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Schirmer v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 19, 2019

BENITA R. SCHIRMER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Thomas M. Rose District Judge.

         REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION[1] THAT (1) THE ALJ'S NON-DISABILITY FINDING BE FOUND UNSUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE, AND REVERSED; (2) THIS MATTER BE REMANDED TO THE COMMISSIONER UNDER THE FOURTH SENTENCE OF 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) FOR AN IMMEDIATE AWARD OF BENEFITS; AND (3) THIS CASE BE CLOSED ON THE COURT'S DOCKET

          Michael J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is a Social Security disability benefits appeal. At issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in finding Plaintiff not “disabled” and therefore unentitled to Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and/or Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”).[2] Before the Court are Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 9), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 12), Plaintiff's reply (doc. 13), the administrative record (doc. 6), and the record as a whole.[3]

         I.

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2013. PageID 229-38. Plaintiff claims disability as a result of a number of impairments including, inter alia, fibromyalgia, adrenal insufficiency, labyrinthitis, [4] vertigo, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (“EDS”), [5] and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (“POTS”).[6] PageID 40.

         After an initial denial of her application, Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ Elizabeth A. Motta on January 19, 2017. PageID 60. The ALJ issued a written decision on August 15, 2017 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 37. Specifically, the ALJ found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a reduced range of light work, [7]“there are jobs in that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [she] can perform[.]” PageID 53. The Appeals Council then denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's non-disability finding the Commissioner's final administrative decision. PageID 28. See Casey v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 987 F.2d 1230, 1233 (6th Cir. 1993). Plaintiff then filed this timely appeal. Cook v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 480 F.3d 432, 435 (6th Cir. 2007).

         B. Evidence of Record

         The evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's decision (PageID 44-53), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 9), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 12), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 13). The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets forth the facts relevant to this appeal herein.

         II.

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court's inquiry on a Social Security disability appeal is to determine (1) whether the ALJ's non-disability finding is supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the ALJ employed the correct legal criteria. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Bowen v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 745-46 (6th Cir. 2007). In performing this review, the Court must consider the record as a whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359, 362 (6th Cir. 1978).

         Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). When substantial evidence supports the ALJ's denial of benefits, that finding must be affirmed, even if substantial evidence also exists in the record upon which the ALJ could have found Plaintiff disabled. Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001). Thus, the ALJ has a “‘zone of choice' within which he [or she] can act without the fear of court interference.” Id. at 773.

         The second judicial inquiry __ reviewing the correctness of the ALJ's legal analysis __ may result in reversal even if the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Rabbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. 2009). “[A] decision of the Commissioner will not be upheld where the [Social Security Administration] fails to follow its own regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant of a substantial right.” Bowen, 478 F.3d at 746.

         B. ...


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