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Jackson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

September 23, 2013

BARBARA JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant

Order Filed: June 25, 2013

Page 658

For Barbara Jackson, Plaintiff: Stephanie D Dobson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal - 3, Dayton, OH.

For Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Adam R Sorkin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Chicago, IL; John J. Stark, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney Office, Columbus, OH.

Page 659

DECISION AND ENTRY ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE (DOC. #13) IN THEIR ENTIRETY; DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS TO SAID JUDICIAL FILING (DOC. #14) OVERRULED; JUDGMENT TO BE ENTERED IN FAVOR OF PLAINTIFF AND AGAINST DEFENDANT COMMISSIONER, REVERSING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION THAT PLAINTIFF WAS NOT DISABLED AND, THEREFORE, NOT ENTITLED TO BENEFITS UNDER THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT, AND REMANDING THE CAPTIONED CAUSE TO THE DEFENDANT COMMISSIONER, UNDER THE FOURTH SENTENCE OF 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g), FOR AN IMMEDIATE AWARD OF BENEFITS CONSISTENT WITH THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT; TERMINATION ENTRY

WALTER H. RICE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g) to review a decision

Page 660

of the Defendant Commissioner denying Plaintiff's application for Social Security disability benefits. On June 25, 2013, the United States Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendations (Doc. #13), recommending that the Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act be reversed and the captioned cause be remanded to the Defendant Commissioner, under the Fourth Sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for an immediate award of benefits under the Social Security Act. Based upon reasoning and citations of authority set forth in the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations (Doc. #13), as well as upon a thorough de novo review of this Court's file, including the Administrative Transcript (Doc. #6), and a thorough review of the applicable law, this Court adopts the aforesaid Report and Recommendations in their entirety and, in so doing, orders the entry of judgment in favor of the Plaintiff and against the Defendant Commissioner, concluding that the Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act was not supported by substantial evidence. The Defendant's Objections to said judicial filing (Doc. #14) are overruled. Accordingly, the decision of the Defendant Commissioner that Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act is reversed and the captioned cause remanded for an immediate award of benefits.

In reviewing the Commissioner's decision, the Magistrate Judge's task is to determine if that decision is supported by " substantial evidence." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court, upon objections being made to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations, is required to make a de novo review of those recommendations of the report to which objection is made. This de novo review, in turn, requires this Court to re-examine all the relevant evidence, previously reviewed by the Magistrate Judge, to determine whether the findings of the Secretary [now Commissioner] are supported by " substantial evidence." Lashley v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 708 F.2d 1048, 1053 (6th Cir. 1983); Gibson v. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, 678 F.2d 653, 654 (6th Cir. 1982). This Court's sole function is to determine whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision. The Commissioner's findings must be affirmed if they are supported by " such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971), citing Consolidated Edison Company v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938); Landsaw v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 803 F.2d 211, 213 (6th Cir. 1986). Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson, supra, at 401; Ellis v. Schweicker, 739 F.2d 245, 248 (6th Cir. 1984). Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, but only so much as would be required to prevent a directed verdict (now judgment as a matter of law) against the Commissioner if this case were being tried to a jury. Foster v. Bowen, 853 F.2d 483, 486 (6th Cir. 1988); NLRB v. Columbian Enameling and Stamping Company, 306 U.S. 292, 300, 59 S.Ct. 501, 83 L.Ed. 660 (1939). To be substantial, the evidence " must do more than create a suspicion of the existence of the fact to be established... [I]t must be enough to

Page 661

justify, if the trial were to a jury, a refusal to direct a verdict when the conclusion sought to be drawn fro it is one of fact for the jury." LeMaster v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 802 F.2d 839, 840 (6th Cir. 1986), quoting NLRB v. Columbian Enameling and Stamping Company, supra.

In determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the Court must consider the record as a whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359 (6th Cir. 1978); Ellis, supra; Kirk v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 667 F.2d 524, 536 (6th Cir. 1981); Houston v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 736 F.2d 365 (6th Cir. 1984); Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383 (6th Cir. 1984). However, the Court may not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence or decide questions of credibility. Garner, supra. The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security and proceedings on Claimant's application for social security disability benefits are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a different conclusion. Buxton v. Halter, Commissioner of Social Security, 246 F.3d 762 (6th Cir. 2001). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it must be affirmed, even if the Court as a trier of fact would have arrived at a different conclusion. Elkins v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 658 F.2d 437, 439 (6th Cir. 1981).

In addition to the foregoing, in ruling as aforesaid, this Court makes the following, non-exclusive, observations:

1. While certainly not inferring that the reasoning and citations to the record contained in Plaintiff's reply to Defendant's objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations (Doc. #15) was a dispositive factor, relied upon in lieu of a review of the entire record in the captioned cause and the applicable law, this Court finds that said submission of the Plaintiff accurately summarized the record in support of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations.

2. Remand for the immediate award of benefits, rather than for further administrative procedures is appropriate, given that proof of disability is strong and opposing evidence is lacking in substance. Moreover, proof of disability in this matter is overwhelming. Faucher v. Secretary of Health and Human Servs., 17 F.3d 171, 176 (6th Cir. 1994).

WHEREFORE, based upon the aforesaid, this Court adopts the Report and Recommendations of the United States Magistrate Judge (Doc. #13) in their entirety, having concluded that the Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act was not supported by substantial evidence. Defendant's Objections to said judicial filing (Doc. #14) are overruled. Judgment will be ordered entered in favor of the Plaintiff and against the Defendant Commissioner, reversing the Defendant Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to benefits under the Social Security Act and remanding the captioned cause to the Defendant Commissioner pursuant to the Fourth Sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for an immediate award of benefits under the Social Security Act.

The captioned cause is hereby ordered terminated upon the docket records of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, at Dayton.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION[1] THAT: (1) THE ALJ'S NON-DISABILITY FINDING BE FOUND UNSUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, AND REVERSED; (2) THIS MATTER BE REMANDED TO THE COMMISSIONER UNDER THE FOURTH SENTENCE OF 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) FOR AN IMMEDIATE AWARD OF BENEFITS; AND (3) THE CASE BE CLOSED.

Michael J. Newman, United States Magistrate Judge. District Judge Walter H. Rice.

This is a Social Security disability benefits appeal. At issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) erred in finding Plaintiff not " disabled" and therefore unentitled to Disability Insurance Benefits (" DIB" ) and/or Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ). This case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Specific Errors (doc. 9), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (doc. 11), Plaintiff's Reply (doc. 12), the administrative record[2] (doc. 6), and the record as a whole.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on March 14, 2008, asserting that she has been under a " disability" since November 4, 2007. PageID 178-81. Plaintiff claims she is disabled due to fibromyalgia, impaired fine motor skills, tremors, cognitive thinking problems, recovering alcoholism, bipolar disorder, and depression. PageID 136.

Following initial administrative denials of her application, an administrative hearing was conducted before ALJ Amelia Lombardo on June 29, 2010. PageID 79-116. On September 17, 2010, ALJ Lombardo issued a written decision, concluding that Plaintiff was not " disabled." PageID 51-72. Specifically, the ALJ's " Findings," which represent the rationale of her decision, were as follows:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2013;

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 4, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 CFR § § 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq .);

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine; osteoarthritis of the right hip; chronic left ankle instability with residual effects of the ligament reconstructions; obesity; depression; and alcohol abuse in remission (20 CFR § § 404.1520(c) and 416.920 (c));

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR § § 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926);

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the [ALJ] finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity [" RFC" ] to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR § § 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with

Page 663

the following additional limitations: alternate sitting and standing every 30 minutes, occasional stooping and crouching; occasional overhead reaching bilaterally, unskilled work; and low stress work described as no assembly-line production quotas and not fast paced;

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR § § 404.1565 and 416.965);

7. The claimant was born on April 21, 1956 and was 51 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR § § 404.1563 and 416.963);

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR § § ...


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