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Moller v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

January 5, 2018

PETER H. MOLLER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISISONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Thomas M. Rose District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [1] THAT: (1) THE ALJ'S NON-DISABILITY FINDING BE FOUND SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE AND AFFIRMED; AND (2) THIS CASE BE CLOSED ON THE COURT'S DOCKET

          Michael J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

         This is 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 Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). This case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 10), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 11), the administrative record (doc. 8), and the record as a whole.

         I.

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for DIB asserting disability as of October 25, 2009. PageID 189-91. Plaintiff claims disability as a result of multiple impairments including, inter alia, low back pain, thoracic or lumbosacral neuritis or radiculitis and a seizure disorder. PageID 57, 1435.

         After initial denial of his application, Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ Anne Sharrard on July 9, 2015. PageID 75-114. The ALJ issued a written decision on August 20, 2015 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 55-69. Specifically, the ALJ found at Step 5 that, based upon Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, [2] “there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 58-69.

         Thereafter, the Appeals Council denied review on June 22, 2016, making the ALJ's non-disability finding the final administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 45-48. 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).

         B. Evidence of Record

         The evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's decision (PageID 55-69), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 10), and the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 11). The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets forth the facts relevant to this decision herein.

         II.

         A. Standard of Review

         The 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).

         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.

         The 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.

         B.Disability” Defined

         To be 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) ...


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