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Jason Wisdom v. Commissioner of Social Security

November 22, 2011

JASON WISDOM,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William H. Baughman, Jr. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Introduction

This is an action for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the application of the plaintiff, Jason Wisdom, for 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 Wisdom had severe impairments consisting of schizophrenia, depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and adult antisocial personality disorder.*fn1 The ALJ made the following finding regarding Wisdom's residual functional capacity (RFC):

Mr. Wisdom retains the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: He is limited to tasks that are simple, routine, and low-stress and that involve no interaction with the public and no more than superficial interaction with supervisors and co-workers. He is precluded from tasks that involve arbitration, negotiation, confrontation, directing the work of others, and being responsible for the safety of others.*fn2 The ALJ determined that Wisdom had no past relevant work.*fn3

Using the medical-vocational grids in Appendix 2 as a guide, and 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 Wisdom could perform.*fn4 The ALJ, therefore, found Wisdom not under a disability.*fn5

Wisdom 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, Wisdom argues that the ALJ should have found physical impairments of diabetes mellitus and sleep apnea severe at step two of the sequential evaluation process and that the RFC finding at step four lacks the support of substantial evidence because the ALJ improperly evaluated the opinions of Wisdom's treating physicians.

The Court concludes that the ALJ's finding of no disability is supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, must be affirmed.

Analysis

1. 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 ...

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