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Hargett v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 7, 2019

DAVID R. HARGETT, 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 David R. Hargett under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for disability insurance benefits.[2] Because substantial evidence supports the ALJ's no disability finding, the ALJ's decision is affirmed.

         Issues Presented

         This case presents two issues for decision:

. The ALJ gave the functional capacity evaluation (“FCE”) of John Capple, PT -reviewed and weighed by treating source Dr. Nathan Lucardie - partial weight.[3]Does substantial evidence support that finding?
. The ALJ found Hargett only partially credible.[4] Does substantial evidence support that finding?

         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.[5]

         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.[6] The court may not disturb the Commissioner's findings, even if the preponderance of the evidence favors the claimant.[7]

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

         A. Opinion evidence

         Hargett does not challenge the great weight assigned to the FCE by Dr. Sethi, a consulting examiner. The residual functional capacity (“RFC”) adopted by the ALJ is consistent with Dr. Sethi's FCE. As a result, the argument about whether Capple's FCE should be considered a treating source opinion because Dr. Lucardie, a treating source, signed it seems beside the point. A reasonable mind could conclude that the RFC falls within the zone of choice, even if Hargett's correct and Capple's opinion could support a contrary conclusion.

         The opinion of a treating but “other” source (that is, not an acceptable medical source under the regulations), such as a physical therapist, can be considered a treating source opinion if signed by a treating acceptable medical source - provided that ...


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