United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
KATHLEEN A. HOWARD, Plaintiff,
COMMISISONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
District Judge Walter H. Rice
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.12),
Plaintiff's reply (doc. 13), the administrative record
(doc. 9), and the record as a whole.
A. Procedural History
originally filed an application for DIB asserting disability
as of June 15, 2009. PageID 220-23. Plaintiff alleged
disability as a result of multiple impairments including,
inter alia, cervical and lumbar disc disease,
anxiety and depression. PageID 46.
an initial denial of her application, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Scott R. Canfield on February 1, 2013.
PageID 68-108. ALJ Canfield issued a decision on May 17, 2013
finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 44-57. Specifically,
ALJ Canfield found at Step 5 that, based upon Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
reduced range of light work,  “there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that
[Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 48-56.
the Appeals Council denied review on September 12, 2014.
PageID 33-36. On appeal to this Court, Judge Rice reversed
ALJ Canfield's non-disability finding and remanded the
case to the Commissioner for additional administrative
proceedings. Howard v. Comm'r, No. 3:14-CV-364,
2016 WL 99114, at *1 (S.D. Ohio Jan. 7, 2016).
remand, Plaintiff received a second hearing before ALJ
Elizabeth A. Motta on June 3, 2016. PageID 655-76. ALJ Motta
issue a decision on July 19, 2016 finding Plaintiff not
disabled. Page ID 628-46. Specifically, ALJ Motta found at
Step 5 that, based upon Plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform a reduced range of
medium work,  “there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff]
can perform[.]” PageID 634-46.
the Appeals Council denied review on July 19, 2016, making
the ALJ's non-disability finding the final administrative
decision of the Commissioner. PageID 625-27. 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). The Court now reviews just the
final administrative decision by ALJ Motta (hereinafter
Evidence of Record
evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's
decision (PageID 44-57), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 10), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 12), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 13). 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.
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