United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Stephanie K. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge.
Larry Shoemaker filed this Social Security appeal in order to
challenge the Defendant's findings that he is not
disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Proceeding
through counsel, Plaintiff presents three claims of error,
all 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
2013, Plaintiff filed applications for Disability Insurance
Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income alleging a
disability onset date of June 15, 2010 due to mental and
physical impairments. (Tr. 213-22). Plaintiff's insured
status for DIB expired on December 31, 2012. (Tr. 224). After
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration, he requested a hearing de novo
before an Administrative Law Judge. (“ALJ”). On
February 4, 2016, ALJ Kathleen Laub held an evidentiary
hearing, by video, at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel.
The ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff and an impartial
vocational expert. On March 25, 2016, the ALJ denied
Plaintiff's applications in a written decision. (Tr.
17-33). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the denial of
his application for benefits.
was born December 15, 1963 and was 46 years old at the time
of the alleged onset date of disability. (Tr. 31). He
testified that he graduated from high school and completed a
few college classes. (Tr. 45-46). Plaintiff alleges
disability primarily due to mental impairments including
memory problems and anxiety. (Tr. 52). He has past relevant
work as a teacher aide, insurance clerk, delivery driver and
vending machine coin collector. (Tr. 68).
upon the record and testimony presented at the hearing, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “unspecified macular degeneration,
bilateral; age-related nuclear cataract, bilateral; other
vitreous opacities, bilateral; dry eyes syndrome of the
bilateral lacrinal glands; chronic giant papillary
conjunctivitis, left eye; asthma, mild right carpal tunnel
syndrome and chronic actinic otitis of both ears.” (Tr.
18). 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 following limitations:
He is limited to occasionally lifting and/or or carrying
twenty pounds with the right dominant upper extremity and
frequently lifting and/or carrying ten pounds with the right
dominant upper extremity. He is limited to frequent use of
the right dominate upper extremity for handling and
fingering; he is limited to occasional use of peripheral
vision and is able to read large print and see large objects
but cannot read small print or drive a motor vehicle. He can
tolerate occasional exposure to pulmonary irritants such as
dust, odors, fumes, gases or poor ventilation; he can
tolerate occasional exposure to hazards such as unprotected
heights and moving mechanical machinery. His mental
impairments limit him to only occasional interaction with the
general public, supervisors and coworkers.
(Tr. 24). 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 although Plaintiff is unable to perform
his past relevant work, Plaintiff could perform other work in
the national economy including such jobs as fastener, machine
operator, cleaner and assembly press operator. (Tr. 32).
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not under
disability, as defined in the Social Security Regulations,
and is not entitled to DIB and/or SSI. 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) improperly
evaluating the evidence at step-two in the sequential
evaluation; (2) improperly evaluating Plaintiff's
credibility; and (3) failing to include all of
plaintiff's impairments in his hypothetical questions to
the vocational expert. Plaintiff has also filed a motion for
a sentence remand due to newly discovered evidence. (Doc.
10). Upon close analysis, I conclude that the ALJ's
decision should be affirmed and Plaintiff's motion for
remand is not well-taken and should be denied.
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 decision
is supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court must
Id. (citations omitted).
considering an application for disability benefits, the
Social Security Agency is guided by the following sequential
benefits analysis: at Step 1, the Commissioner asks if the
claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; at
Step 2, the Commissioner determines if one or more of the
claimant's impairments are “severe;” at Step
3, the Commissioner analyzes whether the claimant's
impairments, singly or in combination, meet or equal a
Listing in the Listing of Impairments; at Step 4, the
Commissioner determines whether or not the claimant can still
perform his or her past relevant work; and finally, at Step
5, if it is established that claimant can no longer perform
his or her past relevant work, the burden of proof shifts to
the agency to determine whether a significant number of other
jobs which the claimant can perform exist in the national
economy. See Combs v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec., 459
F.3d 640, 643 (6th Cir. 2006); 20 C.F.R.
plaintiff bears the ultimate burden to prove by sufficient
evidence that he or she is entitled to disability benefits.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a). Thus, a plaintiff seeking
benefits must present sufficient evidence to show that,
during the relevant time period, he or she suffered an
impairment, or combination of impairments, expected to last
at least twelve months, ...