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Frazier v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 4, 2019


          Deavers, Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION & ORDER


         This matter comes before the Court on the Magistrate Judge's January 31, 2018 Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 15) which recommended that this Court overrule the Commissioner's finding of non-disability and remand the case for further consideration. The Defendant has filed an objection. (ECF No. 16). Based upon an independent review of the Report and Recommendation, and for the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's objection is OVERRULED. This Court hereby ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendations. This matter is REMANDED for further proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Disability Case

         Plaintiff filed his application for disability insurance benefits on April 1, 2015, alleging that he has been disabled since November 24, 2014. (R. at 209-15.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration. (R. at 123-31, 134-40.) Plaintiff sought a de novo hearing before an administrative law judge. (R. at 141-22.) Administrative Law Judge Thomas L. Wang (“ALJ”) held a hearing on July 14, 2017, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified. (R. at 33-68.) On August 23, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (R. at 11- 27). On February 9, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review and adopted the ALJ's decision as the Commissioner's final decision. (R. at 1-7).

         B. The Administrative Decision

         The ALJ issued his decision on August 23, 2017. (R. at 11-27). In reaching his decision, the ALJ conducted the required five-step analysis.[1]At step one of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through December 31, 2019, and that he had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of November 24, 2014. (R. at 13).

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: diabetes and peripheral neuropathy; hearing loss; status post left hand burns; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; obesity; depressive disorder not otherwise specified; anxiety disorder not otherwise specified; bipolar II disorder; posttraumatic stress disorder; and delusional disorder, persecutory type. (R. at 14).

         The ALJ next found that, through the date last insured, Plaintiff, did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. at 14-17).

         At step four of the sequential process, the ALJ set forth Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) as follows:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except frequent foot control operation; no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasional climbing ramps or stairs, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; handling with the left is limited to frequent and unlimited with the right; he must be allowed to prop his feet up during breaks; only occasional work in environments where the temperatures are less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit; only occasional work in environments where temperatures are more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit; only occasional exposure to humidity; occasional exposure to loud noise as defined by the SCO as code 4; occasional exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, dusts, and gases; and only occasional use of hazardous machinery; and occasional exposure to unprotected heights; goal based production/work measured by end result not pace work; work is limited to simple routine and repetitive tasks; work allowed off task 5 percent of the day; work in a low stress job defined as only occasional changes in the work setting; no interaction with the public; and limited to occasional interaction with coworkers and supervisors.

         The ALJ further stated Plaintiff's “medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms; however, the claimant's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record for the reasons explained in this decision.” (R. at 19). The ALJ went on to state as follows:

The claimant has also alleged the inability to work due to hearing loss. However, the record again does not support his allegations and testimony with respect to this condition. An April 30, 2015 evaluation at Clarity Hearing Audiology revealed a bilateral sloping sensorineural hearing loss. However, his word recognition was noted as 88 percent in a quiet room whit [sic] ΒΆ 75 decibel presentation level. His evaluating audiologist recommended binaural hearing aids and annual hearing evaluations (Exhibit 14F). While one consultative psychologist noted sitting closer to the claimant and speaking a bit louder after the claimant reported a hearing problem (Exhibit 9F/5), there is nothing in the record showing that any treating or evaluating source observed any appreciable hearing difficulty (see generally Exhibits 6F-14F). Moreover, the claimant did not exhibit any difficulty at the hearing as he responded to questions without any appreciable problem, and did not require any ...

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