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Woods v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

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

June 26, 2019

CYNTHIA D. WOODS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          WILLIAM H. BAUGHMAN, JR., MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Introduction

         Before me[1] is an action by Cynthia D. Woods under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.[2] Because the ALJ's no disability finding lacks the support of substantial evidence, this matter is reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Issue Presented

         This case presents the following issue for review:

• The ALJ assigned partial weight to the opinion of Dr. Mannos, Woods's treating physician.[3] Does substantial evidence support the ALJ's weight assignment?

         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.[4]

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

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

         The primary and dispositive challenge in this case goes to Woods's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to the extent that the ALJ's finding did not include a limitation on Woods's ability for fine and gross manipulation to occasional.

         Woods's treating source, Dr. Mannos, opined that Woods had moderate limitations in her ability to handle.[7] The ALJ gave Dr. Mannos's opinion partial weight.[8] In doing so, the ALJ did not discuss Woods's capability to handle.[9] The ALJ also gave the opinions of the state agency reviewing physicians partial weight.[10] These sources opined that Woods had no ...


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