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Ledford v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 21, 2017




         Plaintiff Kimberly K. Ledford (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), challenging a final decision of Defendant Commissioner (“Defendant”) denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #18] is GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #12] is DENIED.


         On April 3, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB alleging disability as of July 4, 2012 (Tr. 121-127). After the initial denial of the claim, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, held on August 1, 2014 before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jerome Blum (Tr. 32). Plaintiff, represented by attorney Heidi G. Walkon, testified (Tr. 34-50), as did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Cheryl Mosley (Tr. 50-56). On September 15, 2014, ALJ Blum found that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 14-27). On May 5, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff filed for judicial review of the final decision in this Court on June 8, 2016. Docket #1.


         Plaintiff, born April 9, 1960, was 54 when ALJ Blum issued his decision (Tr. 27, 121). She completed 11th grade and received training as a bartender (Tr. 151). She worked as the manager of a grocery store between 1992 and 2011 (Tr. 151). She alleges disability resulting from brain damage, a heart attack, neuropathy, ecoli, and liver and kidney failure (Tr. 150).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff offered the following testimony:

         She was hospitalized in July, 2012, during which time she required the use of a ventilator (Tr. 35). She also experienced a heart attack and stroke (Tr. 35). At the time of the hearing, she experienced lower leg, foot, and hand neuropathy (Tr. 35). The conditions were brought on by a combination of alcohol and “a really bad urinary tract infection” (Tr. 35). She worked as a grocery store manager for 19 years before the store was sold (Tr. 35). After losing her job, she became depressed and began drinking excessively (Tr. 36). She stopped drinking at the time of her July, 2012 hospitalization, but continued to smoke a half pack of cigarettes each day (Tr. 36, 38).

         Plaintiff attended physical therapy twice a week to reduce the foot numbness (Tr. 39). She took Neurontin for the foot numbness, Hydrocodone for pain, and antidepressive medication (Tr. 39-40). Her most comfortable position was lying down (Tr. 40). She experienced foot pain while sitting (Tr. 41). She was unable to sit, stand, or walk for more than 30 minutes without requiring a change of position (Tr. 41).

         She lived in a ranch house but was unable to use the basement stairs (Tr. 41). She relied on either her husband or children to cook, do laundry, and clean (Tr. 42). She experienced the medication side effects of dry mouth, fatigue, and dizziness (Tr. 43). She experienced memory problems (Tr. 43). Before July, 2012 she used a computer rarely and since the hospitalization, had never used a computer (Tr. 43). She would be unable to return to her former job due to her inability to perform the walking requirements and her inability to use a cash register (Tr. 44). As a result of hand problems, she experienced difficulty opening jars and other fine manipulative activities (Tr. 45). She had been diagnosed with moderate neuropathy and moderate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (“CTS”) (Tr. 45). Her symptoms of neuropathy and CTS waxed and waned (Tr. 46). She experienced “bad days” around two days a week at which time she spent most of the day in bed (Tr. 46).

         Plaintiff had medical insurance and treated with a neurologist once a month (Tr. 46). She received electromagnetic and massage treatment (Tr. 46). The neuropathy was the result of excessive alcohol use (Tr. 48).

         B. Medical Evidence

         1. Records Related to Plaintiff's Treatment

         August, 2012 discharge records by St. John Macomb Hospital state that Plaintiff sought emergency treatment on July 8, 2012 for jaundice, abdominal pain, mental status changes, nausea, and a history of alcohol abuse with “possible liver cirrhosis, ” and “acute alcoholic poisoning” (Tr. 176, 180, 208-209, 213). She also exhibited symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome including “agitation and paranoia” (Tr. 176, 206). She was diagnosed with a heart attack, anemia, reflux esophagitis, and a urinary tract infection (“UTI”) (Tr. 176, 201). She admitted that before her hospitalization, she drank a fifth of vodka every day (Tr. 203). After being admitted, she developed respiratory failure requiring the use of a ventilator (Tr. 176, 229). A CT of the brain was unremarkable (Tr. 221). Imaging studies of the kidneys were unremarkable (Tr. 243).

         In September, 2012, neurologist Haranath Policherla, M.D. performed an initial evaluation of Plaintiff, noting her reports of dizziness, coordination problems, right foot pain, left upper extremity pain, snoring, concentrational problems, and depression (Tr. 297). She admitted that she continued to smoke (Tr. 298). Dr. Policherla observed a cervical tremor and the inability to heel and toe walk (Tr. 298). He noted full strength in the upper extremities (Tr. 298). He noted possible alcohol-related mild dementia, alcoholic neuropathy, daytime somnolence due to sleep apnea, and mild amnesic syndrome (Tr. 299). The same month, internist Radha Paruchuri, M.D. noted Plaintiff's report of normal sleep patterns but fatigue (Tr. 311). Plaintiff denied dizziness (Tr. 311). She reported numbness of the tip of her toes (Tr. 312).

         An October, MRI of the brain showed “minimal” chronic small vessel disease (Tr. 245). Clinical testing from the same month showed obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (Tr. 266). Dr. Policherla found the presence of mild alcoholic dementia, bilateral hand numbness, dizziness, and CTS (Tr. 261). He noted full motor strength in the upper extremities (Tr. 258). In November, 2012 Dr. Policherla noted coherent speech and full orientation (Tr. 256). She exhibited full strength in the upper extremities but limited strength in the right lower ...

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