United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
JUDY M. MOSLEY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. LITKOVITZ, M. J.
Judy M. Mosley brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(Commissioner) denying plaintiffs applications for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income
(SSI). This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs
Statement of Errors (Doc. 8), the Commissioner's response
in opposition (Doc. 11), and plaintiffs reply (Doc. 12).
filed her application for DIB in January 2013 and her
application for SSI in February 2015 alleging disability
since September 2, 2012, due to depression, anxiety,
degenerative disc disease in the neck and lower back, and
cognitive issues from prior strokes and an aneurism. After
initial administrative denials of her claim, plaintiff was
afforded a de novo hearing before administrative law
judge (ALJ) Deanna L. Sokolski on July 20, 2015. On November
27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiffs DIB
and SSI applications. Plaintiffs request for review by the
Appeals Council was denied, making the decision of the ALJ
the final administrative decision of the Commissioner.
Legal Framework for Disability Determinations
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must suffer from
a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (DIB),
1382c(a)(3)(A) (SSI). The impairment must render the claimant
unable to engage in the work previously performed or in any
other substantial gainful employment that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
promulgated by the Commissioner establish a five-step
sequential evaluation process for disability determinations:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment - i.e.,
an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities - the claimant
is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the
claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.
Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d
647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i) -(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). The claimant has
the burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential
evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec, 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004). Once the
claimant establishes a prima facie case by showing an
inability to perform the relevant previous employment, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant
can perform other substantial gainful employment and that
such employment exists in the national economy.
Rabbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel,
168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).
The Administrative Law Judge's Findings
applied the sequential evaluation process and made the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. The [plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since September 9, 2012, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).
3. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease and (sic) the cervical and lumbar
spines, right leg claudication, migraines, moyamoya disease,
history of cerebral vascular accidents, depression and mood
disorder, anxiety disorder, and cognitive disorder (20 CFR
404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
4. The [plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the [plaintiff] has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the [plaintiff] can
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. The [plaintiff] is
able to frequently climb ramps and stairs, and occasionally
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crouch (sic). She is able to
frequently push and pull, and frequently finger with the left
nondominant upper extremity. The [plaintiff] can frequently
push and pull with (sic) the operate foot controls with the
bilateral lower extremities. She must avoid all exposure to
workplace hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous
moving machinery, and must avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme temperatures. The [plaintiff) can perform simple
routine repetitive tasks performed in a work environment free
of fast paced production requirements, and involving only
simple work-related decisions with few, if any, workplace
changes, and superficial interaction with supervisors,
coworkers, and the public as part of the job duties.
6. The [plaintiff] is unable to perform past relevant work
(20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The [plaintiff] was born [in] ... 1963 and was 49 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date. The [plaintiff]
subsequently changed age category to closely approaching
advanced age (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).
8. The [plaintiff] has at least a high school education and
is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational rules as a framework supports a finding
that the [plaintiff] is "not disabled" whether or
not the [plaintiff] has transferable job skills (See SSR
82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404 Subpart P. Appendix 2).
10. Considering the [plaintiff]'s age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the [plaintiff] can perform (20 CFR 404.1569,
404.1569(a), 416969 and 416.969(a)).
11. The [plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, from September 9, 2012,
through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and
Judicial Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's determination is limited in
scope by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and involves a twofold
inquiry: (1) whether the findings of the ALJ are supported by
substantial evidence, and (2) whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards. See Blakley v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec, 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009);
see also Bowen v. Comm > of Soc. Sec.,
478 F.3d 742, 745-46 (6th Cir. 2007).
Commissioner's findings must stand if they are supported
by "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(citing Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305
U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence consists of
"more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance-----" Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec, 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). In deciding
whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence, the Court considers the record as a
whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359 (6th Cir.
Court must also determine whether the ALJ applied the correct
legal standards in the disability determination. Even if
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that
the plaintiff is not disabled, "a decision of the
Commissioner will not be upheld where the SSA fails to follow
its own regulations and where that error prejudices a
claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a
substantial right." Rubbers, 582 F.3d at 651
(quoting Bowen, 478 F.3d at 746). See also
Wilson, 378 F.3d at 545-46 (reversal required even
though ALJ's decision was otherwise supported by
substantial evidence where ALJ failed to give good reasons
for not giving weight to treating physician's opinion,
thereby violating the agency's own regulations).