WALTER S. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM H. BAUGHMAN, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
This is an action by Walter S. Thomas under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Thomas's application for supplemental security income. The Commissioner has answered and filed the transcript of the administrative proceedings. The parties have consented to magistrate judge's jurisdiction. Under my initial and procedural orders,  they have briefed their positions and submitted supplemental charts and a fact sheet. They have also participated in a telephonic oral argument.
For the reasons that follow, I will find that the decision of the Commissioner is not supported by substantial evidence and so the matter must be remanded for further proceedings.
A. Background facts and decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
Thomas, who was born in 1961, has limited education and was incarcerated from the 1980s into the early 2000s,  thus acquiring no past relevant work experience. He presently suffers from various mental impairments and lives with his sister.
The ALJ, whose decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, found that Thomas had severe impairments consisting of generalized anxiety disorder, depressive neurosis, personality disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), major depressive disorder, and panic disorder.
After concluding that Thomas's impairments did not meet or equal a listing,  which included a finding that Thomas's mental impairments did not cause at least two marked restrictions in his activities of daily life or episodes of decompensation,  the ALJ made the following finding regarding Thomas's residual functional capacity:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following limitations: the claimant is restricted to jobs that involve only superficial interpersonal contact with coworkers and the public, and he is limited to simple 1-2 step instructions.
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 Thomas could perform. The ALJ, therefore, found Thomas not under a disability.
B. Issues on judicial review
Thomas 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, Thomas argues that the Commissioner failed to properly weigh and articulate a basis for rejecting the opinions of Thomas's treating psychiatrist, Praveen Abraham, M.D., and consultative psychologist, Thomas Zeck, Ph. D. The Commissioner asserts that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's determination to accord the weight given to these sources, and thus to the RFC itself.
A. Standards of review
1. Substantial evidence
The Sixth Circuit in Buxton v. Halter reemphasized the standard of review applicable to decisions of ...