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Pierce v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

May 31, 2019

DILLON B. PIERCE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          WILLIAM H. BAUGHMAN, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Before me[1] is an action by Dillon B. Pierce under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his applications for childhood disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.[2]Because the ALJ's no disability finding lacks the support of substantial evidence, this matter is reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Issue Presented

         This case presents the following issue for review:

. State agency reviewing sources gave residual functional capacity (“RFC”) opinions that included several limitations. Despite giving these opinions great weight, the ALJ only incorporated a portion of the limitations opined by the state agency reviewing sources. The ALJ does not explain why certain of the opined limitations were omitted from the RFC. Does the RFC decision lack the support of substantial evidence for want of an explanation as to why these limitations were omitted from the RFC?

         Analysis

         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.[3]

         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.[4] The court may not disturb the Commissioner's findings, even if the preponderance of the evidence favors the claimant.[5]

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

         Pierce has a mental impairment, somewhat vaguely characterized by the ALJ as a learning disorder.

         Two state agency reviewing sources opined as to Pierce's RFC. Dr. Denise Rabold, Ph.D., on initial consideration, opined the following limitations:

. Capable of understanding and remembering 2-3 step ...

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