United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER
STEVEN WHALEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Judy Ann Emmendorfer ("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 # 14] is DENIED and Plaintiff s
Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket # 12] is GRANTED to the
extent that the case shall be remanded to the administrative
level for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
October 1, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB
alleging disability as of May 1, 2011 (Tr. 208-209). After
the initial denial of the claim, Plaintiff requested an
administrative hearing, held on November 5, 2013 before
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Paul W. Jones (Tr.
52). On January 3, 2014, ALJ Jones determined that Plaintiff
was not disabled (Tr. 97-111). On March 3, 2015, the Appeals
Council vacated the January 3, 2014 decision, remanding the
case to the ALJ on the basis that the ALJ did not explain his
reasons for rejecting a treating physician's opinion that
Plaintiff was limited to occasional manipulative activity
10, 2015, ALJ Jones conducted a second hearing (Tr. 33).
Plaintiff, represented by counsel, testified, as did
Vocational Expert Georgette Gunther (Tr. 37-51). On June 25,
2015, ALJ Jones issued a partially favorable decision,
finding that due to Plaintiffs limitation to exertionally
light work, she was disabled as of December 29, 2014 due to a
change in Plaintiff's age category to "advanced
age" (Tr. 19-28); Medical-Vocational Rule 202.06. On
June 9, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-3).
Plaintiff filed for judicial review of the final decision in
this Court on August 3, 2016. Docket #1.
born December 30, 1959, was 55 when ALJ Jones issued his
decision (Tr. 28, 208). She completed 12th grade
and worked as a cashier at a party store (Tr. 246). She
alleges disability resulting from rheumatoid arthritis, a
back injury, depression, insomnia, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
("CTS"), and asthma (Tr. 245).
offered the following testimony:
November 5, 2013
married and lived in a single-family home with her husband
(Tr. 55). Following her husband's retirement, they bought
a farm approximately 14 miles from their home which her
husband ran for profit (Tr. 57). At their own home, they had
20 pigs, two dogs, one cat, and around 50 chickens at the
farm but she did not help her husband take of them (Tr. 68).
Her only job was collecting eggs (Tr. 68).
past two years, Plaintiff was unable to help her husband with
the farming, noting that she used to be able to lift up a
wagon tailgate and drive a truck (Tr. 57). Plaintiff worked
12 hours a week at a party store as a cashier (Tr. 58). She
received steroid injections for the upper extremity
conditions (Tr. 70). Her work in a previous cashiering
position required her to lift up to 20 pounds (Tr. 63). She
also worked for 12 months in 2002 babysitting her grandchild
(Tr. 65). She was unable to work more hours due to rheumatoid
arthritis, but had recently begun watching her grandchildren
again for approximately 19 hours a week (Tr. 58, 68). She was
able to read, write, and perform calculations (Tr. 60). She
stood 5' 8" and weighed 260 pounds (Tr. 61).
smoked around five cigarettes a day (Tr. 72). She had
received treatment from the same physician for the past 33
years (Tr. 73). She was able to climb a flight of stairs two
to three times a day (Tr. 74). She was unable to kneel (Tr.
75). She experienced problems peeling potatoes due to
arthritis of the hands (Tr. 75). She required a 10-minute
rest after experiencing locked finger joints (Tr. 77).
Although she held a job as a cashier, she was required to
leave her shift two hours early at least twice a month due to
hand problems (Tr. 77). She experienced constant foot pain
and her most comfortable position was lying flat on her back
(Tr. 77). Due to fatigue, she reclined two or three times a
day for at least half an hour (Tr. 78). She experienced mild
relief from pain medication (Tr. 78). Steroid injections
improved her condition for around one week (Tr. 78). She was
capable of lifting up to 25 pounds (Tr. 78). Her husband did
75 percent of the work at the times she was babysitting her
grandchildren (Tr. 79). On a "bad" day, Plaintiff
stayed in her room all day, adding that she experienced such
days around four times a month (Tr. 80).
