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Randall v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 14, 2018


          Jolson, Magistrate Judge

          OPINION & ORDER


         This matter comes before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff Tammy Michelle Randall's Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 10). The Magistrate Judge recommended that this Court overrule Ms. Randall's Statement of Specific Errors, (ECF No. 7), and affirm the Commissioner of Social Security's decision. Upon independent review by this Court, and for the reasons set forth below, Ms. Randall's Objection is hereby OVERRULED. The Court ACCEPTS and AFFIRMS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Randall applied for Title XVI Supplemental Security Disability Benefits on January 31, 2014 and applied for Title II Social Security Benefits on May 6, 2014. (ECF No. 6 at PageID 51). She asserted that she has been disabled since October 30, 2013 due to hearing loss, hypertension, degenerative disc disease, lumbar spine impairment, cervical spine impairment, and severe back pain. (Id. at PageID 260-63). After initial administrative denials of Ms. Randall's applications, an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on February 27, 2017 at Ms. Randall's request. (Id. at PageID 51). On May 8, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Ms. Ross was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Id. at PageID 48-67).

         In her opinion denying benefits, the ALJ conducted the required five-step sequential analysis for disability benefits claims. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).[1] At step one, the ALJ determined that Ms. Randall has not engaged in substantially gainful activity since August 2013, before her alleged onset date. (ECF No. 6 at PageID 53).

         At step two, the ALJ found that Ms. Randall had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, unspecified arthropathies (hallux valgus deformity, osteoporosis), bipolar disorder, and anxiety. (Id.). The ALJ found that Ms. Randall's substance use disorder and alcohol abuse disorder did not constitute severe impairments. (Id. at PageID 54). Also, the ALJ found no medically determinable evidence sufficient to substantiate impairments from irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel, or migraines. (Id.).

         At step three, the ALJ further found that Ms. Randall's impairments, whether taken alone or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at PageID 55-57).

         At step four, the ALJ found that Ms. Randall has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) and § 416.967(a), except she was limited to: (1) lift and/or carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently; (2) sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday and stand and/or walk two hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) push and/or pull as much as she can lift and/or carry; (4) climb ramps and stairs occasionally and never climb ladder, ropes, or scaffolds; (5) have occasional exposure to vibration; (6) need to change positions a maximum frequency of every thirty minutes; (7) understand, remember, and carryout simple routine and repetitive tasks; (8) use judgment limited to simple work-related decisions; (9) tolerate few changes in a routine work setting defined as performing the same duties at the same duty station or location from day to day; and (10) occasional and superficial contact with supervisors, co-workers and the public. (Id. at PageID 57). The ALJ determined that the RFC indicated Ms. Randall was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Id. at PageID 65).

         At step five, the ALJ found that Ms. Randall can perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (Id. at PageID 65-67). Thus, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Randall was not disabled. (Id. at PageID 67).

         The Appeals Council denied Ms. Randall's request for review of the ALJ's determination on July 5, 2017, rendering the ALJ's benefits-denial decision the Commissioner's final agency action. Ms. Randall then filed suit in federal court, alleging in her Statement of Errors that the ALJ failed to weigh medical opinion evidence properly when determining the RFC and failed to evaluate Ms. Randall's testimony properly. (ECF No. 7). Ms. Randall also argues that the ALJ relied on a flawed hypothetical question to the vocational expert (“VE”) at Ms. Randall's hearing. (Id.). On April 10, 2018, the Magistrate Judge recommended that this Court overrule Ms. Randall's Statement of Errors and affirm the Commissioner's denial of benefits. (ECF No. 10). Ms. Randall timely objected, and the Commissioner filed a response to the objection. (ECF Nos. 11, 12).


         Upon objection to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, this Court must “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b). This de novo review, in turn, requires the Court to “determine whether the record as a whole contains substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision” and to “determine whether the ALJ applied the correct legal criteria.” Inman v. Astrue, 920 F.Supp.2d 861, 863 (S.D. Ohio 2013). Substantial evidence means relevant evidence that “a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Ealy v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 594 F.3d 504, 512 (6th Cir. 2010) (quotation omitted). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla, but only so much as would be required to prevent judgment as a matter of law against the Commissioner if this case were being tried to a jury.” Inman, 920 F.Supp.2d at 863 (citing Foster v. Bowen, 853 F.2d 483, 486 (6th Cir. 1988)); see also Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (substantial evidence is “more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance”) (quotations omitted). If “substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, this Court defers to that finding even if there is substantial evidence in the record that would have supported the opposite conclusion.” Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (quotation omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The ALJ Properly Evaluated the Medical ...

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