United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
TALISA T. CRAWFORD, 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
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 the independent consideration of the
Talisa T. Crawford filed her application for supplemental
security income (“SSI”) on October 14, 2014.
Plaintiff's application was initially denied on January
8, 2015 and was subsequently denied upon reconsideration on
March 30, 2015. (R. at 324, 354). On April 23, 2015,
Plaintiff submitted a request for a hearing by an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (R. at 356).
Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified on
April 12, 2017. (R. at 67). In addition to Plaintiff's
testimony, the ALJ considered the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”) and a medical expert
(“ME”) at this hearing. (R. at 67).
issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not
“disabled” within the meaning of the Social
Security Act. (R. at 44). In the decision denying Plaintiff
benefits, the ALJ followed the required five-step sequential
analysis for disability-benefits claims. (R. at 49-58).
See C.F.R. § 416.920(a). At step one, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since September 12, 2014. (R. at 49). At the
second step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was severely
impaired by obesity; leg length discrepancy; degenerative
disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine; status-post
lumbar microdiscectomy; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(“COPD”); mild carpal tunnel syndrome of the
right upper extremity (“CTS”); history of Chiari
malformation with placement of a small plate; post-traumatic
stress disorder (“PTSD”); borderline intellectual
functioning (“BIF”); and bipolar disorder (20 CFR
416.920(c)). (R. at 49). At the third step, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equals the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R.
at 50). At the fourth step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform certain sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.967(a) and 416.967(a). (R. at 52). At the
fifth, and final step, the ALJ found that there were
“jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy” that Plaintiff was capable of performing. (R.
at 58). As such, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not
been “under a disability” within the meaning of
the term “disabled” in the Social Security Act.
(R. at 59).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of
the ALJ's decision on March 17, 2018. (R. at 1).
Plaintiff then timely filed this action for review, alleging
in her Statement of Errors that the ALJ erred in failing to
properly evaluate whether Listing 1.04 was met, or that the
ALJ failed to properly determine whether Plaintiff was
medically equal to Listing 1.04.
February 22nd 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued a
Report and Recommendation recommending that this Court
overrule Plaintiff's Statement of Errors and affirm the
Commissioner of Social Security's decision. (ECF No. 18).
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 under his
evaluation of whether Plaintiff met or equaled Listing 1.04
(ECF No. 19).
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 at step three.
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's determination that
Plaintiff failed to establish every element of Listing
1.04(A) was not supported by substantial evidence. (ECF No.
9). Step three of the five step sequential evaluation of
evidence for disability claims requires an ALJ to determine
whether the claimant's severe impairments, alone or in
combination, meet or medically equal the criteria of an
impairment set forth in the Commissioner's Listing of
Impairments, 20 C.F.R. Subpart P, Appendix 1. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). To satisfy Listing 1.04,
Plaintiff must have an impairment as follows:
1.04 Disorders of the spine (e.g., herniated nucleus
pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis,
osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis,
vertebral fracture), resulting in compromise of a nerve root
(including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord. With:
A. Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by
neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of
the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle
weakness or muscle weakness [sic]) accompanied by sensory or
reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the ...