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Greene v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

May 7, 2018

NICOLE L. GREENE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ENTRY: (1) REVERSING THE ALJ'S NON-DISABILITY FINDING AS UNSUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE; (2) REMANDING THIS CASE UNDER THE FOURTH SENTENCE OF 42 U.S.C. § 405(G) FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS; AND (3) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE COURT'S DOCKET

          Michael J. Newman, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This Social Security disability benefits appeal is before the undersigned for disposition based upon the parties' consent. Doc 7. At issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in a May 4, 2016 decision by finding Plaintiff not “disabled” and therefore unentitled to Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and/or Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).[1] This case is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 12), Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 15), Plaintiff's response (doc. 16), the administrative record (doc. 5), [2] and the record as a whole.

         I.

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff originally filed applications for DIB and SSI on November 17, 2009. PageID 441-47. Plaintiff then claimed disability as a result of a number of alleged impairments including, inter alia, a bilateral knee impairment, lumbar degenerative disc disease, a mood disorder, attention deficit disorder, and anxiety. PageID 61.

         After an initial denial of her applications, Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ James I.K. Knapp on July 5, 2013. PageID 152-71. ALJ Knapp issued a decision on July 23, 2013 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 224-34. Specifically, ALJ Knapp found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a reduced range of sedentary work, [3] “there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 230-34. The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review, vacated ALJ Knapp's non-disability finding, and remanded the case for further proceedings. PageID 243-44.

         On remand from the Appeals Council, Plaintiff received hearings before ALJ Elizabeth Motta on July 16, 2015 and again on February 10, 2016. PageID 89-149. ALJ Motta issued a decision on May 4, 2016 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 58-77. Specifically (and like ALJ Knapp before her), ALJ Motta found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's 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 76-77.

         Thereafter, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making ALJ Motta's non-disability finding the final administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 46-48. See Casey v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993). Plaintiff then filed this timely appeal challenging the non-disability determination by ALJ Motta (hereafter, “ALJ”). Cook v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 480 F.3d 432, 435 (6th Cir. 2007).

         B. Evidence of Record

         The evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's decision (PageID 58-77), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 12), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 15), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 16). The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets forth the facts relevant to this appeal herein.

         II.

         A. Standard of Review

         The 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).

         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). 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 ...


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