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Crutchfield v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

September 19, 2019



          Joseph M. Hood, Senior U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff, Lenore Crutchfield, proceeding pro se, [2] brings this matter under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of an administrative decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security. [DE 1]. The Court, having reviewed the record and the motions filed by the parties, [DE 12, 14], will AFFIRM the Commissioner’s decision as no legal error occurred and it is supported by substantial evidence.


         Under 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 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., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).


         The Plaintiff, Lenore Crutchfield (“Crutchfield”), filed her application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act in December of 2013. [TR 188-192]. Crutchfield alleges she became disabled in September 2012. [TR 188]. The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration. [TR 86-115]. Crutchfield then pursued her claims at a hearing in front of an ALJ, Davida Isaacs, on April 27, 2016. [TR 36-60]. The ALJ issued a decision on June 14, 2016, denying Crutchfield’s claims and finding that she was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. [TR 9-20]. The Appeals Council denied review, [TR 1– 4], making the ALJ’s decision final for purposes of judicial review. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.

         This appeal followed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). [DE 1]. Consistent with the Court’s Standing Scheduling Order, [DE 5], the parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgment, [3] which are ripe for review. [DE 12, 14].

         Crutchfield alleges onset of disability at age 35 when she claims her disability began and at age 39 when the ALJ issued her decision in June 2016. [TR 188]. Crutchfield has a high school education. [TR 231]. She engaged in past relevant work as a hair stylist. [Id.].

         Crutchfield claims disability due to right ankle fracture with posttraumatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, and obesity. At the hearing in front of the ALJ, Crutchfield testified that her right ankle and left foot caused her sever pain. [TR 43-44]. She stated that she uses crutches most of the time and the she had pain while sitting, standing, and walking. [TR 45]. Crutchfield further stated that had depression, which made her irritable around people and not want to engage in social activity. [TR 51].

         Crutchfield testified that she lives with her three minor children at home. [TR 40]. Crutchfield reported that her three and four-year old children are able to do a lot on their own. [TR 48]. Crutchfield further testified that she stays at home in bed most of the time. [TR 52].

         Crutchfield fractured her right ankle due to a fall in 2007. [TR 373, 376]. She had surgery for this injury but continued to work after the surgery and treatment. [TR 198].

         From October 2012 to January 2016, Crutchfield was examined by a podiatrist, Heather Whitesel, D.P.M., on seven separate occasions. [TR 316-19, 479-91, 499-504]. She complained that she had injured her left foot while stepping off the curb. [TR 503-503]. Crutchfield’s feet were X-rayed, revealing no acute abnormality in her left foot, but osteoarthritis in her previously injured right ankle. [TR 438]. Crutchfield received a corticosteroid injection and reported that she had decreased pain. [TR 499-500].

         In April 2014, Dr. Whitesel completed a medical statement, listing Crutchfield’s diagnoses as ankle arthritis, edema, and low limb pain. [TR 909]. Whitesel concluded that Crutchfield could stand 15-30 minutes at a time but would need to elevate her legs occasionally to frequently. [Id.]. She further opined that Crutchfield required an assistive device to walk on uneven surfaces. [TR 909-10].

         Two months later, Crutchfield returned to Whitesel, complaining of left foot pain. [TR 318-19]. X-rays showed evidence of a stress fracture at three metatarsals. [TR 318]. Crutchfield returned in August, with no new signs of fracture, dislocation. [TR 316]. Crutchfield complained of only intermittent discomfort. [TR 316-17].

         Crutchfield next went to Whitesel with new complaints of pain in her left foot in February of 2015. [TR 488-91]. X-rays revealed post-traumatic degenerative disc disease of the ankle. [TR 490]. However, Crutchfield stated that she did not want to undergo an ankle fusion surgery. [TR 483-491]. At her August follow-up, Crutchfield complained of right ankle pain, and Whitesel referred her to therapy. [TR 483-86].

         Crutchfield’s most recent appointment with Whitesel was in January 2016. Whitesel informed Crutchfield that she should attempt to maintain ankle flexibility, but that Crutchfield might be a candidate for ankle fusion or replacement surgeries as her post-traumatic degenerative disc disease of the ankle progressed. [TR 481].

         Crutchfield also treated with John Stewart, M.D. for pain on occasion between 2013 and 2016. He prescribed her medication for her pain, but only occasionally recorded relevant musculoskeletal examination findings, which were often inconsistent. [TR 300, 536, 547, 557, 573, 640, 665, 683, 696]. Stewart also prescribed Crutchfield an anti-depressant in June 2015 due to her claim that she was undergoing high stress due to her children being home during the summer. [TR 570, 578]. This continued despite Crutchfield’s report that she had stable or even good moods on other occasions. [TR 509, 521, 526, 536, 541, 547, 557, 562, 573, 577, 588, 593, 593, 604, 614, 618, 626, 640, 665, 684, 691, and 696].

         Finally, Crutchfield was examined by a consultative examiner, Barry Burchett, M.D., in conjunction with her SSI claim. [TR 310-15]. Once again, Crutchfield complain of right ankle pain and problems with her left foot. [Id.]. On examination, Burchett found Crutchfield to have obesity, mild difficulty performing a tandem gait, squatting, knee flexion, and a reduced range of motion. [Id.]. All other ...

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