United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
Daniel A. Steck, Plaintiff
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge.
Daniel A. Steck was denied disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income on October 1, 2013, after a
hearing. (Doc. No. 12 at 24-45). Steck asserts the
Administrative Law Judge erred in his evaluation of
Steck's mental impairments. (Doc. No. 14). The matter was
referred to Magistrate judge James R. Knepp, 11 for a Report
& Recommendation. Magistrate Judge Knepp recommends I
affirm the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits.
(Doc. No. 18). Steck objected, to which the Commissioner
responded. (Doc. Nos. 19 & 20). For the reasons stated
below, I adopt the R & R and overrule Steck's
Magistrate Judge Knepp has succinctly and accurately set
forth the procedural and factual background of this case and
adopt those sections of the R & R in full. (Doc. No. 18
first applied for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income in December 2009, asserting both
physical and mental impairments. (Doc. No. 12 at 126). After
a hearing, ALJ Earl Ashford found that Steck was not disabled
and denied his application, Id. at 126-43. Steck
appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, who granted the
request for review. Id. at 151-53. Among other
things, the Appeals Council noted that Exhibit IE, a school
record upon which the ALJ relied, belonged to Steck's son
nor Steck himself, id. at 151. The Exhibit was
redacted from the record and the matter referred back to the
ALJ for another hearing and a new decision. Id. at
a subsequent hearing, the ALJ denied Steck's application
once again, finding neither his physical nor mental
impairments were severe enough to qualify for Social Security
benefits, id. at 24-45. In the matter before the
court, Steck brings claims only relating to his mental
impairments, specifically whether the ALJ erred in finding he
was not intellectually disabled under Listing 12.05C. (Doc.
No. 14). Magistrate Judge Knepp recommends I affirm the
Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. (Doc. No. 18).
district court must conduct a de novo review of
"any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that
has been properly objected to. The district judge may accept,
reject or modify the recommended disposition, receive further
evidence, or return the matter to the magistrate judge with
instructions." bed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); see also
Norman v. Astrue, 694 F.Supp.2d 738, 740 (N.D. Ohio
district judge "must affirm the Commissioner's
conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has
failed to apply the correct legal standards or has made
findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the
record." Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997); see also 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). "Substantial evidence is defined
as 'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."'
Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir.
2007) (quoting Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 245
F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001)). If the Commissioner's
findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, those
findings are conclusive. McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec, 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006).
claims to qualify for Social Security benefits under Listing
12.05C for intellectual developmental disorder. (Doc. No.
19). 'lb be considered intellectually disabled under
Listing 12.05, the claimant must be diagnostically disabled.
20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app.l (Sept. 6, 2013-Dec. 2,
2013). Only after he is determined to be diagnostic ally
disabled will the specific factors of Listing 12.05C be
considered. Id. A claimant is considered to be
diagnostically intellectually disabled if he has
"significantly subaverage general intellectual
functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning initially
manifested during the developmental period; i.e. the evidence
demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before age
22." Id.; see also Hayes v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec, 357 F.App'x 672, 676-77 (6th Cir. 2009);
Justice v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin.,
515 F.App'x 583, 587 (6th Cir. 2013).
noted in the R &R, there is no dispute that Steck meets
the specific requirements of Listing 12.05C. (Doc. No. 18 at
13). The dispute then is whether Steck is intellectually
disabled pursuant to the diagnostic description. In his
objections, Steck argues that he meets the criterion because
he did not graduate high school, is illiterate, and took
special education classes. (Doc. No. 19). He objects to the
analysis of his education by the ALJ, and the affirmation of
the ALJ's finding by Magistrate judge Knepp. Id.
Steck argues that the Magistrate Judge erred in finding that
he had graduated from high school. The school was destroyed
by a tornado in 2010, and many of the records destroyed with
it. The only record the school was able to provide is a
partial transcript showing his classes through the eleventh
grade. (Doc. No. 12 at 443-44). But as noted in the R &
R, Steck repeatedly represented himself as being a high
school graduate, even stating so in the first hearing. (Doc.
No. 12 at 89, 337- 38, 507-08, 1044, 1089, ...