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Robinson v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

July 31, 2018





         Before me[1] is an action by Marilyn Marie Robinson under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for disability insurance benefits.[2] The Commissioner has answered[3] and filed the transcript of the administrative record.[4] Under my initial[5] and procedural[6] orders, the parties have briefed their positions[7] and filed supplemental charts[8] and the fact sheet.[9]

         For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed as supported by substantial evidence.


         A. Background facts and decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)

         Robinson, who was 53 years old at the time of the administrative hearing, [10] has a high school education.[11] Her past relevant employment history includes work as an assembler and inspector for manufacturing and logistics businesses.[12]

         The ALJ, whose decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, found that Robinson had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the spine and carpal tunnel syndrome.[13]

         After concluding that the relevant impairments did not meet or equal a listing, the ALJ made the following finding regarding Robinson's residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except: she can frequently climb ramps and stairs. She can never climb ladders, ropes[, ] or scaffolds. She can frequently stoop, kneel[, ] and crouch. She can occasionally crawl.[14]

         Based on that residual functional capacity, the ALJ found Robinson capable of her past relevant work as a general inspector and electronics assembler and, therefore, not under a disability.[15]

         B. Issues on judicial review

         Robinson asks for reversal of the Commissioner's decision on the ground that it does not have the support of substantial evidence in the administrative record. Specifically, Robinson presents the following issues for judicial review:

• Whether the ALJ erred in omitting limitations resulting from Ms. Robinson's severe impairments in the residual functional capacity finding.
• Whether remand is warranted for consideration of new and material evidence.[16]

         For the reasons that follow, I will conclude that the ALJ's finding of no disability is supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, must be affirmed.


         A. Standards of review

         1. Substantial evidence

         The Sixth Circuit in Buxton v. Halter reemphasized the standard of review applicable to decisions of the ALJs in disability cases:

Congress has provided for federal court review of Social Security administrative decisions. However, the scope of review is limited under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g): “The findings of the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . . .” In other words, on review of the Commissioner's decision that claimant is not totally disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, the only issue reviewable by this court is whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is “‘more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
The findings of the Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a different conclusion. This is so because there is a “zone of choice” within which the Commissioner can act, without the fear of court interference.[17]

         Viewed in the context of a jury trial, all that is necessary to affirm is that reasonable minds could reach different conclusions on the evidence. If such is the case, the Commissioner survives “a directed verdict” and wins.[18] The court may not disturb the Commissioner's findings, even if the preponderance of the evidence favors the claimant.[19]

         I will review the findings of the ALJ at issue here consistent with that deferential standard.

         2. Sentence six remand

         Sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) permits a court to order a case remanded for consideration of additional evidence under certain circumstances. The Sixth Circuit has interpreted this statute as creating the following requirements for a remand to consider new evidence: that the evidence be “new”- that is, “not in existence or available to the claimant at the time of the administrative proceeding”; that the evidence be “material, ” which requires showing a “reasonable probability” that the Commissioner would have reached a different disposition of the claim if presented with the new evidence; and that “good cause” exists for not producing the ...

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