United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
MELISSA K. SHAW, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Litkovitz, United States Magistrate Judge
Melissa K. Shaw brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying plaintiffs applications
for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income ("SSI"). This matter
is before the Court on plaintiffs Statement of Errors (Doc.
6), the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 7),
and plaintiffs reply (Doc. 8).
filed applications for DIB in May 2013 and SSI in July 2013,
alleging disability since December 4, 2012 due to lumbar
compressive neuropathy and Sjogren's
Syndrome.Plaintiffs applications were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff, through
counsel, requested and was granted a de novo hearing
before ALJ Peter Jamison. Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(VE) appeared and testified at the ALJ hearing. On September
11, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiffs DIB
and SSI applications. (Tr. 13-26). Plaintiffs request for
review by the Appeals Council was denied, making the decision
of the ALJ the final administrative decision of the
Legal Framework for Disability Determinations
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must suffer from
a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (DIB),
l382c(a)(3)(A) (SSI). The impairment must render the claimant
unable to engage in the work previously performed or in any
other substantial gainful employment that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
promulgated by the Commissioner establish a five-step
sequential evaluation process for disability determinations:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment - i.e.,
an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities - the claimant
is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairments) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the
claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.
Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d 647, 652
(6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). The claimant has the
burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential
evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec, 378 F, 3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004). Once the
claimant establishes a prima facie case by showing an
inability to perform the relevant previous employment, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant
can perform other substantial gainful employment and that
such employment exists in the national economy.
Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel,
168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).
The Administrative Law Judge's Findings
applied the sequential evaluation process and made the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. The [plaintiff met] the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 5, 2012, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.)
3. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments:
fibromyalgia; Sjogren's Syndrome; mild to moderate
osteoarthritis of bilateral hands and lumbar spine;
autoimmune disorder, unspecified; dermatitis; affective
disorders; and somatoform disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
4. The [plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
[ALJ] finds that the [plaintiff] has the residual functional
capacity to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(c) and 416.967(c). She can lift and carry
occasionally up to 50 pounds; she can lift and carry
frequently up to 25 pounds. She can stand 6 hours in an
8-hour workday, walk 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit 6
hours in an 8-hour workday. She can climb ramps and stairs
frequently; climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds occasionally;
she can balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl frequently.
She is limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks, but
not at a production-rate pace. She is limited to simple
work-related decisions; she can have no more than superficial
interaction with co-workers and supervisors, and only
occasional interaction with the public. She can have no more
than ordinary and routine changes in the work setting and
6. The [plaintiff] is unable to perform any past relevant
work (20 CFR 404.1565 and416.965).
7. The [plaintiff] was born [in] ... 1960 and was 52 years
old, which is defined as an individual of advanced age, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The [plaintiff] has at least a high school education and
is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the [plaintiff] is "not disabled, " whether or
not the [plaintiff] has transferable job skills (See SSR
82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the [plaintiff]'s age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the [plaintiff] can perform (20 CFR 404.1569,
404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The [plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, from December 5, 2012,
through the date of [the ALJ's] decision (20 CFR
404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
Judicial Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and involves a twofold
inquiry: (1) whether the findings of the ALJ are supported by
substantial evidence, and (2) whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards. See Blakley v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec, 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009); see
also Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 478 F.3d
742, 745-46 (6th Cir. 2007).
Commissioner's findings must stand if they are supported
by "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(citing Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305
U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence consists of
"more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance" Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec, 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). In deciding
whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence, the Court considers the record as a
whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359 (6th Cir.
Court must also determine whether the ALJ applied the correct
legal standards in the disability determination. Even if
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that
the plaintiff is not disabled, "a decision of the
Commissioner will not be upheld where the SSA fails to follow
its own regulations and where that error prejudices a
claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a
substantial right." Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 651
(quoting Bowen, 478 F.3d at 746). See also
Wilson, 378 F.3d at 545-46 (reversal required even
though ALJ's decision was otherwise supported by
substantial evidence where ALJ failed to give good reasons
for not giving weight to treating physician's opinion,
thereby violating the agency's own regulations).
appeal, plaintiff alleges the following assignments of error:
(1) the ALJ erred in evaluating plaintiffs fibromyalgia and
the functional limitations imposed by her fibromyalgia; (2)
the ALJ erred in weighing the medical source opinions, and
specifically by giving the most weight to the opinion of the
state agency reviewing physician, who did not have a complete
record before her, and the least weight to the partial
assessment completed by plaintiffs treating rheumatologist;
(3) the ALJ erred in assessing plaintiffs credibility in
light of the objective medical evidence, plaintiffs
self-reports of her symptoms, limitations and medication
side- effects, and plaintiffs work history; and (4) the ALJ
erred by relying on vocational expert testimony that did not
take into account functional hand limitations imposed by
plaintiffs arthritis and mental limitations assessed by the
consultative examining psychologist. (Doc. 6).
The ALJ's evaluation of ...