United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
REBECCA L. RUSSELL, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
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 PROCEEDINGS CONSISTENT WITH THIS OPINION; AND (3)
THIS CASE BE CLOSED
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 eligible for just a closed period
of Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”),
i.e., February 1, 2013 through October 1, 2014, and
not disabled thereafter. This case is before the Court upon
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 8), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 9),
Plaintiff's reply (doc. 10), the administrative record
(doc. 6),  and the record as a whole.
filed an application for DIB asserting disability as of
February 1, 2013 as a result of a number of impairments
including, inter alia, degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine with residuals from surgery. PageID 264-72.
an initial denial of her application, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ George D. McHugh on June 11, 2015. PageID
68-111. Plaintiff was found disabled under the Social
Security Act beginning February 1, 2013. PageID 30-33, 43-50,
52-53. The ALJ found, however, that Plaintiff's condition
significantly improved thereafter, and she was no longer
disabled as of October 2, 2014. PageID 52-53. As a result,
the ALJ awarded DIB for the closed period of February 1, 2013
through October 1, 2014. PageID 53. Specifically, the ALJ
found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a reduced
range of sedentary work from October 2, 2014 onward,
“there were jobs in that existed in significant numbers
in the national economy that [Plaintiff] could have
performed[.]” PageID 53-60.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's DIB award for the closed period
in question (and non-disability finding as of October 2,
2014) the final administrative decision of the Commissioner.
PageID 30-33. 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.
Evidence of Record
evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's
decision (PageID 43-60), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 8), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 9), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 10). The
undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets forth
the facts relevant to this appeal 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.