United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. LIMBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Rayburn Conway (“Plaintiff”) requests judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security Administration (“Defendant”) denying his
application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). ECF Dkt. #1. In his brief on the merits,
filed on October 28, 2016, Plaintiff asks the Court to review
whether the administrative law judge (“ALJ”): (1)
violated the treating physician rule; and (2) erred in the
weight assigned to the opinions of the state agency reviewing
physicians. ECF Dkt. #15 at 13-23. On December 28, 2016,
Defendant filed a response brief. ECF Dkt. #17. Plaintiff
filed a reply brief on January 11, 2017. ECF Dkt. #18.
following reasons, the Court REVERSES the ALJ's decision
and REMANDS Plaintiff's case for: (1) re-evaluation of
the treating physician's opinion in compliance with the
treating physician rule; and (2) sufficient explanation
regarding the weight assigned to the opinions submitted by
the state agency reviewing physicians.
filed his application for DIB in January 2014. ECF Dkt. #11
(“Tr.”) at 174. In the application, Plaintiff
alleged disability beginning on September 17, 2012.
Id. This claim was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Id. at 70-115. Following the
denial, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ, which
was held on September 29, 2015. Id. at 32. On
November 17, 2015, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application
for DIB. Id. at 10. Subsequently, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the
ALJ's decision. Id. at 1. Accordingly, the
decision issued by the ALJ on November 17, 2015, stands as
the final decision.
6, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of
the ALJ's decision. ECF Dkt. #1. Plaintiff filed a brief
on the merits on October 28, 2016. ECF Dkt. #15. Defendant
filed a response brief on December 28, 2016. ECF Dkt. #17. On
January 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a reply brief. ECF Dkt.
SUMMARY OF RELEVANT PORTIONS OF THE ALJ'S
decision issued on November 17, 2015, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through March 31, 2015. Tr. at 16. Continuing,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date.
Id. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following
severe impairments: degenerative disc disease; an anxiety
disorder; and an affective disorder. Id. Next, the
ALJ determined that, since the alleged disability onset date,
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1. Id. at 17.
considering the record, the ALJ found that since the alleged
onset date Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with the following additional
limitations: occasionally climbing ladders, ropes, and
scaffolds; occasionally stooping, kneeling, and crouching;
never crawling; no work involving overhead reaching with
either upper extremity or reaching in any direction with the
right upper extremity; must avoid even moderate exposure to
hazards (defined as industrial machinery, unprotected
heights, or commercial driving); and the capacity to adapt to
a work setting in which the duties were routine and
predictable, and in which he could use a cane to ambulate.
Id. at 17-18.
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had been unable to perform
past relevant work since the alleged onset date. Tr. at 23.
Continuing, the ALJ indicated that prior to the established
disability onset date, Plaintiff was an individual closely
approaching advanced age, and that his age category changed
to an individual of advanced age on January 31, 2015.
Id. The ALJ then stated that Plaintiff had at least
a high school education and was able to communicate in
English. Id. According to the ALJ, prior to January
31, 2015, the transferability of job skills was not material
to the determination of disability because the
Medical-Vocational Rules supported a finding that Plaintiff
was not disabled whether he had transferable job skills.
Id. The ALJ then indicated that since January 31,
2015, Plaintiff had not been able to transfer job skills to
other occupations. Id. After making these findings,
the ALJ stated that prior to January 31, 2015, there were
jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national
economy that Plaintiff could have performed. Id. The
ALJ then indicated that beginning on January 31, 2015, the
date Plaintiff's age category changed, and considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
there were no jobs that existed in significant numbers in the
national economy that he could perform. Id. at 24.
Based on these reasons, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not disabled prior to January 31, 2015, but became disabled
on that date and continued to be disabled through the date of
the decision. Id.
STEPS TO EVALUATE ENTITLEMENT TO SOCIAL SECURITY
must proceed through the required sequential steps for
evaluating entitlement to social security benefits. These
1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial
gainful activity will not be found to be
“disabled” regardless of medical findings (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b) (1992));
2. An individual who does not have a “severe
impairment” will not be found to be
“disabled” (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c)
and 416.920(c) (1992));
3. If an individual is not working and is suffering from a
severe impairment which meets the duration requirement, see
20 C.F.R. § 404.1509 and 416.909 (1992), and which meets
or is equivalent to a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1, a finding of disabled will be made without
consideration of ...