United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
DECISION AND ENTRY
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).
Daniel Litz applied for Disability Insurance Benefits in July
2013, asserting that he was under a disability as of January
31, 2008. His application and evidence proceeded to a hearing
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Eric Anschuetz, who
later concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability and
not eligible for benefits. Upon Plaintiff's appeal to
this Court the parties agreed to a remand for further
remand the Administration's Appeals Council vacated ALJ
Anschuetz's decision and sent to matter to an ALJ for
further analysis. (Doc. #5, PageID #750-51). ALJ
Mark Hockensmith then took up the matter. He held a hearing
(during which Plaintiff testified) and later determined that
Plaintiff was not under a disability and not eligible to
receive benefits. Id. at 607-22, 682-712.
brings this case challenging ALJ Hockensmith's decision.
He seeks a remand to the Social Security Administration for
payment of disability insurance benefits or, alternatively,
for further proceedings. The Commissioner seeks an Order
affirming ALJ Hockensmith's non-disability decision.
was 40 years old and considered a younger person on the date
(December 31, 2013) he was last insured under the Disability
Insurance Benefits program. He has a high-school education,
perhaps more. Before he applied for benefits, he worked as an
years ago-at age 9-Plaintiff was diagnosed with Crohn's
disease. Id. at 687. This chronic inflammatory
disease of the intestinal tract most commonly manifests with
symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms
include rectal bleeding, weight loss, fever, fatigue, anemia,
joint pain, and nausea or loss of appetite. See
https://medlineplus.gov/crohnsdisease.html; see also
Crohn's “disease is often accompanied by periods of
inactivity as well as a high rate of recurrence after
treatment.” Dix v. Sullivan, 900 F.2d 135, 136
(8th Cir. 1990).
ALJ Hockensmith's hearing, Plaintiff testified that since
he was young, physicians had prescribed Prednisone. He
explained, however, that his medications caused him to have a
psychotic break in 2013. He could not take Prednisone after
that. He reported, “And that was one of my key weapons
to … help with the disease.” Id. at
last company Plaintiff worked for went into bankruptcy in
2005. This caused him a lot of stress and aggravated his
Crohn's disease. He explained to ALJ Hockensmith:
So when I left the company, it had been very stressful, due
to the bankruptcy process and I was-I had a hard time with
it. And that probably caused some flare-ups … and
those flare-ups would've been abdominal pain, bleeding,
fatigue, those sorts of things. Just weakness, in general,
bleeding, fatigue, those sorts of things. Just weakness, in
general. Shakiness. And so-and then some of that time
… was better. I would usually, like have bathrooms
normally, three times a day and that would be okay, but, you
know, like once a week, you know, I'll have diarrhea a
couple of times and once a month, I'm sure to have a
Id. at 694. Plaintiff testified that his flare-ups
occurred “quite often during the years.”
Id. at 695. A flare-up could last up to
months…, until they could get it under control. But
usually, it's maybe three to five days….”
Id. When he experiences a flare-up, he spends most
of the day on the toilet. He gets a “really painful
sensation” telling him he must use the bathroom. This
would wear him out:
I'd be sweating and tired and then I'd go [lie] on
the bed and kind of curl up and put a hot water bottle on my
stomach or something to-you know, take my medicine and try to
ease the pain, but that's typically where I end up in
Id. at 696.
listed his medications at the time of the ALJ's hearing
as Paroxetine (“for mental health and anxiety”),
Duloxetine (“for mental health and anxiety”),
Buspar (“for mental health and anxiety”),
Hydrazine (“for anxiety”), Omeprazole (“for
acid reflux”), Amitryptiline (“for anxiety and
it's a sleep aid”), Gabapentin (“for
Crohn's and [his] nerves”), Hydrocodone (“for
pain due to Crohn's”), Lorazepam (“for
anxiety”), and Pentasa (for Crohn's). Id.
at 696-97, 699-700.
keeps Plaintiff homebound. He doesn't much like to be
around people. He is anxious because he must frequently use
the bathroom and does not like to go places where there's
not a bathroom nearby he can sprint to. He does not like to
eat out because eating causes him pain, requiring him to go
home immediately. Id. at 697. He estimated that he
spends about 80% of the time isolated from others. His health
was starting to get really bad in 2009, and he was very
anxious and had mental problems starting in 2010. He added,
“I was having my normal Crohn's disease, but on top
of that, in 2010 is when I was having a hard time mentally
with the family and with myself.” Id. at 698.
During this time, he would feel very sad and depressed and
would cry. Before 2010, he would go hiking. He considered
himself an “outdoorsy person.” Id. It
was a huge change for him to spend a lot of time indoors.
Sometimes Plaintiff needed to get to a bathroom within
seconds. Once or twice a year he would not make it to the
bathroom before he had an accident. Id. at 698-99.
Litz, Plaintiff's wife of 21 years, testified during
Plaintiff's first hearing (before ALJ Anschuetz) and
during her second hearing (before ALJ Hockensmith). Ms. List
told ALJ Hockensmith that Plaintiff had always been friendly
in the past. She described him as a “talkative,
easy-going person, [who] made friends easily, didn't have
a problem interacting with people, you know, neighbors,
people walking down the street. He would talk to everybody.
Very-just a very easy, gentle, kind person.”
Id. at 702. Ms. List said that Plaintiff liked to do
a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking or coaching their
kids' soccer teams. After he stopped working, he had
“a lot of anxiety and stomach issues…. He was
losing weight. He was just having a lot of stress issues.
Mentally, he was struggling. [H]e was just sick a lot that
last-the last year. I think we used up every hour of his FMLA
that year…. And, you know, he just-he had a lot of
pain and those types of things, so he was sick a lot that
year.” Id. at 702-03.
Litz testified that when Plaintiff had a really bad
Crohn's flare-up, he curled up on the bed, sweating, and
“you could just see he was in pain.” Id.
at 703. She confirmed that when they went out to eat (in
years past), they always needed to be close to a restroom.
Id. At one point, Plaintiff lost 33 pounds in 3
weeks. He needed to eat baby food to obtain calories. She