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May v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

January 9, 2020


          Walter H. Rice District Judge.


          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Christina May is a longtime sufferer of pain-including back and neck pain-and other significant health problems. She brings this case challenging the Social Security Administration's denial of her applications for Disability Insurance Income and Supplemental Security Income. The denial mainly occurred in Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Gregory G. Kenyon's decision that Plaintiff was not under a benefits-qualifying disability.

         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 Kenyon's decision.


         Plaintiff asserts that she has been under a disability starting on February 26, 2015. She was age 39 on that date and is therefore an “younger person” under Social Security Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563(c), 416.963(c)).[1] Plaintiff completed the eleventh grade in high school, and her past relevant work was as a janitorial supervisor, housekeeper, restaurant manager, and dietary aid.

         Plaintiff testified during the administrative hearing held by ALJ Kenyon that she suffers from lumbar degenerative disc disease at ¶ 5-S1. ALJ Kenyon asked her about her herniated disc at ¶ 5-A1. Id. at 87. Plaintiff described her low-back pain as throbbing and constant aching. She estimated her pain level at 8 on a 0-10 scale (10 equaling the highest pain level). Plaintiff also has pain in her right leg, and her right foot goes “numb, like asleep.” Id. at 88. Her right leg gives out about once a month. She also has pain in her shoulders, arms, thighs, hips, and upper chest. She described this pain as “achy.” Id. at 91. On days when her legs, neck, and back pain flares up, her pain level can reach 10 on the 10-point scale. Id. at 92. Plaintiff testified about feeling achy from fibromyalgia. She rated her fibromyalgia pain as 8 on the 10-point scale. Id. at 91.

         Plaintiff has neck pain that is sharp, throbbing, and constant. Id. at 98. She estimated at neck-pain level as 8 on the 10-point scale. She indicated that she has a bone spur in her neck, causing her to get headaches. Id. at 99.

         Plaintiff estimated that she could lift about 10 pounds and stand or sit for about 30 minutes. Id. at 96. She cannot walk on concrete. Id. at 89, 96. She used to be able to clean the house but could no longer do so-she can't vacuum or mop. She could ride a bicycle in the past but could not do so anymore. Id. at 89. She has difficulty bending at the waist, making it hard for her to pick up things.

         Plaintiff also experiences depression. She has crying spells and trouble concentrating and remembering names and dates. Id. at 94. She can “literally have [her] keys in [her] hands and be looking for them….” Id. at 92. She gets moody, angry, sad, unhappy, and she cries. Id. at 94. She is also irritable. She can sometimes be happy but small things can set her “off in the wrong way.” Id.

         She has trouble interacting with people and feels very uncomfortable around others. This causes her to feel “panicky, closed in.” Id. She explains, ‘I've actually gotten into arguments with more than one person.” Id. When asked if she has trouble going to places where there are other people, she replied, “I sometimes do… probably about maybe once every couple of months.” Id. at 95. She has crying spells about 5 times a month.

         Plaintiff is married with 2 older children. Id. at 85. She has a driver's license. Id. at 86. She sleeps 5-6 hours per night. Id. at 96. She is able to wash and dress herself. Id. at 89. She can cook but sits near the stove to watch it. Id. at 97. She spends her ordinary day watching a lot of television, doing the dishes, and preparing dinner. When she does the dishes, she needs to take breaks before finishing.

         Plaintiff testified that she is 95 percent deaf in her right ear. Id. at 101.

         III. “Disability” and The ALJ's Decision

         To be eligible for Disability Insurance Benefits or Supplemental Security Income a claimant must be under a “disability” as defined by the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a), (d), 1382c(a). The definition of the term “disability” is essentially the same for both programs. See Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 469-70 (1986). Narrowed to its statutory meaning, a “disability” includes only physical or mental impairments that are both “medically determinable” and severe enough to prevent the applicant from (1) performing ...

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