United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
MELISSA A. STEWART, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Defendant.
DECISION AND ENTRY: (1) AFFIRMING THE ALJ'S
NON-DISABILITY FINDING AS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE;
AND (2) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE DOCKET
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. 6. 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 on Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 9), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 10), the
administrative record (doc. 4),  and the record as a whole.
filed for DIB and SSI alleging a disability onset date of
August 21, 2010. PageID 294-303. Plaintiff claims disability
as a result of a number of alleged impairments including,
inter alia, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (“COPD”), a trial fibrillation,
obesity, bipolar disorder, and panic disorder with
agoraphobia. PageID 38.
an initial denial of her applications, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Mark Hockensmith on July 23, 2015. PageID
57-126. The ALJ issued a written decision on August 11, 2015
finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 35-51. Specifically,
the ALJ found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
reduced range of sedentary work,  “there are jobs in
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that [Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 40-51.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's non-disability finding the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 25-29.
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
evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's
decision (PageID 37-51), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 9) and the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 10). The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing
and sets forth the facts relevant to this appeal herein.
Standard of Review
Court's inquiry on a Social Security appeal is to
determine (1) whether the ALJ's non-disability finding is
supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether 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).
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