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Taylor v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 23, 2019


          HON. VICTORIA A. ROBERTS U.S. District Judge.



         Plaintiff Orlando Taylor (“Plaintiff”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), challenging a final decision of Defendant Commissioner (“Defendant”) denying his application for 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 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #13] be GRANTED, and that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket #12] be DENIED.


         On March 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging disability as of October 15, 2015 (Tr. 178, 185). After the initial denial of the claim, he requested an administrative hearing, held on December 11, 2017 in Fort Gratiot, Michigan (Tr. 32). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Roy E. LaRoche, Jr. presided. Plaintiff, represented by attorney Wesley Lamey, testified (Tr. 39-52) as did Vocational Expert (“VE”) Diane Regan (Tr. 52-55). On March 16, 2018, ALJ LaRoche found that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 10-32). On August 28, 2018, the Appeals Council denied review (Tr. 1-3). Plaintiff filed for judicial review of the final decision on October 12, 2018.


         Claimant, born October 2, 1981, was 36 when the ALJ made the non-disability determination (Tr. 32, 177). He obtained a GED and worked previously as an asphalt applier and general maintenance worker, and at the time of the application was working as a general laborer (Tr. 197). His application for benefits alleges disability due to chronic pain from sciatica, congestive heart failure, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and a cholecystectomy (Tr. 196).

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         Plaintiff offered the following testimony:

         He lived with his fianceé and their two children, ages nine and two (Tr. 39). His fianceé was temporarily incarcerated at the time of the hearing (Tr. 39). He was responsible for the care of his children, adding that the children's grandmother was watching them during the hearing (Tr. 40). He received food stamps and Medicaid coverage (Tr. 40). His driver's license had been suspended for driving under the influence of marijuana and careless driving (Tr. 41). His past work as a machine operator required him to lift up to 50 pounds and stay on his feet all day (Tr. 42). He later worked at an asphalt-related job “under the table” until undergoing valve replacement surgery in February, 2016 (Tr. 42). After surgery, he was physically unable to return to the asphalt work (Tr. 44). From July, 2017 forward, he had been unable to followup with his cardiologists due to his own three-month incarceration for a DUI (Tr. 44). Prior to his incarceration, he was unable to procure regular post-surgery checkups due to difficulty finding a primary care physician (Tr. 45).

         Plaintiff experienced weekly episodes of tachycardia brought on by increased activity (Tr. 48). He had not received physical restrictions by a cardiologist (Tr. 48). He currently took Metoprolol and Coumadin (Tr. 46). He acknowledged the possibility that he had current embolisms or aneurysm, but was waiting another two weeks to see the cardiologist so that his fianceé, due to be released from prison in two weeks, could accompany him (Tr. 47). He had been diagnosed with a methamphetamine disorder but had not used the substance in the past year (Tr. 49). He had not been told that the methamphetamine use could have contributed to the heart problems (Tr. 49). He did not experience psychological problems (Tr. 49).

         Plaintiff's activities included “regular household work” (Tr. 49). He took his children for walks when possible, albeit at a slow pace (Tr. 50, 52). The children's grandma had been a “big help” by visiting and taking the children on outings (Tr. 50). He was responsible for the cooking, laundry, and shopping chores (Tr. 50-51). He was able to care for his personal needs (Tr. 51). He could lift and carry his 30-pound daughter for “short distances” (Tr. 51).

         B. Medical Evidence

         In September, 2015, Plaintiff sought emergency treatment for chest pain which began at work while he was sweeping floors (Tr. 236). Emergency records note a medical history of congenital heart disease and cardiac valve surgery (Tr. 237). Plaintiff reported tobacco and marijuana use (Tr. 238). Pulse Ox showed 100 percent saturation (Tr. 238). He exhibited mild tachycardia and a systolic murmur (Tr. 239). Lab results were positive for amphetamines (Tr. 239). A chest x-ray was unremarkable (Tr. 242). Cardiac records note a diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis (Tr. 243). Plaintiff reported episodes of shortness of breath (Tr. 244). The same month, an ultrasound of the abdomen taken in response to Plaintiff's report of upper right quadrant pain was positive for cholecystitis (Tr. 278). October, 2015 records note that Plaintiff made a normal recovery following a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (Tr. 312, 317, 625, 628).

         In December, 2015, Plaintiff sought emergency treatment for shortness of breath and fatigue (Tr. 392, 612). He reported that he was still able to work in “construction/physical labor” (Tr. 392). CT of the chest was positive for heart enlargement and an aneurysm of the ascending thoracic aorta with moderate-severe regurgitation of the aortic valve with an ejection fraction of 50 to 55 percent (Tr. 267-270, 610, 636). He self-discharged against medical advice (Tr. 612). He was cautioned not to perform heavy lifting and directed to stop the use of tobacco and marijuana (Tr. 305-306).

         In February, 2016, Plaintiff underwent an ascending aortic repair (Tr. 288). Discharge records note that Plaintiff was “doing well” until a few months earlier when he developed progressive symptoms of heart failure (Tr. 288). Plaintiff admitted to methamphetamine use one day prior to his admission (Tr. 295). He denied addiction, noting that he was sober while in prison between 2001 and 2013 (Tr. 295). Nine days following surgery, he left the hospital against medical advice but was in stable condition at the time of the self-discharge (Tr. 289, 403, 410, 442). His post-surgical ejection fraction was measured at 58 percent, reflecting a “low normal” range (Tr. 598). “Home visit” records from the same week show that Plaintiff ...

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