United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. LITKOVITZ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Tammy Napier 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
supplemental security income ("SSI"). This matter
is before the Court on plaintiffs statement of errors and
amended statement of errors (Docs. 16, 25), the
Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 21), and
plaintiffs reply and amended reply memoranda (Docs. 22, 24).
filed an application for SSI in February 2012, alleging
disability since December 31, 2007, due to cervical spine
disorder, gastrointestinal disorder, affective disorder, an
anxiety-related disorder, and substance abuse in
remission. The application was denied initially and
upon reconsideration. Plaintiff, through counsel, requested
and was afforded a hearing before administrative law judge
(:ALJ") Christopher Dillon on December 13,
2013. Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE")
appeared and testified at the ALJ hearing. On January 16,
2014, ALJ Dillon issued a decision denying plaintiffs
application. Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals
Council was denied.
then filed an action in the United States District Court.
See Napier v. Commissioner of Social Security,
3:15-cv-154 (S.D. Ohio). This Court remanded plaintiffs claim
pursuant to Sentence Four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for a
new hearing and decision. (Tr. 2350-58).
Appeals Council subsequently vacated and remanded ALJ
Dillon's decision. (Tr. 2362). Plaintiff and a vocational
expert appeared and testified at the subsequent
administrative hearing before ALJ Mark Hockensmith on June
21, 2017. (Doc. 14 at Tr. 3337-60). On September 19, 2017,
ALJ Hockensmith issued a decision denying plaintiffs SSI
application and determining that plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 2241-66).
Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals Council was
denied, making the decision of ALJ Hockensmith the final
administrative decision of the Commissioner.
Analysis A. Legal Framework for Disability
qualify for SSI, 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. § 1382c(a)(3)(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. §
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
determinate 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
3). If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4). If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
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.
Rubbers v. Comm's of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d 647, 652
(6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v), 416.920 (b)-(g)). The claimant has the
burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential
evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v. Comm 'r
o/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.
Robbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel,
168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).
The Administrative Law Judge's Findings
applied the sequential evaluation process and made the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since February 8, 2012, the date of the
relevant application for supplemental security income (20 CFR
2. The [plaintiff] has the following severe
impairments: cervical spine degenerative disc disease,
lumbago, gastrointestinal disorder, migraine headaches,
depressive disorder, anxiety disorder with features of post-
traumatic stress disorder, [and] substance use disorder in
(possible) remission (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. 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 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. The [plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined at 20 CFR 416.967(b) subject to
the following additional limitations: (1) the opportunity to
change position every 30-45 minutes for two or three minutes
at a time while remaining at the work station; (2) no
climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; (3) no more than
frequent climbing of ramps or stairs; (4) no more than
frequent stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling; (5) no
more than occasional overhead reaching bilaterally; (6) no
work at unprotected heights or with dangerous machinery; (7)
ready access to restroom facilities during scheduled breaks;
(8) no exposure to loud noise (defined as anything louder
than a normal office setting); (9) limited to simple, routine
tasks; (10) limited to a static work environment with few
changes in routine; (11) no fast-paced work or strict
production quotas; (12) no direct dealing with the public;
(13) no more than occasional interaction with co-workers or
5. The [plaintiff] has no past relevant work (20 CFR
6. The [plaintiff] was born [in] .. . 1965. From the date of
the application for supplemental security income until she
attained age 50 [in] . . . 2015, the [plaintiff] was
classified as a "younger individual" for Social
Security purposes. Since attaining age 50 [in] . . . 2015,
the [plaintiff] is classified as an individual who is
"closely approaching advanced age" (50-54 years
old) for Social Security purposes (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The [plaintiff] has an 8th or 9th -grade or
"limited" education as defined for Social Security
purpose (20 CFR 416.964).
8. The [plaintiff] does not have "transferable"
work skills within the meaning of the Social Security Act (20
9. Considering the [plaintiff] 's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the [plaintiff] can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and
10. The [plaintiff] was not "disabled," as defined
in the Social Security Act, since February 8, 2012, the date
the application for supplemental security income was ...