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Watkins v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

July 29, 2019

PAMELA S. WATKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
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 AN IMMEDIATE AWARD OF BENEFITS; AND (3) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE COURT'S DOCKET

          Michael J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is 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”).[1] This case is before the Court on Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 11), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 15), Plaintiff's reply (doc. 17), the administrative record (doc. 7), [2] and the record as a whole.

         I.

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI alleging a disability onset date of April 30, 2012. PageID 1916. Plaintiff claims disability as a result of a number of alleged impairments including, inter alia, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, depression, and anxiety. PageID 69.

         After an initial denial of her application, Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ Lloyd E. Hubler, III on April 16, 2015. PageID 135-80. The ALJ issued a written decision on May 30, 2015 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 242-45. The Appeals Council remanded ALJ Hubler's decision, ordering a reconsideration of whether Plaintiff was disabled for a closed period of disability. PageID 254-55.

         On remand, Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ Gregory G. Kenyon on January 10, 2017. PageID 85-117. ALJ Kenyon issued a written decision on March 23, 2017, again finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 66-75. Specifically, ALJ Kenyon found at Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a reduced range of medium work, [3] “there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 70-75.

         Thereafter, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making ALJ Kenyon's non-disability finding the final administrative decision of the Commissioner. PageID 58-60. 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 March 23, 2017 non-disability finding by ALJ Kenyon (hereinafter “ALJ”) is now before the Court for review.

         B. Evidence of Record

         The evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ's decision (PageID 66-73), Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (doc. 11), the Commissioner's memorandum in opposition (doc. 15), and Plaintiff's reply (doc. 17). The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets forth the facts relevant to this appeal herein.

         II.

         A. Standard of Review

         The 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).

         Substantial 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 ...


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