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Christy v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 12, 2019

RAMONA N. CHRISTY, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          George C. Smith, Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KIMBERLY A. JOLSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Ramona N. Christy, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). For the reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court OVERRULE Plaintiff's Statement of Errors and AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed her application for DIB February 4, 2010, alleging that she was disabled beginning January 13, 2010. (Tr. 305-06). After her application was denied initially and on reconsideration, the Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”) held a hearing on May 1, 2012. (Tr. 98-143). On August 30, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. (Tr. 147-65).

         The Appeals Council remanded the case to the Administrative Law Judge in an order dated September 25, 2014. (Tr. 166-70). Another administrative hearing was held on January 15, 2015, (Tr. 37-97), and the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 6, 2015. (Tr. 11-36). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff then filed a case in this Court. On August 23, 2017, Judge George C. Smith remanded the case back to the administrative level. (Tr. 1237).

         A third administrative hearing was held on August 7, 2018. (Tr. 1171-1200). After which, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 1143-70). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.

         Plaintiff filed the instant case seeking a review of the Appeals Council's decision on January 15, 2019 (Doc. 1), and the Commissioner filed the administrative record on April 8, 2019 (Doc. 7). Plaintiff filed her Statement of Errors (Doc. 10) on June 4, 2019, and Defendant filed an Opposition (Doc. 16) on September 18, 2019. No reply was filed. Thus, this matter is now ripe for consideration.

         In his decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from January 13, 2010, her alleged onset date, through her date last insured. (Tr. 1149). He found that Plaintiff suffers from the following severe impairments: chronic myofascial pain syndrome with a history of multiple abdominal surgeries, chronic referred lower back pain, sacroiliac dysfunction, left ankle arthritis, depression, and anxiety. (Tr. 1150). The ALJ, however, found that none of Plaintiff's impairments, either singly or in combination, met or medically equaled a listed impairment. (Id.).

         As for Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ opined:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except frequent climbing of ramps and stairs, no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds, frequent stooping, bending, squatting, frequent operation of foot controls, occasional exposure to unprotected heights, retains ability to understand, remember and carry out simple, repetitive tasks, able to adapt to simple changes and avoid hazards in a setting without strict production quotas.

(Tr. 1151).

         A. Relevant Hearing Testimony

         The ALJ summarized the testimony from Plaintiff's hearing:

At the hearing, the claimant testified that she had difficulty with focusing and was unable to read like she used to. She stated that she had constant pain. She described the pain as a sharp and stabbing pain and an achiness in her left side. The claimant said that she has balance difficulties but only used an assistive device after her ankle surgery. She stated that she has had injections and physical therapy in her spine. The claimant testified that heating pads helped her and that she was using a heating pad 18 hours out of 24 hours in a day. The claimant also testified about abdominal pain. She explained that often her abdominal pain would cause her to be “doubled over.” She stated that she received a pains stimulator for abdominal pain and it improved by fifty percent. The claimant testified that she has swelling in her left ankle and needs to elevate her left up to three hours a day. She related that her ankle felt hollow and ache[d] and surgery did not help her ankle. The claimant testified that she has trouble concentrating. She explained that she could concentrate for about fifteen minutes at a time and often forgot what she was doing. The claimant testified that she had good days and bad days and that on her bad days she would be in bed most of the time. She stated that she had about four bad days a week.

(Tr. 1152).

         B. Relevant ...


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