United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
Christopher A. Boyko Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. Knepp II United States Magistrate Judge.
Marla Ann Stamper (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint
against the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) seeking judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision to deny disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). (Doc. 1). The district court
has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1383(c) and
405(g). This matter has been referred to the undersigned for
preparation of a report and recommendation pursuant to Local
Rule 72.2. (Non-document entry dated March 27, 2018).
Following review, and for the reasons stated below, the
undersigned recommends the decision of the Commissioner be
filed for DIB in July 2014, alleging a disability onset date
of January 17, 2014. (Tr. 196-97). Her claims were denied
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 108, 119). Plaintiff
then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 126). Plaintiff (represented by
counsel), and a vocational expert (“VE”)
testified at a hearing before the ALJ on March 14, 2017. (Tr.
35-78). On June 26, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff not
disabled in a written decision. (Tr. 13-28). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the
hearing decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr.
1-7); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.955, 404.981.
Plaintiff timely filed the instant action on March 27, 2018.
Background and Testimony
1970, Plaintiff was 43 years old on her alleged onset date.
See Tr. 27, 196. In a disability report, she alleged
disability due to depression, stress, anxiety, and migraines.
(Tr. 235). She stated she stopped working due to her
conditions in January 2014. Id.
testified to migraine headaches four to five times per month,
as well as daily headaches. (Tr. 48-49). She also testified
daily life was “a struggle” and some days she did
not want to get out of bed. (Tr. 49). She avoided crowded
places due to anxiety. (Tr. 49-50). She testified to racing
thoughts, irritability, and constant worrying. (Tr. 50-51).
Plaintiff had tried a “simple data entry” job but
stated she could not do it due to nervousness and stress.
(Tr. 54-55). ]
November 2014, State agency psychologist Michael E.
Cremerius, Ph.D., reviewed Plaintiff's records and
offered an opinion. (Tr. 85-88). He stated Plaintiff had mild
restrictions in activities of daily living and maintaining
social functioning; she had moderate difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 85). He
opined Plaintiff “[w]ould be capable of performing
simple, routine tasks in a job with no strict production
quotas or fast paced expectations” and should be
limited to “[s]uperficial contact with the
public.” (Tr. 88). He found Plaintiff was “not
significantly limited” in her ability to accept
instructions and criticism from supervisors, or get along
with coworkers. Id.
April 2015, State agency psychologist Cindy Matyi, Ph.D.,
reviewed Plaintiff's records and offered an opinion. (Tr.
99-103). She stated Plaintiff had mild restriction of
activities of daily living, and moderate difficulties in
social functioning and concentration, persistence, or pace.
(Tr. 99). She opined Plaintiff was “able to comprehend
and remember simple (1-2 step) and occasional complex (3-4
step) instructions.” (Tr. 101). Dr. Matyi opined
Plaintiff's concentration and pace were
“variable” and that “[s]he would need some
flexibility in terms of time limits and production
standards.” (Tr. 102). She thought Plaintiff could
“relate adequately on a superficial basis in an
environment that entails infrequent public contact, minimal
interaction with coworkers, and no over-the-shoulder
supervisor scrutiny.” (Tr. 102). Finally, she opined
that workplace “[c]hanges should be well-explained and
introduced slowly.” (Tr. 103).
hearing, the VE testified that an individual of
Plaintiff's age, education, experience and RFC could
perform work as a linen room attendant, janitor, or
housekeeper. (Tr. 73-74). The VE testimony is addressed in
more significant detail below with respect to Plaintiff's
written decision dated June 26, 2017, the ALJ found Plaintiff
met the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through March 31, 2020 and had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since her alleged onset date of January 17,
2014. (Tr. 15). The ALJ then concluded Plaintiff had severe
impairments of major depressive disorder, anxiety, and
chronic headaches, but that these impairments - singly or in
combination - did not meet or medically equal a listed
impairment. (Tr. 15-16). The ALJ found Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”):
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: able to
complete simple routine tasks, have no interaction with the
public, occasional interaction with coworkers and
supervisors, and would need low stress such that there would
be occasional changes made and occasional decision making
required; would be absent from work one day per month.
(Tr. 19). Based on this RFC, the ALJ found Plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work, but - based on the
testimony of the vocational expert - Plaintiff could perform
other jobs in the national economy such as linen room
attendant, janitor, and motel/hotel housekeeper. (Tr. 26-28).
Therefore, the ALJ concluded Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr.
reviewing the denial of Social Security benefits, the Court
“must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent
a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the
correct legal standards or has made findings of fact
unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.”
Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525,
528 (6th Cir. 1997). “Substantial evidence is more than
a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance and is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Besaw v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 966 F.2d 1028,
1030 (6th Cir. 1992). The Commissioner's findings
“as to any fact if supported by substantial evidence
shall be conclusive.” McClanahan v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing 42
U.S.C. § 405(g)). Even if substantial evidence or indeed
a preponderance of the evidence supports a claimant's
position, the court cannot overturn “so long as
substantial evidence also supports the conclusion reached by
the ALJ.” Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
336 F.3d 469, 477 (6th Cir. 2003).
for benefits is predicated on the existence of a disability.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a), 1382(a).
“Disability” is defined as the “inability
to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a);
see also 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The
Commissioner follows a five-step evaluation process-found at
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520-to determine if a claimant is
1. Was claimant engaged in a substantial gainful activity?
2. Did claimant have a medically determinable impairment, or
a combination of impairments, that is “severe, ”
which is defined as one which substantially limits an