United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEPHANIE K. BOWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Brittany Walther filed this Social Security appeal in order
to challenge the Defendant's findings that she is not
disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Proceeding
through counsel, Plaintiff presents four claim of error, both
of which the Defendant disputes. For the reasons explained
below, I conclude that the ALJ's finding of
non-disability should be AFFIRMED, because it is supported by
substantial evidence in the administrative record.
Summary of Administrative Record
March 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (DIB) alleging a disability onset date of
September 30, 1999, due to mental and physical impairments.
(Tr. 155-61). After Plaintiff's claims were denied
initially and upon reconsideration, she requested a hearing
de novo before an Administrative Law Judge.
(“ALJ”). On July 31, 2015, ALJ Gregory Kenyon
held an evidentiary hearing at which Plaintiff appeared with
counsel. The ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff,
Plaintiff's mother and an impartial vocational expert. On
July 31, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision denying
Plaintiff's claim. (Tr. 13-22). Plaintiff now seeks
judicial review of the denial of her application for
was 18 years old on date of her alleged onset date of
disability. (Tr. 20). She graduated from high school
attending special education classes. She has no past relevant
work. (Tr. 23, 190). Plaintiff alleges disability due to
undifferentiated connective tissue disease; Raynaud's
disease; muscle weakness; chronic pain; mild scoliosis;
migraines with aura and hypermobility arthralgia.
upon the record and testimony presented at the hearing, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “Raynaud's syndrome; attention
deficit/hyperactivity disorder; depression; and an anxiety
disorder.” (Tr. 15). The ALJ concluded that none of
Plaintiff's impairments alone or in combination met or
medically equaled a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subp. P, Appendix 1. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff
retains the following residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a full range of work with the
(1) no concentrated exposure to extreme cold; (2) limited to
performing unskilled, simple, repetitive tasks; (3)
occasional contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the
public; (4) no fast-paced production work or jobs involving
strict production quotas; and (5) limited to performing jobs
in a relatively static work environment in which there is
very little, if any, changes in the job duties or work
routine from one day to the next.
(Tr. 17). Based upon the record as a whole including
testimony from the vocational expert, and given
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ concluded that other jobs exist in the national economy
that Plaintiff could perform including such jobs as
industrial cleaner, warehouse worker, and hand packager. (Tr.
21). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not
under disability, as defined in the Social Security
Regulations, and is not entitled to DIB. Id.
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the
Defendant's final determination. On appeal to this Court,
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by: 1) failing to
properly evaluate the opinions of Plaintiff's treating
sources, Drs. Mina and Smith; 2) improperly formulating
Plaintiff's mental RFC; 3) improperly formulating
Plaintiff's physical RFC; and 4) failing to find that
Plaintiff's undifferentiated connective tissue disease
(UCTD) was a severe impairment. Upon close analysis, I
conclude that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed.
Judicial Standard of Review
eligible for SSI or DIB a claimant must be under a
“disability” within the definition of the Social
Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§423(a), (d),
1382c(a). The definition of the term “disability”
is essentially the same for both DIB and SSI. See Bowen
v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 469-70 (1986).
Narrowed to its statutory meaning, a “disability”
includes only physical or mental impairments that are both
“medically determinable” and severe enough to
prevent the applicant from (1) performing his or her past job
and (2) engaging in “substantial gainful
activity” that is available in the regional or national
economies. See Bowen, 476 U.S. at 469-70 (1986).
court is asked to review the Commissioner's denial of
benefits, the court's first inquiry is to determine
whether the ALJ's non-disability finding is supported by
substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial
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)
(additional citation and internal quotation omitted). In
conducting this review, the court should consider the record
as a whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359, 362
(6th Cir. 1978). If substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's denial of benefits, then that finding must be
affirmed, even if substantial evidence also exists in the
record to support a finding of disability. Felisky v.
Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994). As the Sixth
Circuit has explained:
The Secretary's findings are not subject to reversal
merely because substantial evidence exists in the record to
support a different conclusion . . . . The substantial
evidence standard presupposes that there is a ‘zone of
choice' within which the Secretary may proceed without
interference from the courts. If the Secretary's ...