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Stover v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 24, 2018

TODD D. STOVER, Plaintiff,

          Kim Jolson Magistrate Judge



         Plaintiff, Todd D. Stover, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. This matter is before the Court on the Commissioner's Objection (ECF No. 14) to the Report and Recommendation issued by the United States Magistrate Judge on February 27, 2018 (ECF No. 12), recommending that the Court reverse the Commissioner's non-disability finding and remand this case to the Commissioner and the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") under Sentence Four of § 405(g). For the reasons set forth below, the Court OVERRULES the Commissioner's Objection, ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, REVERSES the Commissioner's non-disability finding, and REMANDS this case to the Commissioner and the ALJ under Sentence Four of § 405(g) for further consideration consistent with the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and this Opinion and Order.


         Plaintiff filed applications for Title II Social Security Disability Benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Disability Benefits on July 30, 2013, and August 5, 2013, respectively, alleging disability since May 24, 2012. (See ECF No. 8, Tr. 76-105, PAGEID #: 114-43.) Plaintiffs claims were denied initially on November 20, 2013 (id., Tr. 136-142, PAGEID #: 174-80), and upon reconsideration on February 24, 2014 (id., Tr. 147-53, PAGEID #: 185-91). He filed a Request for Hearing on March 20, 2014. (Id., Tr. 158-59, PAGEID #: 196-97.)

         The ALJ held an administrative hearing by videoconference on December 3, 2015. (Id., Tr. 42, PAGEID #: 80.) On April 19, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (Id., Tr. 21, PAGEID #: 59.) Plaintiff requested review of the administrative decision to the Appeals Council (id, Tr. 20, PAGEID #: 58), which denied his request on April 27, 2017, and adopted the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision (id, Tr. 1, PAGEID #: 39).

         Plaintiff filed this case on June 23, 2017 (ECF No. 1), and the Commissioner filed the administrative record on September 8, 2017 (ECF No. 8). Plaintiff filed a Statement of Specific Errors (ECF No. 9), the Commissioner responded (ECF No. 11), and Plaintiff filed a Reply (ECF No. 12). On February 27, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued her Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 13.) The Magistrate Judge accurately described the ALJ's opinion as follows:

The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus with neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, seizures, obesity, mood disorder, anxiety disorder, and attention deficit disorder. (ECF No. 8, Tr. 26, PAGEID #: 64.) The ALJ held, however, that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled a listing. (Id., Tr. 27, PAGEID #: 65.)

         As to Plaintiffs residual functional capacity ("RFC"), the ALJ stated:

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with the following limitations: he can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He can frequently handle and finger bilaterally. He must avoid all exposure to hazards, unprotected heights, and dangerous machinery. He cannot perform jobs that require driving. Mentally, the claimant is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks.

(Id., Tr. 29, PAGEID #: 67) (emphasis added). In reaching this decision, the ALJ stated that the "objective medical evidence of record [was] inconsistent with the claimant's subjective allegations of pain and limitation." (Id., Tr. 30, PAGEID #: 68.)

         In terms of weight given to the physicians, the ALJ assigned "significant weight" to the state agency consultants Dr. Leigh Thomas and Dr. Gerald Klyop, who stated that Plaintiff could perform light work with frequent handling and fingering. The ALJ stated that their opinions were "overall consistent with the record, including the examination findings and reports of improvement." (Id., Tr. 33, PAGEID #: 71.) Some weight was given to Dr. Woodard's opinion that Plaintiffs ability to lift, grasp, and work overhead were limited. (Id.) According to the ALJ, Dr. Woodard's opinion was "vague and did not correlate to specific functional limitations," but nonetheless, his opinion was found by the ALJ not to be inconsistent with the RFC. (Id.) Dr. Parsley's opinion was found to be "vague and [d]id not correlate to specific functional limitations; however, it [was] not entirely inconsistent with the [] RFC and [was] thus given some weight" by the ALJ. (Id., Tr. 33-34, PAGEID #: 71-72.)

         Finally, the ALJ declined to give controlling weight to Dr. Bailes:

Little weight is given to James Ballas [sic], Jr., M.D., who wrote a letter dated October 29, 2014 in which he opined the claimant could perform a job where he was giving advice over the phone as long as he had the ability to take breaks ever hour or two (9F/3). He added the claimant could not perform with regularity or (sic) any physical or manual labor (Id.). He completed a Medical Source Statement in which he opined the claimant could occasionally lift up to 5 pounds, rarely lift up to 10 pounds frequently reach bilaterally, never handle, rarely finger, stand 1-2 hours, walk 1-2 hours, sit 2-4 hours, occasionally bend, squat, crawl, and climb steps, and never climb ladders (Id. at 45). Dr. Ballas' [sic] opinion appears to be based on subjective reports and not objective evidence, which shows relatively normal physical and neurological findings and improvement in functioning. His limitations, particularly ...

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