United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. LITKOVITZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sabrina Thompson, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(Commissioner) denying plaintiffs applications for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income
(SSI). This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs
Statement of Errors (Doc.12), the Commissioner's response
in opposition (Doc. 17), and plaintiffs reply memorandum.
filed her applications for DIB and SSI in June 2011, alleging
disability since May 24, 2011, due to high blood pressure,
knee problems, a torn meniscus, depression, carpal tunnel
syndrome, and back problems. After initial administrative
denials of her claim, plaintiff was afforded a de
novo hearing before administrative law judge (ALJ)
Kristen King on March 21, 2013. On May 3, 2013, the ALJ
issued a decision denying plaintiffs DIB and SSI
3, 2013, plaintiff filed a request for review with the
Appeals Council, which was granted. On November 7, 2014, the
Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's hearing decision and
remanded this case to the ALJ for resolution of further
issues, including reconsideration of plaintiffs maximum
residual functional capacity, evaluation of plaintiff s
treating and non-treating sources, and identification and
resolution of any conflicts between the occupational evidence
provided by the vocational expert and the information in the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).
15, 2015, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing, at which
plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. A
vocational expert (VE) also testified. On November 19, 2015,
the ALJ again found that plaintiff was not disabled. On March
6, 2017, plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals
Council was denied, making the decision of the ALJ the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner.
Legal Framework for Disability Determinations
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must suffer from
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
12 months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (DIB),
l382c(a)(3)(A) (SSI). The impairment must render the claimant
unable to engage in the work previously performed or in any
other substantial gainful employment that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
promulgated by the Commissioner establish a five-step
sequential evaluation process for disability determinations:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment - i.e.,
an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities - the claimant
is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairments) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the
claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.
Rubbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d
647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). The claimant has the
burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential
evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec, 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004). Once the
claimant establishes a prima facie case by showing an
inability to perform the relevant previous employment, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant
can perform other substantial gainful employment and that
such employment exists in the national economy.
Rubbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel,
168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).
The Administrative Law Judge's Findings
applied the sequential evaluation process and made the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. The [plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through September 30, 2016.
2. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since May 24, 2011, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments:
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative joint disease,
degenerative disc disease, obstructive sleep apnea,
osteoarthritis, degenerative changes of the knee, personality
disorder, and depression (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The [plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the [plaintiff] has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except that she is further
limited to never operating foot controls with the lower left
extremity; occasionally balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, crawling or climbing ramps and stairs; never
climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally reaching
overhead with the bilateral upper extremities; frequent
handling, fingering, or feeling with the upper extremities;
avoiding all use of dangerous machinery and all exposure to
unprotected heights; performing simple, routine tasks;
performing goal-oriented work, but no constant production
rate pace work such as an automated assembly line; handling