United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
WILLIAM V. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
AND ENTRY: (1) REVERSING THE ALJ'S NON-DISABILITY FINDING
AS UNSUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE; (2) REMANDING THIS
CASE TO THE COMMISSIONER UNDER THE FOURTH SENTENCE OF 42
U.S.C. § 405(G) FOR PROCEEDINGS CONSISTENT WITH THIS
OPINION; AND (3) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE COURT'S
Michael J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge
Social Security disability benefits appeal is before the
undersigned for disposition based upon the parties' full
consent. Doc. 7. At issue is whether the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) erred in finding Plaintiff not
“disabled” and therefore unentitled to Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). This case is
before the Court upon Plaintiffs Statement of Errors (doc.
8), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 9),
Plaintiffs reply (doc. 10), the administrative record (doc.
6), and the record as a whole.
filed an application DIB asserting disability as of August
16, 2013 as a result of a number of impairments including,
inter alia, lumbar stenosis, cervical fusion
residuals, and exogenous obesity. PageID 60.
initial denials of his applications, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ James Knapp on May 16, 2014. PageID 72-91.
The ALJ issued a written decision on July 17, 2014 finding
Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 57-68. Specifically, the ALJ
found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work,  “there are jobs in that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff]
can perform[.]” PageID 61.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's non-disability finding the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 45.
See Casey v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993). Plaintiff then filed
this timely appeal. Cook v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
480 F.3d 432, 435 (6th Cir. 2007).
Evidence of Record
decision, the ALJ set forth a detailed recitation of the
underlying medical evidence in this case. PageID 57-68.
Plaintiff, in his Statement of Errors, also summarizes the
evidence of record. Doc. 8 at PageID 463-67. The
Commissioner, in response to Plaintiff's Statement of
Errors, defers to the ALJ's recitation of the evidence
and presents no objection to Plaintiff's summary. Doc. 9
at PageID 481. Except as otherwise noted herein, the
undersigned incorporates the summary of evidence as set forth
by the ALJ and Plaintiff.
Standard of Review
Court's inquiry on a Social Security appeal is to
determine whether (1) the ALJ's non-disability finding is
supported by substantial evidence, and (2) the ALJ employed
the correct legal criteria. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742,
745-46 (6th Cir. 2007). In performing this review, the Court
must consider the record as a whole. Hephner v.
Mathews, 574 F.2d 359, 362 (6th Cir. 1978).
court must perform the first judicial inquiry with the
understanding that “substantial evidence” is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
When substantial evidence supports the ALJ's denial of
benefits, that finding must be affirmed, even if substantial
evidence also exists in the record upon which the ALJ could
have found Plaintiff disabled. Buxton v. Halter, 246
F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001). Thus, the ALJ has a
“‘zone of choice' within which he [or she]
can act without the fear of court interference.”
Id. at 773.
second judicial inquiry -- reviewing the correctness of the
ALJ's legal analysis --may result in reversal even if the
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in
the record. Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582
F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. 2009). “[A] decision of the
Commissioner will not be upheld where the [Social Security
Administration] fails to follow its own regulations and where
that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives
the claimant of a substantial right.” Bowen,
478 F.3d at 746.
eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must be under a
“disability” as defined by the Social Security
Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). Narrowed to its statutory
meaning, a “disability” includes physical and/or
mental impairments that are both “medically
determinable” and severe enough to prevent a claimant
from (1) performing his or her past job, and (2) engaging in
“substantial gainful activity” that is available
in the regional or national economies. Id.
regulations require a five-step sequential evaluation for
disability determinations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
Although a dispositive finding at any step ends the ALJ's
review, seeColvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d