United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
NANCY G. EDMUNDS U.S. District Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEVEN WHALEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lenise Bradley (“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”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under the Social Security Act. Both
parties have filed summary judgment motions which have been
referred for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). For the reasons set forth below,
I recommend that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
[Docket #16] be GRANTED to the extent that the case is
remanded for further administrative proceedings, and that
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #20] be
December 11, 2015 and February 4, 2016 respectively,
Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and DIB, alleging
disability as of June 15, 2015 (Tr. 220, 222). After the
initial denial of the claim, Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Roy E. LaRoche, Jr. held a hearing on
June 19, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan (Tr. 34). Plaintiff,
represented by attorney Lloyd Pont, testified (Tr. 38-59) as
did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Scott Silver (Tr.
59-68). On November 17, 2017 ALJ LaRoche found that Plaintiff
was not disabled (Tr. 20-29). On April 16, 2018, the Appeals
Council denied review (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed for judicial
review of the final decision on June 18, 2019.
born November 13, 1971, was 46 when the ALJ made the
non-disability determination (Tr. 29, 220). She completed
11th grade and worked previously as a deli worker,
laborer, and quality control inspector (Tr. 255-256). Her
application for benefits alleges disability due to lower back
conditions (Tr. 254).
offered the following testimony:
lived in a one-story house with her 77-year-old mother (Tr.
38). The washer and dryer at the house were in the basement
(Tr. 38). She was right-handed (Tr. 38). She stood 5'
6" and weighed 186, adding that she recently lost around
36 pounds (Tr. 39). She avoided driving due to medication
side effects, limiting her driving when she took her mother
to her monthly doctor's appointment (Tr. 39).
Plaintiff's fiancé drove her to her own
doctor's appointments (Tr. 40). She stopped working at
her most recent job as a quality control expert after
experiencing leg numbness (Tr. 43). She received Workers'
Compensation benefits after leaving work (Tr. 44).
received treatment from an internist for diabetes and a
neurologist for the back problems (Tr. 44). She saw both
doctors on a regular basis (Tr. 53). Her diabetes was
controlled with medication (Tr. 45). She had treated the back
problems with physical therapy, steroid injections, and a
TENS unit, none of which permanently improved her condition
(Tr. 45). Her neurologist was contemplating the use of a
spinal cord simulator (Tr. 46). She used a walker at the time
of hearing due to recent multiple falls (Tr. 47). In response
to the ALJ's citation to recent treating records noting
the use of a cane, Plaintiff testified that she needed a
walker at the hearing because she had refrained from taking
pain medicine before her testimony and was in “extreme
pain” (Tr. 49). She used a cane at home and a walker
everywhere else (Tr. 54). She took Lyrica, Amitriptyline,
Flexeril, Norco, and Metformin and experienced the side
effect of drowsiness (Tr. 50). She did not smoke or use
alcohol (Tr. 51). She stopped using marijuana in 2016 when
she began taking prescription pain medication (Tr. 51).
addition to the back problems, Plaintiff experience left arm
numbness and was unable to lift even a gallon of milk with
the left arm (Tr. 52). She spent the majority of her day
watching television and listening to music (Tr. 54-55). She
was unable to perform any housework or laundry chores and
relied on her fiancé and daughter to perform household
chores (Tr. 55).
response to questioning by her attorney, Plaintiff noted that
she needed to change positions frequently (Tr. 55). She
reported that she would have been unable to stay alert for
the hearing if she had taken her pain medication (Tr. 56).
Aside from medication side effects, she disliked driving due
to leg numbness and coldness (Tr. 56). Sitting in a recliner
with her legs elevated above head level partially alleviated
leg swelling, tingling, and numbness (Tr. 53). She also coped
with the pain by taking long hot showers (Tr. 57). Reaching
with the left upper extremity caused back pain (Tr. 58). She
was unable to stand without support (Tr. 59).
September, 2014, Plaintiff sought emergency treatment for
numbness and pain of the left leg and toes (Tr. 323). She
demonstrated a full strength of the leg with tenderness (Tr.
324). The same month, she also sought treatment for a
ruptured Baker's cyst of the left knee (Tr. 312).
Plaintiff reported pain but demonstrated 5/5 strength in all
extremities (Tr. 315-316). She was given a nerve block and
prescribed Norco on discharge (Tr. 322).
room records from June, 2015 note Plaintiff's report of
low right-sided back pain extending into the left leg for
three months (Tr. 326, 408). She was diagnosed with low back
pain “without signs of spinal cord compression . .
.” (Tr. 327). The same month, primary care physician
Ghazwan A. Atto, M.D. prescribed Norco for Plaintiff's
report of level “10” back pain and
“tingling, weakness and numbness” (Tr. 396-397).
from the following month show that the “constant”
back pain now radiated into her left leg (Tr. 329). At
various times during the month she exhibited both a normal
gait and range of motion and a reduced and painful range of
lumbar spine motion (Tr. 331, 392, 416). An MRI of the lumbar
spine showed a broad based disc herniation at ¶ 5-S1
causing moderate right-sided neural foraminal narrowing (Tr.
332, 353, 480). In August, 2015, she reported that she was
unable to sit for more than 10 minutes and stand or walk for
only “a few” minutes (Tr. 333). Treating records
note that Plaintiff presentation was compromised by
“pain distress” and she walked slowly with a limp
(Tr. 335-336, 341, 420). She demonstrated a limited range of
lumbar spine motion (Tr. 340). Dr. Atto noted her reports of
continued back pain with weakness and numbness (Tr. 390).
Physical therapy records from the same month state that
Plaintiff was not able to sit for more than nine minutes (Tr.
343). Emergency room records state that she was given a
walker “for stability with ...