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Mudge v. Saul

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

July 2, 2019

IDA L. MUDGE, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Comm'r of Soc. Sec., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Objections (ECF #16) to the Report and Recommendation (ECF #15) of Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Parker, who recommends that the Court affirm the Commissioner's decision denying Plaintiff's claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and AFFIRMS the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's Claim.

         BACKGROUND

         The following is a procedural synopsis of Plaintiff's Claim. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation contains a more detailed discussion of the facts. For a complete overview of Plaintiff's medical history, see the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, which refers to the original Complaint and incorporates all documents related to the dispute.

         On May 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging she became disabled on November 30, 2002 due to“heart murmur, a benign brain tumor, depression, asthma, [and] anxiety.” (Transcript of Proceedings before the Social Security Administration, 57). Plaintiff later amended her date of disability, alleging her disability began on May 22, 2014. (Tr. 11). Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 56-88). After the denial, Plaintiff timely requested an administrative hearing. (Tr. 103-105). An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) heard Plaintiff's case on October 25, 2016. A Vocational Expert (“VE”) testified at the hearing. After the hearing, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim on March 29, 2017. (Tr. 8-50). On February 12, 2019, the Social Security Appeals Council denied further review, thus rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5).

         On April 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (ECF #1). On February 28, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued his Report and Recommendation. (ECF #15). On March 14, 2019, Plaintiff timely filed her Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. (ECF #16). On March 28, 2019, Defendant timely filed his Response to Plaintiff's Objections. (ECF #17).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When a court reviews a magistrate's report and recommendation, it makes a de novo determination regarding the portions to which an objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A review of the Commissioner's decision, however, is not de novo. Norman v. Astrue, 694 F.Supp. 2d. 738, 740 (N.D. Ohio 2010). The district court's review of social security disability cases is limited to whether substantial evidence in the record supports the ALJ's findings of fact and whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Norman, 694 F.Supp. 2d. at 740 (citing Longworth v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 402 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2005)).

         A decision must be affirmed if the ALJ's inferences are reasonably drawn from the record or supported by substantial evidence, even if that evidence could support a contrary decision. Elam v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003). Substantial evidence has been defined as “more than a mere scintilla” of evidence. Wright v. Massanari, 321 F.3d 611, 614 (6th Cir. 2003). Further, substantial evidence is evidence a reasonable person would accept as adequate to support the conclusion. Id. Therefore, if the record contains information where “a reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support” the Commissioner's final conclusion, then the determination should be affirmed. Id.; Kirk v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981). This substantial evidence standard “presupposes that there is a zone of choice within which the decisionmakers can go either way, without interference by the courts.” Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Mullen v. Brown, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)).

         ANALYSIS

         A claimant is entitled to SSI benefits only when they have established disability under the meaning of the Social Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 423. Disability may be established by demonstrating an “inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which 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); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a).

         To determine disability, the Commissioner must follow a five-step sequential analysis. This may be summarized as follows:

(1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, he is not disabled.
(2) If the claimant is not doing substantial gainful activity, his impairment must be severe before he can be ...

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