United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
BRIAN L. HORST, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER 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
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 Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). This case is before the Court on
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 7), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 8),
Plaintiff's reply (doc. 9), the administrative record
(doc. 5),  and the record as a whole.
filed an application for SSI on October 29, 2013 alleging
disability as a result of a number of impairments including,
inter alia, bipolar disorder and a personality
disorder. PageID 58-60, 236-41.
an initial denial of his application, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Henry Kramzyk on June 16, 2015. PageID
78-114. The ALJ issued a decision on November 23, 2015
finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 56-70. Specifically,
the ALJ found at Step Four that, based upon Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
full range of work at all exertional levels subject to
specific non-exertional limitations, he “was capable of
performing past relevant work as a hand packager.”
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's non-disability finding the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 44-46.
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).
Evidence of Record
evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's
decision (PageID 56-70), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 7), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 8), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 9). 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.
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. § 416.920(a)(4).
Although a dispositive finding at any step ends the ALJ's
review, see Colvin, 475 ...