June 10, 2015
had only worked two days since the previous hearing due to
gall bladder surgery (Tr. 37-38). Her hand and wrist
condition had worsened (Tr. 46). She experienced problems
"grabbing" items and buttoning clothes and was
unable to lift more than 10 pounds (Tr. 47, 49). She also
experienced increased foot, elbow, and knee pain (Tr. 47). In
addition to the gall bladder problems, she had experienced a
kidney infection (Tr. 48).
Records Related to PlaintifPs Treatment
2011 records by Larry G. Alton, D.O. state that Plaintiff
continued to smoke (Tr. 434). Plaintiff reported leg swelling
(Tr. 384). A lower extremity study showed mild bilateral
obstructive atherosclerosis (Tr. 433). A May, 2011 chest
x-ray was unremarkable (Tr. 406). In August, 2011, Dr. Alton
prescribed a nebulizer machine for asthma (Tr. 420). October,
2011 treating records note a diagnosis of generalized
osteoarthritis centered in the bilateral feet (Tr. 319).
Dianne Trudell, M.D. noted heel spurs and "a borderline
positive rheumatoid factor" (Tr. 319). Plaintiff
reported no improvement from the use of Methotrexate (Tr.
320). The same month, Dr. Alton determined that Plaintiff
required hearing aids (Tr. 417). Dr. Alton's notes from
the following month note Plaintiff's report of ongoing
back pain (Tr. 368).
2012 orthopedic records by Susan Mosier-LaClair, M.D. note
Plaintiffs report of year-long bilateral foot pain (Tr.
286-289). Dr. Mosier-LaClair noted full strength and
Plaintiffs report that arthritis of the big toes did not
bother her (Tr. 286). Plaintiff reported joint tenderness in
both feet at the second through fifth toe joints
(Metatarsalgia) (Tr. 286). Imaging studies showed bilateral
mid-foot arthritis (Tr. 287). Dr. Mosier-LaClair recommended
metatarsal pads (Tr. 287). Dr. Alton's records from the
same month state that Plaintiff requested a steroid injection
for numbness of the right leg and face (Tr. 365). The
following month, Plaintiff sought emergency treatment for
chest pain and shortness of breath (Tr. 291). Testing was
negative for myocardial infarction (Tr. 291). Plaintiff was
advised to lose weight, stop smoking, and obtain a sleep
apnea evaluation (Tr. 291, 363). EMG studies of the lower
extremities from the same month showed radiculopathy with
ongoing moderate enervation (Tr. 327, 460). The same month,
Plaintiff was prescribed Vicodin (Tr. 410). A March, 2012 MRI
of the lumbar spine showed a broad-based hernia at ¶ 5
with nerve root compression (Tr. 332, 464).
April, 2012, neurosurgeon Lisa Guyot, M.D. noted Plaintiff s
report of level "six" out of "ten" lower
back pain (Tr. 342, 451). Dr. Guyot also noted a history of
asthma (Tr. 343). Plaintiff demonstrated difficulty with
tandem gait and a decreased range of lumbar and cervical
spine motion (Tr. 343-344, 452-453). Dr. Guyot's May,
2012 records state that Plaintiff declined a recommendation
for surgery and opted for epidural steroid injections instead
(Tr. 339, 448). Dr. Alton's August, 2012 records state
that Plaintiff requested an emergency arthritis shot (Tr.
358). The following month, she reported that she could
"hardly walk" due to foot pain (Tr. 355).
2013 records note that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with
rheumatoid arthris 25 years earlier (Tr. 444). April, 2013
treating notes state that lab work was positive for
rheumatoid arthritis (Tr. 443). Plaintiff exhibited swollen
hands (Tr. 443). A May, 2013 MRI of the right hip showed a
"probable" paralabral cyst (Tr. 479). Dr.
Alton's notes from the following month state that
Plaintiff wanted to continue prednisone ...