United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
H. Rice, District Judge
AND RECOMMENDATION THAT: (1) THE ALJ'S
NON-DISABILITY FINDING BE FOUND UNSUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL
EVIDENCE, AND REVERSED; (2) THIS MATTER BE REMANDED TO THE
COMMISSIONER UNDER THE FOURTH SENTENCE OF 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) FOR AN IMMEDIATE AWARD OF BENEFITS; AND (3) THIS CASE
MICHAEL J. NEWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a Social Security disability benefits appeal. At issue is
whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
erred in finding Plaintiff not “disabled” and
therefore unentitled to Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). This case is before the Court upon
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 8), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 9), the
administrative record (doc. 6),  and the record as a whole.
A. Procedural History
filed an application for SSI on July 25, 2013 (PageID
247-261) alleging disability as a result of a number of
alleged impairments including, inter alia, affective
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and borderline
intellectual functioning. PageID 79.
initial denial of her application, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Benjamin Chaykin on August 18, 2015.
PageID 103-44. The ALJ issued a written decision on September
8, 2015 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 76-95.
Specifically, the ALJ found at Step Five that, based upon
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels, “there are jobs in significant
numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can
perform[.]” PageID 94.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on August 24, 2016, making the ALJ's non-disability
finding the final administrative decision of the
Commissioner. PageID 41-44. 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 76-95), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 8), and the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 9). The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing
and sets forth the facts relevant to this appeal herein.
A. 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
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. § 416.920(a)(4).
Although a dispositive finding at any step ends the ALJ's
review, see Colvin, 475 F.3d at 730, the complete
sequential review poses five questions:
1. Has the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
2. Does the claimant suffer from one or more severe