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Skidmore v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

April 17, 2018

LEE SKIDMORE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL., Deputy Commissioner of Operations of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Lee Skidmore brings this matter under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Court, having reviewed the record, will AFFIRM the Commissioner's decision as it is supported by substantial evidence.


         In determining disability, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) uses a five-step analysis. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). Step One considers whether the claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; Step Two, whether any of the claimant's impairments are “severe”; Step Three, whether the impairments meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step Four, whether the claimant can still perform his past relevant work; and Step Five, whether significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner. Id.; see also Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 1');">1');">1');">14 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">107');">1');">1');">1');">14 F.3d 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">107, 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">10 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1994).


         Plaintiff filed an application for Title XVI supplemental security income (“SSI”) on August 1');">1');">1');">13, 201');">1');">1');">13, alleging disability beginning October 1');">1');">1');">1, 2007. [TR 90, 227-35]. The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. [TR 90]. After a hearing, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Janice Barnes-Williams denied Plaintiff's claims on December 1');">1');">1');">16, 201');">1');">1');">15. [TR 87-1');">1');">1');">107]. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's ruling. [TR 1');">1');">1');">1-7]. This appeal followed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Consistent with the Court's Standing Scheduling Order, the parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgment, which are ripe for review. [DE 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1, 1');">1');">1');">13].

         Skidmore was 40 years old when he filed for benefits and claimed disability since October 2007 when he was 34 years old. [TR 227]. Skidmore estimates his height and weight at 6'3 or 6'4 and 280 pounds. [TR 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">14]. His highest level of education was eighth grade, and he struggles with reading, writing, and simple math. [TR 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">17-1');">1');">1');">18, 255-57]. Plaintiff most recently worked as a fiberglass machine operator. [TR 1');">1');">1');">128]. He previously worked several other jobs. [TR 257]. Plaintiff claims his mental impairments, coupled with physical and psychiatric conditions, render him disabled and unable to work. [DE 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1, p. 9].

         Skidmore claims a range of disabilities including a lazy right eye, learning disability, illiteracy, headaches, and back problems. [TR 256]. At the hearing in front of the ALJ, Skidmore testified about his medical and mental history and conditions. Skidmore testified that he is unable to read or write and needed someone to help him fill out various forms in filing for Social Security benefits. [TR 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">17]. He said he was in special education classes in school, and had physical problems with his legs and back, as well as headaches. [TR 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">19-21');">1');">1');">1]. He also stated that he could lift only ten pounds and could not sit longer than fifteen minutes without having to move around. [TR 1');">1');">1');">120]. Skidmore also testified he suffered from Hepatitis C, had a lazy eye, and suffered from anxiety and depression. [TR 1');">1');">1');">122-24].

         In March 2004, Skidmore visited Greenville Memorial Hospital complaining of testicular pain. [TR 397-98]. Doctors reported a normal testicular ultrasound and noted that Skidmore was engaged in drug-seeking behavior. [TR 398].

         In March 201');">1');">1');">10, Skidmore visited Dr. Melvin Porter Jr complaining of a lazy right eye, learning disability, chronic low back pain, and chronic headaches. [TR 337]. Dr. Porter reported that Skidmore's right eye deviated laterally and assessed amblyopia in the eye with legal blindness. [TR 338]. Dr. Porter also found Skidmore to have learning disability and illiteracy, low back pain and headaches. [Id.]. Plaintiff's extremities were normal and had a normal range of motion. [Id.].

         In October 201');">1');">1');">13, Plaintiff visited Dr. Wifredo Fernandez, claiming illiteracy and lower back pain. [TR 346]. An examination revealed Skidmore to have normal posture and gait, and his right eye extraocular movements limited due to inability of internal rectus. [TR 348]. Skidmore scored 4/5 on strength in his extremities and had intact sensation and unremarkable reflexes. [Id.]. Dr. Fernandez concluded that Skidmore had the ability to perform activities involving sitting, standing, moving about, handling objects, hearing and speaking. [TR 349]. The doctor also reported that it would be reasonable to expect Skidmore to have no difficulty performing activities involving lifting reasonable objects and carrying them. [Id.].

         In February 201');">1');">1');">14, Skidmore visited the emergency room after he fell. [TR 377]. Skidmore reported pain in this back, neck, legs, knees, and arms. [Id.]. The report indicated Skidmore was suffering from no acute distress and had no evidence of significant external trauma. [Id.]. Clinicians also labeled Skidmore as a “chronic alcoholic.” [Id.]. At that time, imaging of Skidmore's lower back, head, knees, neck, and ribs showed no abnormalities other than below normal bone density in his rib bones. [TR 382-86].

         Skidmore then visited Cumberland River Comprehensive Care in March 201');">1');">1');">14 complaining of pain, depression, and anxiety. [TR 360]. Skidmore also reported sleep disturbance, low energy, inability to focus, nausea, numbness, and hallucinations. [TR 360-61');">1');">1');">1]. A mental status exam showed normal interaction, no deficits in cognition, good judgment and insight, logical thought process, and average intelligence. [TR 370]. Skidmore was diagnosed with mood disorder, alcohol dependency, and borderline intellectual functioning, and was assessed a GAR of 70-75. [TR 371');">1');">1');">1, 373]. Mild mental retardation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance induced mood disorder were ruled out. [Id.]. In March and April 201');">1');">1');">14, Skidmore visited Dr. Kimal Sidhu in Harland, Kentucky. [TR 400-02]. Skidmore complained of having back and neck pain, hip pain, lower back pain, knee pain, and testicular pain. [TR 402].

         Plaintiff visited Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation (MCHC) in July 201');">1');">1');">14. [TR 403]. Nurse practitioner Misty Turner expressed concern that Skidmore had SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) and referred him to a rheumatologist for further evaluation. [Id.]. During his visit, Plaintiff complained of pain and tenderness but had normal memory and appropriate mood. [TR 405]. In March 201');">1');">1');">15, Plaintiff was seen by the UK Internal Medicine Department of Rheumatology. [TR 456-60]. His body mass index was 29.5. [TR 457]. Plaintiff had an exquisitely tender abdomen in the epigastric region with palpable indurated mass in the area. [TR 458]. Plaintiff also had an antalgic gait, and limited range of motion. [Id.]. However, judgment and insight were normal, as well as muscle strength and tone. [Id.]. Dr. Beatriz Hanaoka reported that she ...

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