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Marrero v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 19, 2019

LORA B. MARRERO, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Karen L. Litkovitz United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Lora B. Marrero, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs statement of errors (Doc. 11), the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 17), and plaintiff s reply memorandum. (Doc. 18).

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for DIB on November 20, 2014, alleging disability since November 17, 2014, due to anxiety, manic depression, and schizoaffective disorder. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff, through counsel, requested and was granted a de novo hearing before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Pamela E. Loesel. Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") appeared and testified at the ALJ hearing on March 15, 2017. On April 25, 2017, ALJ Loesel issued a decision denying plaintiffs DIB application. Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals Council was denied, making the decision of ALJ Loesel the final administrative decision of the Commissioner.

         II. Analysis

         A. Legal Framework for Disability Determinations

         To qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must suffer from a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The impairment must render the claimant unable to engage in the work previously performed or in any other substantial gainful employment that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2).

         Regulations promulgated by the Commissioner establish a five-step sequential evaluation process for disability determinations:

1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment i.e., an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities the claimant is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairments) that meets or equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant is disabled.
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled.
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.

Robbers v. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d 647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.152O(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). The claimant has the burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004). Once the claimant establishes a prima facie case by showing an inability to perform the relevant previous employment, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform other substantial gainful employment and that such employment exists in the national economy. Rubbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel, 168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).

         B. The Administrative Law Judge's Findings

         The ALJ applied the sequential evaluation process and made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1. The [plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017.
2. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 17, 2014, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571, et seq.), 3. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: schizoaffective disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and depressive disorder, NOS (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The [plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the [ALJ] finds that the [plaintiff] had the residual functional capacity [("RFC")] to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: She can perform simple routine tasks (unskilled work) with infrequent change and no fast pace or high production quotas. She can have superficial interaction (meaning of a short duration for a specific purpose) with co-workers and supervisors. There should be no direct work with the public (i.e. customer service type work). She can perform low stress work meaning no arbitration, negotiation, responsibility for the safety of others or supervisory responsibility.
6. The [plaintiff] is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565).[1]
7. The [plaintiff] was born [in]... 1980 and was 34 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The [plaintiff] has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the [plaintiff] is "not disabled," whether or not the [plaintiff] has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the [plaintiff] 's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the [plaintiff] ...

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