United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
ERIC W. CASTELLON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. LITKOVITZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Eric W. Castellon 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 his application for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income ("SSI"). This matter
is before the Court on plaintiffs statement of errors (Doc.
12), the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 16),
and plaintiffs reply memorandum (Doc. 19).
filed an application for DIB and SSI in January 2011,
alleging disability since July 1, 2007 due to a combination
of physical and mental impairments, including lumbar and
cervical disc disease, degenerative joint disease of the
right shoulder, seizure disorder, hepatitis C, depression,
anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder
("PTSD"), and substance abuse disorder. The
application was denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff, through counsel, requested and was afforded a
hearing before administrative law judge ("ALJ")
Gregory Kenyon on May 23, 2013. On August 8, 2013, ALJ Kenyon
issued a decision denying plaintiffs
application. Plaintiffs request for review was granted,
and the Appeals Council remanded the case for consideration
of new evidence submitted into the record since ALJ
Kenyon's decision. The Appeals Council remanded the case
with instructions to obtain additional evidence as available
and warranted, to obtain evidence from a medical expert to
clarify the nature and severity of plaintiff s impairments,
to give further consideration to plaintiffs maximum residual
functional capacity level, and to obtain additional input
from a vocational expert. (Tr. 202-05).
remand, additional treatment records were submitted into
evidence. Plaintiff was sent for a consultative medical
examination in March 2015. Plaintiff and a vocational expert
("VE") appeared and testified at a new hearing
before ALJ Kevin J. Detherage on November 15, 2015. However,
the ALJ did not obtain evidence from a medical expert to
clarify the nature and severity of plaintiff s impairments as
ordered by the Appeals Council. ALJ Detherage issued a
written decision denying plaintiffs application on January
21, 2016. Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals
Council was denied, making the decision of ALJ Detherage 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.
Robbers 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.
Rubbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel,
168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).
The Administrative Law Judge's Findings
Detherage 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 September 30, 2012.
2. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 1, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
3. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments:
lumbar and cervical disc disease, degenerative joint disease
of the right shoulder, seizure disorder, hepatitis C,
depression, anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder,
and substance abuse disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and
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
[ALJ] finds that the [plaintiff] had the residual functional
capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) which is unskilled, except that he
can only occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb
ramps and stairs, and can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. The [plaintiff] should avoid exposure to hazards
such as heights or machinery with moving parts, and should
avoid concentrated exposure to dust, fumes, gases, odors, or
poorly ventilated areas. He can frequently reach, including
overhead, with the right upper extremity. The [plaintiff] can
perform no production rate pace work and can tolerate only
occasional changes in a routine work place setting. He should
have no more than occasional contact with coworkers,
supervisors, or the general public and can perform no
commercial driving. The [plaintiff] is likely to be absent
from work one day per month.
6. The [plaintiff] is unable to perform any of his past
relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The [plaintiff] was born ... [in]... 1970 and was 36 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on
the alleged disability onset date. The [plaintiff]
subsequently changed age category to a younger ...