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Owensby v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 22, 2018




         Plaintiff James William Owensby (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g) challenging a final decision of Defendant Commissioner denying his applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and 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 #19] is GRANTED, and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #16] is DENIED.


         Plaintiff applied for SSI on October 31, 2013 and DIB on June 25, 2014 alleging disability as of July 25, 2013 and October 29, 2013 respectively (Tr. 162, 169). After the initial denial of benefits, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing, held on September 3, 2015 in Mount Pleasant, Michigan (Tr. 41). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Stephen Marchioro presided. Plaintiff, unrepresented, testified (Tr. 51-82), as did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Mark A Richards (Tr. 82-89). On January 20, 2016, ALJ Marchioro found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 23-36). On January 7, 2015, the Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed for judicial review of the final decision on December 12, 2016.


         Plaintiff, born March 5, 1995, was 20 at the time of the ALJ's decision (Tr. 36, 162). He obtained a GED at the age of 18 (Tr. 183). He alleges disability due to hearing problems, depression, bipolar disorder, and an unspecified cognitive impairment (Tr. 182).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff, unrepresented, offered the following testimony:

He stood 5' 7” and weighed 195 pounds (Tr. 51). He was single and lived with his mother's boyfriend in Saginaw Michigan in a single family home (Tr. 52). He had no source of income but received a bridge card (Tr. 53). He received childhood disability benefits for a hearing problem which had ceased when he turned 18 (Tr. 53). His mother received disability payments for a speech disorder and psychological problems (Tr. 53-54). Plaintiff had a learner's permit did not have a driver's license (Tr. 54). He did not take buses because he was “scared of some people” (Tr. 54). He relied on others for rides (Tr. 54). Up until an accident, he used a skateboard and bicycle for transportation (Tr. 54).

         Plaintiff repeated first grade and was placed in special education classes due to hearing and speech impairments (Tr. 56). He denied being expelled (Tr. 56). He had never received vocational training (Tr. 57). He made money by selling blood plasma and selling scrap metal (Tr. 58). His formal employment history was limited to working as a salesperson for three days (Tr. 58). He was not receiving mental health treatment but currently took Trileptal, Zoloft, and Abilify with good results (Tr. 59). He experienced the side effects of dizziness and nausea (Tr. 59-60). He denied the use of medical marijuana (Tr. 60). His right leg hurt “constantly” since he was hit by a car (Tr. 60). Following the accident, a metal rod was implanted in his leg (Tr. 61). He had not received leg treatment since the surgery (Tr. 61). He did not require the use of a cane but had to “drag” his leg when he walked (Tr. 63). He used a leg splint at night (Tr. 64). Since the leg surgery, he was hospitalized for one day for kidney failure (Tr. 61). He had not received treatment for kidney problems since being discharged but had been advised to drink “less pop” and eat “more veggies” (Tr. 62). He had hernia surgery when he was 15 (Tr. 62-63).

         As a teenager, he received inpatient mental health treatment (Tr. 65). He denied smoking or alcohol use (Tr. 65). He was fully deaf in his left ear and his hearing went “in and out” in the right ear (Tr. 65). He had a hearing aid which was currently “in the shop getting fixed” (Tr. 66). He experienced concentrational problems (Tr. 66). Plaintiff could sit for unlimited periods but was unable to stand for 10 minutes due to dizziness and leg pain (Tr. 66). He passed out around twice a week (Tr. 66). He did not experience fine manipulative problems (Tr. 69). He did not experience problems bending (Tr. 69). He was able to lift up to 15 pounds from a sitting position but not from a standing position due to dizziness (Tr. 69-70).

         Plaintiff spent most of his time playing games with his mother and sister and video games with his brother (Tr. 70, 73). His brother received disability due to schizophrenia (Tr. 73). He remained friends with a former girlfriend who had moved to California (Tr. 71-72). He interacted with other school and neighborhood friends and sometimes read books and wrote in a journal (Tr. 73). He was able to take care of his own personal needs and make simple meals (Tr. 75). He used a wheelchair when shopping for groceries (Tr. 75). He had a cat (Tr. 76). Plaintiff stated that he was unable to work due to hearing problems, leg pain, anger management problems, and memory problems (Tr. 76). He would be unable to perform a simple, sedentary job without public interaction due to his paranoia and hallucinations (Tr. 78).

         B. Medical Evidence and Educational Evidence

         1. Evidence Related to Plaintiff's Treatment[1]

         A December, 2012 Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) report notes that Plaintiff could “do grade level work;” enjoyed math and science; and was “on task most of the time” (Tr. 223). The same portion of the report states that Plaintiff was “on task 50 percent of the time” in the classroom setting (Tr. 223). The report states that Plaintiff could do “grade level work, ” but in the next sentence, states that he was at the 8.5 grade level in math (Tr. 223). The report notes that Plaintiff wanted to go to college (Tr. 225).

         A February, 2013 psychological intake assessment by Mohammad Jafferany, M.D. notes “noncontributory for musculoskeletal issues” (Tr. 279). Plaintiff appeared appropriate with a cooperative attitude but a depressed affect (Tr. 280). His judgment and insight were deemed intact (Tr. 280). He demonstrated impaired concentrational and language skills (Tr. 281). He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with delays in development and “unspecified mental retardation” with worsening symptoms (Tr. 282). He received a passing score on the GED in May, 2013 (Tr. 307). June, 2013 records by Katherine Heidenreich, D.O. note Plaintiff's report of ongoing hearing loss (Tr. 264). Plaintiff reported that he used hearing aids intermittently (Tr. 264). An audiogram showed “borderline mild” hearing loss in the right ear and “severe” loss on the left (Tr. 264). A physical examination was otherwise normal (Tr. 264). An MRI of the internal auditory canals was unremarkable (Tr. 265). The same month, psychiatric treating records note “extreme mood swings with intense and rageful anger and aggression outwardly” (Tr. 284). However, Dr. Jafferany's records from August, 2013 note that Plaintiff's report of good results from Abilify (Tr. 290).

         In September, 2013, Plaintiff reported that he was physically active every day and denied depression (Tr. 275). Other portions of the same exam note that Plaintiff reported “severe mood swings and that most of the time he was depressed with no motivation” (Tr. 278). He denied problems concentrating at school (Tr. 278). The same month, Dr. Jafferany discharged Plaintiff from semi-independent living, noting an improvement in mood swings (Tr. 296). He cautioned that “impulsive and high risk behavior still remain[ed] a problem . . . .” (Tr. 296, 302). Plaintiff was scheduled for a followup visit in two months (Tr. 306).

         The following month, Plaintiff received emergency treatment for fractures of the tibia and fibula after he was struck by a car (Tr. 341, 390). A CT of the brain was unremarkable (Tr. 343, 392). Surgery for the implantation of a rod was performed without ...

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