United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
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 AN IMMEDIATE
AWARD OF BENEFITS; AND (3) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE
Michael J. Newman, United States 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 Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). This case is before the Court on
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 13), the
Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 15),
Plaintiff's reply (doc. 16), the administrative record
(doc. 9),  and the record as a whole.
filed for SSI on September 5, 2013 claiming disability as a
result of a number of alleged impairments including,
inter alia, diabetes mellitus with neuropathy,
anxiety, post- traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), borderline intellectual functioning,
and bipolar disorder. Tr. 1506-08.
an initial denial of her application, Plaintiff received a
hearing before ALJ Mark Hockensmith on September 14, 2015. Tr
41-88. ALJ Hockensmith issued a written decision on September
25, 2015 finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr. 15-40. Plaintiff
appealed the decision to this Court, and the Commissioner
agreed that a remand was warranted. Tr. 1623. On June 19,
2017, this Court granted the parties' joint motion for a
remand for further proceedings to re-evaluate the medical
opinions of record. Tr. 1620; Sampson v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 3:16-cv-513, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94158
(S.D. Ohio June 19, 2017).
received a second hearing before ALJ Hockensmith on April 4,
2018. Tr. 1592-1618. The ALJ issued a written opinion on
April 25, 2018 again finding Plaintiff not disabled. Tr.
1503-38. Specifically, the ALJ found at Step Five that, based
upon Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a reduced range of sedentary
work,  “there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff]
can perform[.]” Tr. 1511-38.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, the ALJ's April 2018 non-disability finding the
final administrative decision of the Commissioner. Tr. 1-3.
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 April 25, 2018
non-disability finding is presently before the Court for
Evidence of Record
evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's
decision (Tr. 1503-38), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors
(doc. 13), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition
(doc. 15), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 16). 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. 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.
eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must be under a
“disability” as defined by the Social Security
Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). Narrowed to its statutory
meaning, a “disability” includes physical and/or
mental impairments that are both “medically
determinable” and severe enough to prevent a claimant
from (1) performing his or her past job and (2) ...