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Hall v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 23, 2018

MISTY MARIE HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Black, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEPHANIE K. BOWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Misty Marie Hall filed this Social Security appeal in order to challenge the Defendant's finding that she is not disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Proceeding through counsel, Plaintiff presents two claims of error for this Court's review. As explained below, I conclude that the ALJ's finding of non-disability should be AFFIRMED, because it is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.

         I. Summary of Administrative Record

         In September 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), alleging disability beginning on June 15, 2002, based upon a combination of a back impairment and mental impairments. After her claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested an evidentiary hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).

         On March 10, 2016, Plaintiff appeared with counsel at a hearing conducted via videoconference before ALJ Andrew G. Sloss; a vocational expert also testified. (Tr. 33-48). At 36, Plaintiff was considered a younger individual on the date her application was filed and remained in that age category as of the date of the ALJ's decision. She has a limited tenth grade education and no past relevant work; she takes care of a young son.[1]

         On March 21, 2016, the ALJ issued an adverse written decision, concluding that Plaintiff is not disabled. (Tr. 16-27). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has severe impairments of scoliosis and depression, and a non-severe impairment of an alleged learning disability. (Tr. 18). The ALJ found that none of her impairments, either alone or in combination, met or medically equaled any Listing in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, such that Plaintiff would be entitled to a presumption of disability. (Id.) Instead, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retains the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a restricted range of light work, subject to the following limitations:

[S]he could frequently climb ramps or stairs; and is limited to simple, routine tasks, in work that has only occasional changes in the work setting, and that involves only occasional interaction with the general public, coworkers, and supervisors.

(Tr. 20). Considering Plaintiff's age, education, and RFC, and based on testimony from the vocational expert, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could still perform a “significant number” of jobs in the national economy, including the representative jobs of cleaner, laundry worker, and inspector. (Tr. 27). Therefore, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability. The Appeals Council denied further review, leaving the ALJ's decision as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         In her appeal to this Court, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred: (1) by inconsistently affording both “great weight” and “partial weight” to the same mental RFC opinions; and (2) by failing to adequately account for “moderate” mental limitations in assessing Plaintiff's RFC.

         II. Analysis

         A. Judicial Standard of Review

         To be eligible for benefits, a claimant must be under a “disability.” See 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a). 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 v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 469-70 (1986).

         When a 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 ...


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