United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
STEPHANIE R. JORDAN-SMITH, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Vascura, Magistrate Judge
OPINION & ORDER
ALGENON L. MARBLEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on the Magistrate Judge's
February 1, 2019, 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
Stephanie R. Jordan-Smith, filed applications for a period of
disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental
security income on September 13, 2013, alleging a disability
onset on March 1, 2012. (R. at 15). After Plaintiff's
applications were initially denied on May 14, 2014, and
denied again on October 31, 3014, Plaintiff sought a hearing.
Id. Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and
testified before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) at a hearing on January 6, 2017.
Id. In addition, a vocational expert
(“VE”) appeared and testified at the hearing.
found Plaintiff was not disabled under the meaning of the
Social Security Act. (R. at 35). In the decision denying
Plaintiff benefits, the ALJ followed the required five-step
sequential analysis process for disability benefits claims.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). At step one, the
ALJ found the Plaintiff had not engaged in any substantial
gainful activity since March 1, 2012. (R. at 18). At step
two, the ALJ found Plaintiff suffered from severe impairments
of “idiopathic intracranial hypertension; migraine
headaches; nuclear sclerosis of the eyes; allergic rhinitis;
RC tear; morbid obesity; an adjustment disorder with mixed
depression and anxiety; and borderline intellectual
functioning.” Id. Further, the ALJ found
Plaintiff had non-severe impairments of obstructive sleep
apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Id.
three, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments described in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. at 18-19). At
step four, the ALJ set forth Plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) and stated Plaintiff
had “. . .the residual functional capacity to perform
light work. . ..” (R. at 22). In light of the RFC, the
ALJ found Plaintiff's allegations regarding her symptoms
and limitations were not generally supported by substantial
evidence. (R. at 31). Coupled with the VE's testimony,
the ALJ decided even though Plaintiff is unable to perform
her past work, she can execute jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy, pursuant to step five. (R.
at 33-34). Therefore, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was not
“disabled” under the term's meaning in the
Social Security Act. (R. at 35).
alleges in her Statement of Errors that the ALJ's
decision is not supported by substantial evidence because the
ALJ erred in his credibility analysis, and the ALJ improperly
relied upon the VE's testimony at step five because it
was based on a hypothetical question that was incomplete and
inaccurate. (ECF No. 14).
February 1, 2019, 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). The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(R. at 1). Plaintiff then objected to the Magistrate
Judge's finding that the ALJ's credibility analysis
is supported by substantial evidence. (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's credibility analysis is supported by substantial
evidence. (ECF No. 21). The Social Security Rulings
(“SSR”) organize decisions relating to Social
Security Administration programs. SSR 96-7p governs the
standard in evaluation of symptoms in disability claims. More
specifically, SSR 96-7p guides assessment of an
individual's statements. Under SSR 96-7p, an ALJ must
evaluate the overall credibility of a plaintiff's
statements to determine credibility. SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL
374186 (July 2, 1996). But, SSR 16-3p supersedes 96-7p, and
requires an ALJ to evaluate the intensity and persistence of
symptoms to determine the extent that those symptoms limit a
plaintiff's ability to perform work-related activities.
SSR 16-3p, 2017 WL 5180304 (Oct. 25, 2017). SSR 16-3p's
purpose is to clarify the rules regarding subjective symptom
evaluation, not to substantially change them. Brothers v.
Berryhill, No. 5:16-cv-01942, 2017 WL 2912535, at *10
(N.D. Ohio June 22, 2017). This provision allows for an
evaluation of the consistency of a plaintiff's statements