The opinion of the court was delivered by: William H. Baughman, Jr. Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the applications of the plaintiff, Mary Miller, for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The parties have consented to magistrate judge's jurisdiction.
The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), whose decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, found that Miller had severe impairments consisting of osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and bipolar disorder.*fn1 The ALJ made the following finding regarding Miller's residual functional capacity:
The claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally, 25 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk for 6 hours of an 8 hour day; sit 6 hours of an 8 hour day; limited to frequent handling, fingering; limited to understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple instructions; and limited to occasional interaction with the general public.*fn2 Based on that residual functional capacity, the ALJ found Miller incapable of performing her past relevant work as a nurse's aide.*fn3
Based on an answer to a hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert at the hearing setting forth the residual functional capacity finding quoted above, the ALJ determined that a significant number of jobs existed locally and nationally that Miller could perform.*fn4 The ALJ, therefore, found Miller not under a disability.*fn5
Miller asks for reversal of the Commissioner's decision on the ground that it does not have the support of substantial evidence in the administrative record. Specifically, Miller argues substantial evidence does not support the limitations in the residual functional capacity finding caused by her mental impairment. She maintains that properly interpreted, the record contains substantial evidence of greater limitations that rendered her disabled.
The Court concludes that the ALJ's residual functional capacity finding to the extent that it omits a limitation to a "low stress environment," does not have the support of substantial evidence. The case therefore, must be remanded for reconsideration of that finding.
A. The standard of review
The Sixth Circuit in Buxton v. Halter reemphasized the standard of review applicable to decisions of the ALJs in disability cases:
Congress has provided for federal court review of Social Security administrative decisions. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). However, the scope of review is limited under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g): "The findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive...." In other words, on review of the Commissioner's decision that claimant is not totally disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, the only issue reviewable by this court is whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is " 'more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.' "
The findings of the Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely
because there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a
different conclusion. This is so because there is a "zone of choice"
within which the Commissioner can act, without the fear of court
interference.*fn6 Viewed in the context of a jury
trial, all that is necessary to affirm is that reasonable minds could
reach different conclusions on the evidence. If such is the case, the
Commissioner survives "a directed verdict" and ...