United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. LITKOVITZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Gina Marie Kirkhart, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying her application for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). This matter
is before the Court on plaintiffs statement of errors (Doc.
6), the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 12),
and plaintiffs reply (Doc. 13).
protectively filed her application for DIB on February 6,
2015, alleging disability since October 14,
2010, due to Stage 3 degenerative disc
disorder, sciatica, glaucoma, arthritis, asthma, depression,
anxiety, hypertension, fibromyalgia, Barrett's esophagus,
and tachycardia. (Tr. 208) The application was denied
initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff, through
counsel, requested and was granted a de novo hearing
before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Peter J.
Boylan. Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE")
appeared and testified at the ALJ hearing on April 17, 2017.
On August 4, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision denying
plaintiffs DIB application. This decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied
review on March 22, 2018.
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). 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] last met the insured status requirements
of the Social Security Act on December 31, 2015.
2. The [plaintiff] did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her alleged onset date of
October 14, 2010 through her date last insured of December
31, 2015 (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the [plaintiff] had the
following severe impairments: major joint dysfunction, spine
disorder, loss of central visual acuity, affective disorder,
and anxiety disorder (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the [plaintiff] did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR
404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
[ALJ] finds that, through the date last insured, the
[plaintiff] had the residual functional capacity
[("RFC")] to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) except as follows: the [plaintiff] could
occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl; however she should never climb ladders,
ropes or scaffolds. The [plaintiff] must avoid concentrated
exposure to vibration, with no use of heavy hand-held or
vibrating equipment. She must avoid concentrated exposure to
workplace hazards, such as dangerous machinery or unprotected
heights. The [plaintiff] is limited to simple, routine tasks.
She should never perform production rate pace work. The
[plaintiff] is limited to simple, work-related decisions. The
[plaintiff] is limited to frequent interactions with
supervisors and occasional interactions with co-workers. She
can have no interaction with the public as part of her job
duties. The [plaintiff] is limited to tolerating occasional
changes in a routine work setting.
6. Through the date last insured, the [plaintiff] was unable
to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR
7. The [plaintiff] was born [in]... 1968 and was 47 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the date last insured (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The [plaintiff] has at least a high school education and
is able to communicate in ...