United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
MELISSA D. STAGER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ENTRY: (1) AFFIRMING THE ALJ'S
NON-DISABILITY FINDING AS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE;
AND (2) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE DOCKET
Michael J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge
Social Security disability benefits appeal is before the
undersigned for disposition based upon the parties'
consent. Doc. 9. 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 on Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 10), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 11),
Plaintiff's reply (doc. 12), the administrative record
(doc. 7),  and the record as a whole.
filed for DIB and SSI alleging a disability onset date of
January 2, 2011. PageID 272-85. Plaintiff claims disability
as a result of a number of alleged impairments including,
inter alia, retinal detachments and obesity. PageID
an initial denial of her applications, Plaintiff received a
hearing before Deanna L. Sokolski on February 19, 2016.
PageID 86-125. The ALJ issued a decision on April 28, 2016
finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 68-80. Specifically,
the ALJ found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
reduced range of light work, “there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that
[Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 73-80.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making the ALJ'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. 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 68-80), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 10), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 11), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 12). The
undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets forth
the facts relevant to this appeal herein.
A. 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.