United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton
MICHAEL A. NOLTE, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ENTRY: (1) REVERSING THE ALJ'S
NON-DISABILITY FINDING AS UNSUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL
EVIDENCE; (2) REMANDING THIS CASE UNDER THE FOURTH SENTENCE
OF 42 U.S.C. § 405(G) FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS; AND (3)
TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE COURT'S DOCKET
Michael J. Newman Magistrate Judge
a Social Security disability benefits appeal for which the
parties have consented to entry of final judgment. At issue
is whether the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
erred in finding Plaintiff not “disabled” and
therefore unentitled to Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and/or Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). This case is before the Court on
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 14), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 16),
Plaintiff's reply (doc. 17), the administrative record
(doc. 7),  and the record as a whole.
originally filed for DIB and SSI alleging a disability onset
date of December 31, 2009. PageID 1234. Plaintiff claims
disability as a result of a number of alleged impairments
including, inter alia, degenerative disc
disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, kidney disease, and
a gastrointestinal disorder. PageID 1239.
an initial denial of his application, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Amelia G. Lombardo on December 3, 2013.
PageID 82-109. ALJ Lombardo issued a written decision on
January 10, 2014 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID
52-73. Plaintiff appealed, and this Court vacated the
non-disability finding on August 16, 2016. PageID 1320-22.
While Plaintiff's appeal was pending, he filed a new
claim for SSI. PageID 1235. The Appeals Council ordered the
ALJ to consider this new application on remand as well.
received a second hearing, before ALJ Deborah F. Sanders, on
June 27, 2017. PageID 1652-83. ALJ Sanders issued a written
opinion on September 6, 2017, finding Plaintiff not disabled
under his original or more recent claim for benefits. PageID
1234-61. Specifically, ALJ Sanders found at Step Five that,
from December 31, 2009 through March 31, 2012
(Plaintiff's last insured date), Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
reduced range of light work.PageID1242. From April 1, 2012
through September 6, 2017, the ALJ determined that, due to a
change in his medical conditions, Plaintiff had the RFC to
perform a more restricted, but unspecified category of work
that fell between light and sedentary. PageID 1250.
Based upon both of Plaintiff's RFCs, the ALJ concluded
that “there were jobs that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] could have
performed[.]” PageID 64-70.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, making ALJ Sanders' non-disability finding the
final administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID
1226-29. 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). This September
6, 2017 non-disability finding by ALJ Sanders (hereinafter
“ALJ”) is now before the Court for review.
Evidence of Record
evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's
decision (PageID 1234-61), Plaintiff's Statement of
Errors (doc. 14), the Commissioner's memorandum in
opposition (doc. 16), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 17).
The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets
forth the facts relevant to this appeal herein.
Standard of Review
Court's inquiry on a Social Security 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).
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.
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. Rabbersv. 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 ...