United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
SHERRY L. HOTAIN, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
M. Rose District Judge
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”) and/or Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). This case is before the Court upon
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 11), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 11), the
administrative record (doc. 7),  and the record as a whole.
filed for DIB and SSI alleging a disability onset date of
October 7, 2013. PageID 269-75. Plaintiff claims disability
as a result of a number of alleged impairments including,
inter alia, degenerative disc disease, affective
disorder, anxiety, fibromyalgia, bilateral cubital tunnel
syndrome, right carpal tunnel syndrome, and recurrent
arrhythmia. PageID 71.
an initial denial of her applications, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Benjamin Chaykin on February 23, 2016.
PageID 96-133. The ALJ issued a decision on March 22, 2016
finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 69-85. Specifically,
the ALJ found at Step 5 that, based upon Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
reduced range of sedentary work,  “there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
[Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 75-84.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ's non-disability finding the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 48-50.
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 69-85), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 11), and the Commissioner's memorandum in
opposition (doc. 12). The undersigned incorporates all of the
foregoing and sets forth the facts relevant to this appeal
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. § 404.1520(a)(4).
Although a dispositive finding at any step ends the ALJ's
review, see Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730