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Bellman v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

March 20, 2019


          Thomas Ludington Honorable



         Plaintiff Walter Alfonso Bellman (“Bellman”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g), challenging the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). (Doc. #1). Both parties have filed summary judgment motions (Docs. #13, #14), which have been referred to this Court for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).


         For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that substantial evidence supports the Administrative Law Judge's (“ALJ”) conclusion that Bellman is not disabled under the Act. Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #14) be GRANTED, Bellman's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #13) be DENIED, and that pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the ALJ's decision be AFFIRMED.

         II. REPORT

         A. Background

         Bellman's alleged disability onset date was January 1, 2014. (Tr. 208). He was 45 years old at that time. (Id.). Bellman dropped out of school in the ninth grade. (Tr. 34-35). He has taken the GED test multiple times without success. (Tr. 36). When asked what prevents him from working currently, Bellman testified, “[his] spine…the doctor says it's messed up and can't be fixed.” (Tr. 43). He testified that on a scale from one to ten, his pain was ten all the time. (Tr. 44). He was prescribed assistive devices, uses a walker, and takes pain medication. (Tr. 44, 55). In terms of past work experience, in 2006, Bellman worked as a dishwasher, and from 2010 to 2013, he had some self-employment income selling used items at a flea market-type setting. (Tr. 37-40, 181). He testified that he lives alone, and is able to pay bills with the help of his daughter, mother, and friends. (Id.). Bellman indicated that he is able to shop and drive. (Tr. 203).

         At the hearing, Bellman testified that he was being treated by Dr. Logan, a psychiatrist, once every two weeks[1]. (Tr. 46, 51). He testified that he was on psychiatric medication, which “keep[s] [him] down…as far as [his] thinking.” (Tr. 52). At the request of the state agency, on June 13, 2015, Bellman underwent a psychiatric evaluation conducted by R. Hasan, MD. (Tr. 390-92). Dr. Hasan diagnosed Bellman with Bipolar 1 disorder, mixed type with psychosis, antisocial personality trait, potential schizoaffective disorder, cannabis dependence, diabetes, back pain, and leg pain. (Tr. 392). Dr. Hasan indicated that Bellman has cognitive deficiency, problems with concentrating and focusing, a long history of behavioral problems, mood swings, problems getting along with others, memory problems, feels paranoid and hears voices. (Tr. 392). But, Dr. Hasan also opined that Bellman is able to understand, retain, and follow simple instructions. (Id.).

         Bellman indicated on his Function Report that he has problems with personal care, indicating that he dresses and bathes “in pain.” (Tr. 201). He also indicated that he has issues using the toilet (“have gone on myself yes”). (Tr. 201). He testified he does not do any chores around the house except he will take out “a little bag [] [of] trash.” (Id.). Instead, he testified that he has “a 65-year-old girlfriend [that] come[s] by sometimes, ” to take care of him and household needs such as cooking, laundry, and cleaning. (Tr. 62). On days she does not come over, Bellman testified that his kids come over and take care of responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, and doing the dishes. (Tr. 62).

         Bellman has five children, none of whom live with him. (Tr. 33). When asked about his relationship with his kids, Bellman explained that his interactions with them as follows:

[ALJ]: When they're over, are you able to, you know, interact with them and - [Bellman]: On their tablet. They can sit there and they say this or that. We talk.
[ALJ]: Okay. So they're interacting with each other. Are you involved though?
[Bellman]: No, dad just gets kisses and that's it… no playing, no hopscotch or jump rope with the girls or nothing like that.

(Tr. 60).

         In response to the question, “are you able to read and write?” Bellman testified, “Yeah. I - I can't remember-I might have to read it a thousand times. If I have to read that, I'd have to read it over and over and over.” (Tr. 64). The ALJ then clarified,

[ALJ]: So if I understood that correctly, you know the words, it's just understanding what it means that you have to read over and over again to understand what the words mean to put the idea or thoughts together.
[Bellman]: Or phrase with the whole paragraph. I couldn't -
[ALJ] Okay.
[Bellman]: - I will have to read that a couple times-… to get the understanding for not just one word, it's going to be a whole bunch of them and I forget what I already read []…and I got to read that a hundred times sometimes to figure …
[ALJ]: Has that always been the case for you?
[Bellman]: - Ever since ...

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