United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
M. ROSE JUDGE.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 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
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),
Plaintiff's reply (doc. 12), the administrative record
(doc. 8), and the record as a whole.
filed an application for DIB asserting disability as of
October 21, 2013. PageID 252-53. Plaintiff claims disability
as a result of multiple impairments including, inter
alia, status post anterior lumbar fusion with infection
and radiculopathy, lumbar post-laminectomy syndrome, chronic
pain syndrome, obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease. PageID 81.
an initial denial of her application, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Anne Sharrard on June 15, 2015. PageID
102-55. The ALJ issued a decision on September 21, 2015
finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 79-94. Specifically,
the ALJ found at Step 4 that, based upon Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
reduced range of sedentary work,  Plaintiff “is capable
of performing past relevant work as an order clerk.”
the Appeals Council denied review on September 29, 2016,
making the ALJ's non-disability finding the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 61-64.
Plaintiff then filed this timely appeal. Cook v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 480 F.3d 432, 435 (6th Cir.
Evidence of Record
evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's
decision (PageID 79-94), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 10), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 11), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 12). The
undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets forth
the facts relevant to this decision 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
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