United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
JASON P. BALLIS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
Y. Pearson United States District Judge.
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied Plaintiff
Jason Ballis's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) after a hearing. That decision became the
final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security
when the Appeals Council denied the request to review the
ALJ's decision. Plaintiff sought judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision, and the Court referred the case
to Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert for preparation of a
Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636
and Local Rule 72.2(b)(1). After both parties filed briefs,
the magistrate judge submitted a report (ECF No. 18)
recommending that the decision of the Commissioner be
affirmed. Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report and
Recommendation. ECF No. 19. Defendant filed a
Response. ECF No. 20. For the reasons that follow,
the Court overrules Plaintiff's Objections and adopts the
magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation.
magistrate judge submits a Report and Recommendation, the
Court is required to conduct a de novo review of the
portions of the Report and Recommendation to which an
appropriate objection has been made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).
Objections must be specific, not general, in order to focus
the court's attention upon contentious issues. Howard
v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505,
509 (6th Cir. 1991). The primary issue then becomes whether
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
decision. The Court's review of the Commissioner's
decision is limited to determining whether substantial
evidence, viewing the record as a whole, supports the
findings of the ALJ. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d
359, 362 (6th Cir. 1978); Bartyzel v. Commr of Soc.
Sec., 74 Fed.Appx. 515, 522-23 (6th Cir. 2003).
Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla of
evidence, but less than a preponderance. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Substantial evidence
is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)); Besaw v. Sec'y
of Health and Human Servs., 966 F.2d 1028, 1030 (6th
Cir. 1992) (per curiam).
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
decision, a reviewing court must affirm the decision even if
it would decide the matter differently. Cutlip v.
Secretary of Health and Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286
(6th Cir. 1994) (citing Kinsella v. Schweiker, 708
F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir. 1983) (per curiam)). Moreover, the
decision must be affirmed even if substantial evidence would
also support the opposite conclusion. Mullen v.
Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (en banc). This
“standard allows considerable latitude to
administrative decision makers. It presupposes that there is
a zone of choice within which the decision[-]makers can
decide either way, without interference by the courts. An
administrative decision is not subject to reversal merely
because substantial evidence would have supported an opposite
decision.” Id.(quoting Baker v.
Heckler, 730 F.2d 1147, 1150 (8th Cir. 1984)). In
determining, however, whether substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's findings in the instant matter, the court must
examine the record as a whole and take into account what
fairly detracts from its weight. Wyatt v. Sec'y of
Health and Human Servs., 974 F.2d 680, 683 (6th Cir.
1992). The court must also consider whether the Commissioner
employed the proper legal standards. Queen City Home
Health Care Co. v. Sullivan, 978 F.2d 236, 243 (6th Cir.
establish disability under the Social Security Act, a
claimant must show that he is unable to engage in substantial
activity due to the existence of “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
twelve months.” See 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The claimant's impairment
must prevent him from doing his previous work, as well as any
other work existing in significant numbers in the national
economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
order for the Commissioner to find that a claimant suffers
from a disability for which he should receive benefits, the
claimant must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful
activity due to the existence of a “medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which 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); Colvin v.
Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007).
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1381, disabled individuals
who meet certain income and resources requirements are
entitled to SSI benefits. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.1100 and
raises two objections to the magistrate judge's Report.
First, Plaintiff objects to the magistrate judge's
finding that Plaintiff has not shown evidence to support the
conclusion that he meets all the criteria of Listing 1.04A.
See ECF Nos. 19 at PageID#: 943-45; 18
at PageID#: 938-39. Second, Plaintiff objects to the
magistrate judge's recommendation that the Court find
that the ALJ did not err by not explicitly stating the level
of weight assigned to the opinions of Plaintiff's
treating physician, Dr. Neely. See ECF Nos. 19
at PageID#: 941-42; 18 at PageID#: 936 n.3.
Defendant opposes the objections on grounds that Plaintiff
has failed to raise any issues in his objections that were
not adequately addressed by the Commissioner's decision
that is supported by substantial evidence in the record.
ECF No. 20. The Court reviews Plaintiff's
objections de novo.
magistrate judge recommends that the Court find that, the
ALJ's determination that Plaintiff's “back
impairment did not meet or medically equal the requirements
of Listing 1.04A” is supported by substantial evidence
because “Plaintiff failed to cite evidence supporting
the conclusion that he meets all the criteria of Listing
1.04A, namely, evidence showing atrophy with associated
muscle weakness or muscle weakness that is supported by
circumferential measurements.” ECF No. 18 at
PageID#: 937-39. The magistrate judge also found that,
the ALJ, in determining whether Plaintiff met the
requirements of Listing 1.04A, “was not required to
explicitly spell out every consideration that went into his
determination regarding the applicability of Listing
1.04A.” Id. at PageID#: 938-39.
raises two arguments in his first objection to the magistrate
judge's recommendation. For purposes of efficiency, the
Court addresses Plaintiff's latter argument first.
Plaintiff's First Argument
contends that because the ALJ's discussion of Listing
1.04A-at Step Three of the five-step sequential analysis-was
brief, it was not supported by substantial evidence in the