker opined that Plaintiff could frequently lift and or carry up to five pounds. Id. at 651, 1913. His ability to handle is moderately limited. Id. She explained, “Limitations due to safety concerns of seizure, not ability to perform task. He should not drive, operate machinery, or work with electricity.” Id.

         iii. Amita Oza, M.D.

         Dr. Oza evaluated Plaintiff on March 5, 2015. She indicated that Plaintiff's “main problem is seizure disorder as well as his psych problems, which is depression.” Id. at 542. He complained of back pain but there is no evidence of radiculopathy. Id. Additionally, he reported a history of cirrhosis of liver, pancreatitis, and weight loss. Id. However, there were not any notes in the accompanying records about cirrhosis and there was no evidence of end organ dysfunction. Dr. Oza concluded,

Based on my examination, it appears that it is his psych problem and he is asking for pain medication continuously that is preventing him from working. Medically speaking, he has seizure disorder, but he can perform sedentary to light work in atmosphere where if he has seizure he would not be harmed or people around him are not ...

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