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Ollis v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 6, 2019

STEPHANIE MICHELLE OLLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          Black, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Stephanie K. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Stephanie Michelle Ollis filed this Social Security appeal in order to challenge the Defendant's findings that she is not disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Proceeding through counsel, Plaintiff presents three claims of error, all of which the Defendant disputes. For the reasons explained below, I conclude that the ALJ's finding of non-disability should be AFFIRMED, because it is supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record.

         I. Summary of Administrative Record

         This is Plaintiff's second application for and second denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Plaintiff previously filed for SSI on August 19, 2011 (Tr. 11). After Plaintiff's first claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an ALJ. Id. ALJ Kenneth Wilson found Plaintiff was not disabled, a finding that is controlling in subsequent, unadjudicated periods unless there is a new and material evidence or a showing of “changed circumstances.” (Tr. 11, quoting Drummond v. Commissioner of Social Security, 126 F.3d 837 (6th Cir. 1990)).

         In February 2015, Plaintiff filed for Supplemental Security Income alleging a disability onset date of November 30, 2009 (Tr. 11). After Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration, Plaintiff requested a hearing de novo before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On June 16, 2016, ALJ William Diggs held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared with a non-attorney representative. The ALJ heard testimony from Plaintiff and an impartial vocational expert. Id. In August 2017, the ALJ considered the record from Plaintiff's previous SSI application and all subsequent evidence, and finally determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined by the Social Security Act (Tr. 11-22). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of this second denial of benefits.

         Plaintiff was 43-years-old on the date her application was filed (Tr. 20). Plaintiff has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (Tr. 20). Plaintiff has stated that she was living in an apartment with a friend, drives to appointments, and attends to her self-care (Tr. 19). Plaintiff has stated that she was responsible for raising her young grandchildren in March 2016, and can perform a number of daily activities including managing money, watching TV every day, reading, and grocery shopping weekly. Id.

         Plaintiff has past relevant work including work as an administrative assistant (skilled work performed at the sedentary exertional level); a tax preparer (semiskilled work performed at the sedentary exertional level); and medical billing (semiskilled work performed at the sedentary exertional level). (Tr. 20).

         Based upon the record and testimony presented at the hearing, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “major joint dysfunction, affective disorder, attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, osteoarthritis and allied disorders, and obesity.” (Tr. 13). The ALJ concluded that none of Plaintiff's impairments alone or in combination met or medically equaled a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subp. P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 14). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff retains the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with the following limitations:

She could lift ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently. She is able to push and pull up to ten pounds. She is able to stand and/or walk four hours in an eight-hour workday, and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday. She would require a sit/stand option with the ability to alternate between sitting and standing three times during the workday for three to five minutes per occasion. She could frequently climb ramps and stairs, no more than two stories on one occasion. She could occasionally stoop, crouch, and crawl. She could frequently engage in fingering with the left, dominant hand; and occasionally with the right, non-dominant hand. She is limited to occasional overhead reaching. She has no limitation with respect to gross manipulation. She should avoid dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights due to episodes of dizziness. She has no visual or communicative limitations. She can understand, remember, and carry out simple, detailed, and complex instructions. She can maintain attention and concentration for two-hour periods in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks. She is able to interact appropriately with coworkers and supervisors. She should have no more than occasional general public contact. She could adapt to changes in the work setting.

(Tr. 16). Based upon the record as a whole including testimony from the vocational expert, and given Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 20). However, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she can perform, including such jobs as security monitor, call out operator, and order clerk (Tr. 21). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not under disability, as defined in the Social Security Regulations, and is not entitled to SSI. Id.

         The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Therefore, the ALJ's decision stands as the Defendant's final determination. On appeal to this Court, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by: 1) failing to find the new evidence of record was material, which could warrant a finding different than that made in the decision on the prior claim; 2) failing to find Plaintiff's fibromyalgia a severe impairment; and 3) weighing the opinion evidence of record. Upon close analysis, I conclude that none of the asserted errors require reversal or remand.

         II. Analysis

         A. Judicial ...


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