United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
JOHN J. COMER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Vascura Magistrate Judge
ALGENON L. MARBLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the Magistrate Judge's
December 14, 2018, Report and Recommendation
(ECF No. 20), which recommended that Plaintiff's
Statement of Errors (ECF No. 14) be
OVERRULED and that the Commissioner's
decision be AFFIRMED. This Court hereby
ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation in its
entirety based on an independent consideration of the
John J. Comer, filed applications for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) on October 15, 2014, alleging an onset
date of his disability as July 18, 2013. (R. at 66).
Plaintiff's claims were denied on March 15, 2015, and
subsequently denied upon reconsideration on May 22, 2015. (R.
at 66). On June 15, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a request for a
hearing. (R. at 66). Plaintiff, represented by counsel,
appeared and testified before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ)” at his hearing on February 22, 2017. (R.
at 66). Additionally, a vocational expert (“VE”)
appeared and testified at the hearing. (R. at 66).
found that, from the date of July 18, 2013 to the date of the
ALJ's decision issued on May 17, 2017, Plaintiff was not
“disabled” under the term's meaning in the
Social Security Act. (R. at 67). In his decision denying
Plaintiff benefits, the ALJ followed the required five-step
sequential analysis for disability-benefits claims. (R. at
67-69). See C.F.R. § 416.920(a). At step one, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since July 18, 2013. (R. at 70). The ALJ
noted that Plaintiff worked for brief periods of time, but
was either terminated or quit. (R. at 70). At the second
step, the ALJ found, as had a prior ALJ, that Plaintiff was
severely impaired by lumbar and cervical disc disease and
obesity. (R. at 70). The ALJ also found that Plaintiff was no
longer severely impaired by carpal tunnel syndrome based on
new and material evidence. (R. at 70). Finally, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had additional severe impairments including
“bilateral lateral epicondylitis, degenerative disc
disease of the thoracic spine, and sacroiliitis.” (R.
at 70). At the third step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met
or exceeded a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. at 73). At the fourth step, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
to perform certain sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a). (R. at 74-79). At
the fifth and final step, the ALJ found that there was
“other work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy” that Plaintiff was capable of
performing with “successful adjustment.” (R. at
79-80). As such, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not
“disabled” under the term's meaning in the
Social Security Act. (R. at 79).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's decision on December 29, 2017, thus holding the
ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final agency
action. (R. at 1). Plaintiff then timely filed suit in
federal court, alleging in his Statement of Errors that the
ALJ erred in his step-three analysis, that the ALJ failed to
properly evaluate Plaintiff's assertions regarding his
back pain, and that the Appeals Council erred in denying his
request for review. (ECF No. 14).
December 14, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and
Recommendation recommending that this Court overrule
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors and affirm the decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security. (ECF No. 20).
Plaintiff subsequently objected to the Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation with regard to the Magistrate
Judge's finding that the ALJ did not err in his step-two
analysis or his credibility determination. (ECF No. 21).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
objection to a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation, this Court must “make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Fed. R.
Civ. P. 72(b). This de novo review, in turn, requires the
Court to “determine whether the record as a whole
contains substantial evidence to support the ALJ's
decision” and to “determine whether the ALJ
applied the correct legal criteria.” Inman v.
Astrue, 920 F.Supp.2d 861, 863 (S.D. Ohio 2013).
Substantial evidence means relevant evidence that “a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Ealy v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
594 F.3d 504, 512 (6th Cir. 2010) (quotation omitted).
Substantial evidence constitutes “more than a mere
scintilla, but only so much as would be required to prevent
judgment as a matter of law against the Commissioner if this
case were being tried to a jury.” Inman, 920
F.Supp.2d at 863 (citing Foster v. Bowen, 853 F.2d
483, 486 (6th Cir. 1988)).
LAW AND ANALYSIS
objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that the ALJ
sufficiently articulated his reasons for determining that
Plaintiff's depression and anxiety did not constitute
severe impairments under step two. (ECF No. 21). Step two of
the five-step sequential evaluation of evidence for
disability claims requires an ALJ to determine whether the
claimant suffers from one or more severe impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). A severe
impairment is defined as “any impairment or combination
of impairments which significantly limits [a claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities”
and “which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c); 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). A claimant can establish a severe mental
impairment through “medical evidence consisting of
signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings, not only by [a
claimant's] statement of symptoms.” Griffith v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 Fed. App'x 555, 559
(6th Cir. 2014). Moreover, a claimant bears the burden of
establishing a severe impairment by medical evidence.
determining whether a claimant has shown a severe impairment,
“an ALJ must include a discussion of ‘findings
and conclusions, and the reasons or basis therefor, on all
the material issues of fact, law, or discretion presented on
the record.'” Reynolds v. Comm'r Soc.
Sec., No. 09-2060, 2011 WL 1228165, at *2 (6th Cir. Apr.
1, 2011) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 557(c)(3)(A)). ...