United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. HOOD, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Leeann Nicole Smith brings this matter under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of an administrative decision
of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. The Court,
having reviewed the record and the cross motions for summary
judgment filed by the parties, will AFFIRM
the Commissioner's decision because the claimant has
failed to properly raise any arguments demonstrating remand
is warranted and the ALJ's decision is supported by
Standard for Determining Disability
the Social Security Act, a disability is defined as
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). 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 past relevant
work; and, if necessary, 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., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).
Procedural and Factual History
filed an application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) on August 9, 2013, alleging disability as
of July 31, 2010. [TR 237]. Smith alleged disability due to
mental impairments, including depression, dipolar disorder, a
learning disability, and paranoia. [TR 268]. Smith's
application for benefits was denied initially and upon
Medical Evidence at Issue
2014, Dr. Naushad Haziq performed a consultative internal
medicine exam. [TR 544-50]. Dr. Haziq's exam noted that
Smith complained of “depression, bipolar disorder, a
learning disability, and paranoia” but Smith presented
with no physical complaints. [TR 544]. Dr. Haziq noted a
“longstanding history of anxiety, bipolar disorder,
learning, and depression, since age 10” but noted that
Smith was not taking medications for these disorders at the
time of the exam. [Id.]. Dr. Haziq also reviewed
records from the Manchester Memorial Hospital and from he
Willowbrook Women's Center. [TR 545].
examination notes, Dr. Haziq stated that Smith
“appear[ed] very anxious, ” was “trembling,
” and “could not sit still.” [TR 546]. Dr.
Haziq noted that Smith was somewhat tearful and cried at
times during the exam. [Id.]. Additionally, Dr.
Haziq made a general observation that Smith could speak
understandably and follow instructions without difficulty.
[Id.]. Finally, Dr. Haziq listed his impression as
“moderate to severe anxiety.” [TR 547].
records from physician's assistant Crystal Smith, PA-C,
reflect diagnoses of an unspecified anxiety disorder, major
depressive disorder, and fatigue, among other physical
symptoms and complaints. [TR 551]. Medical records indicate
that Smith had been treated with prescription medication
Sertraline.[TR 552]. Otherwise, Smith's primary
care medical records demonstrate no significant medical
treatment for mental health impairments or issues. [TR
November 2013, Dr. Timothy L. Baggs, Psy.D., performed a
consultative examination on Smith. [TR 533-42]. Smith
reported that she was applying for benefits due to bipolar
disorder, depression, and anxiety. [TR 533]. Smith stated
that she had been impacted by these mental health issues her
entire life. [Id.].
Baggs inquired about Smith's symptoms related to her
mental health impairments. Smith reported that she did not
feel like herself, was very paranoid, and was experiencing
insomnia. [TR 535]. Smith stated that she had difficulty
getting along with other people and wanted to stay in bed
constantly. [Id.]. Still, Smith noted no required
psychiatric hospitalization but reported that she had
participated in a program through Comprehensive Care in 2009.
Smith reported that she had a troubled childhood, had
difficulty in school, struggled with drug dependency issues,
and had past legal issues. [TR 533-537]. Smith reported that
she was on a Suboxone program related to substance abuse
issues. [TR 536].
on result of the examination, Dr. Baggs stated that Smith
presented as a woman who was experiencing drug addiction. [TR
539]. Dr. Baggs also noted that Smith reported experiencing
bipolar disorder but said that “questioning of the
claimant this date would not tend to suggest symptoms of
sufficient amount to warrant diagnosis.”
[Id.]. Furthermore, Dr. Baggs stated that Smith had
difficulty articulating symptoms of depression other than
reporting that she was socially withdrawn and was
experiencing insomnia. [Id.]. As a result, Dr.
Baggs's primary diagnosis was drug addiction, not any
mental health impairment or disorder. [Id.].
Dr. Baggs opined that Smith had the ability to understand and
remember simple instructions, seemed capable of maintaining
sustained concentration and persistence in the completion of
a task in a normal amount of time, and could respond and
adapt effectively to pressures found in normal work settings.
state agency medical consultants Drs. Jack Reed and Laura
Cutler reviewed Smith's medical records. Dr. Reed found
that Smith has no medically determinable physical impairment.
[TR 104-05]. Dr. Cutler opined that Smith had mild
restriction in activities of daily living, and had moderate
difficulties in maintaining social functioning,
concentration, persistence, and pace. [TR 106].
February 25, 2016, Smith appeared at an administrative
hearing before ALJ Donald A. Rising. [TR 45-84]. Smith was
represented by attorney Kenneth Stepp at the administrative
hearing, Smith reported that she lived in a mobile home with
her husband and father-in-law. [TR 51]. She stated that she
has a ninth-grade education and that while she had thought
about getting a GED, she had not taken any steps to acquire a
GED. [Id.]. Smith reported that she could read but
had difficulty understanding what words mean. [Id.].
Smith reported that she had worked intermittently in food
service jobs but that she quit because she was unable to deal
with the customers and other employees. [TR 53-54].
was also asked about the medical problems that prevent her
from working. Smith stated that she was disabled due to her
anxiety. [TR 55]. When asked whether she got treatment for
anxiety or took medication Smith responded, “Yeah, I
do, and that's what I'm trying to tell you, is I
don't know. You have to look at these papers. I don't
have . . . no idea what you're talking about or nothing.
You just have to look at these papers.” [TR 55-56].
When the ALJ asked what Smith was referring to by
“these papers” and whether she was referring to
school records, Smith curtly replied, “All of
it.” [TR 56]. Smith also reported that she had taken
Zoloft off and on for a few years, which helps with her
anxiety. [TR 57-58]. Smith reported that she was a
“nervous wreck” at the hearing and stated that
she did not get along with people. [TR 58-59].
also discussed physical problems with Smith. Smith reported
that she had hepatitis C and suffered from restless leg
syndrome. [TR 59-60]. Smith reported that hepatitis C caused
symptoms including “being sick to your stomach,
headache, no appetite, [and] loss of weight.” [TR
60-61]. Smith stated that she suffered from these symptoms of
a daily basis and that, while she took no medicine for
hepatitis C, she was supposed to have a biopsy of her liver.
the ALJ asked Smith about her restless leg syndrome and her
ability to stand and sit. [TR 62]. Smith reported that she
could only stand for around ten minutes and that if she stood
for a longer period, she would feel like she was going to
pass out. [Id.]. Smith also noted ...