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Mullendore v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 31, 2017

LEAH MULLENDORE, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          HON. R. STEVEN WHALEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Leah Mullendore (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) challenging a final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act. Both parties have filed summary judgment motions. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #28] is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #19] is DENIED.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 5, 2012, Plaintiff applied for DIB, alleging disability as of September 30, 2011 (Tr. 150). Upon initial denial of the claim, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, held on April 30, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland (Tr. 32). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Scott M. Staller presided. Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified from Michigan by teleconference (Tr. 37-59). Vocational Expert (“VE”) James Prim also testified (Tr. 59-64). On July 18, 2014, ALJ Staller found that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 17-26). On December 14, 2015, the Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-4). Plaintiff filed suit in this Court on February 13, 2016.

         II. BACKGROUND FACTS

         Plaintiff, born May 29, 1968, was 45 at the time of the administrative decision (Tr. 26). She left school after eighth grade and worked previously as a boat assembler and producer of lottery tickets (Tr. 176-177). She alleges disability as a result of hypertension, a thyroid condition, hyperlipidemia, headaches, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (“COPD”), depression, and problems of the hand, wrist, arm, neck, and spine (Tr. 175).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff's counsel prefaced the testimony by amending the alleged onset of disability date to August 31, 2010 (Tr. 35).

         Plaintiff then offered the following testimony:

         She stood 5' 4", weighed 184, and was left-handed (Tr. 36-37). She was able to drive (Tr. 37). Her work producing lottery tickets involved production work, a security check position, and data input (Tr. 38). The work required her to lift up to 35 pounds (Tr. 39). She also worked previously for a manufacturer of boat doors performing assembly line work (Tr. 39). The assembly work required her to lift up to 50 pounds (Tr. 39).

         Plaintiff stopped working after experienced shoulder problems and fatigue (Tr. 40). She also experienced constant neck pain which radiated into her left shoulder and arm (Tr. 40). She attributed the neck pain to four bulging cervical discs (Tr. 41). She experienced left hand numbness due to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (“CTS”) (Tr. 41). Breathing problems required the use of inhalers (Tr. 41).

         Plaintiff also experienced depression, characterized by conflicts (including physical conflicts) with others (Tr. 42). She last hit someone around two months before the hearing (Tr. 42). She experienced panic attacks up to four times a week for which she took Xanax She was no longer interested in work or her former pastime of walking (Tr. 43). At present, she drank alcohol occasionally, but in the past, had abused alcohol (Tr. 43). She had not used marijuana since 2008 (Tr. 44). She experienced anxiety as a passenger in a car and when engaged in a conflict with family members (Tr. 56).

         On a typical day, Plaintiff would spend most of her time watching television, icing her back, using an inhaler, and attending doctors' appointments (Tr. 44). She spent around six hours each day sitting in a recliner with her feet elevated (Tr. 54). Plaintiff's daughter drove Plaintiff and Plaintiff's mother to the doctors' appointments (Tr. 45). Plaintiff was able to prepare crockpot dishes, deep fried food, and microwavable meals (Tr. 45). She cooked up to four times a week and was able to care for her personal needs (Tr. 45). She was able to perform the “picking up” aspects of housework and grocery shopped up to twice a week (Tr. 46). Her daughter helped her prepare Sunday dinner, fill out paperwork, and pick up prescriptions (Tr. 53).

         Lower back pain, neck pain, and hand numbness prevented Plaintiff from sleeping more than six hours a night (Tr. 47). She used a neck brace at night (Tr. 57). She took medication for hyperlipidemia, hypertension, respiratory problems, back pain, and depression (Tr. 47-48). Her discomfort was not relieved with medication and she experienced the medication side effects of “dizziness, sleepiness, [and] aching” (Tr. 49). She had experienced dizziness en route to the hearing and had fallen as a result of dizziness the previous summer (Tr. 52).

         Plaintiff characterized her back pain, with medication, as a “seven” on a scale of one to ten (Tr. 49). Her lower back pain radiated into her left leg and left foot (Tr. 50). She experienced level “six or seven” headaches due to either neck pain or a migraine-like condition every day (Tr. 51). The migraine headaches lasted for up to two days (Tr. 51). She coped with the headaches by reclining (Tr. 51). She was able to stand for around 20 minutes before requiring a position change (Tr. 55). She was unable to lift more than 10 pounds or stoop or crouch (Tr. 55). She experienced difficulty turning her neck (Tr. 58).

         B. Medical Records[1]

         1. Records Related to ...


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