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Mulyca v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 8, 2019

WENDY MULYCA, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DLOTT, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Karen L. Litkovitz United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Wendy Mulyca brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her application for supplemental security income (SSI). This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs statement of errors (Doc. 6) and the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 12).

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff protectively filed her application for SSI in May 2014, alleging disability since June 1, 2013 due to knee pain, a torn ACL in the right knee, arthritis in the left knee, a back injury, colitis, and stress. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff, through counsel, requested and was afforded a hearing before administrative law judge (ALJ) Peter J. Boylan on January 9, 2017. Plaintiff and a vocational expert (VE) appeared and testified at the ALJ hearing. On February 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiffs application. Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals Council was denied, making the decision of the ALJ the final administrative decision of the Commissioner.

         II. Analysis

         A. Legal Framework for Disability Determinations

         To qualify for SSI, a claimant must suffer from a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). The impairment must render the claimant unable to engage in the work previously performed or in any other substantial gainful employment that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         Regulations promulgated by the Commissioner establish a five-step sequential evaluation process for disability determinations:

1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment - i.e., an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities - the claimant is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment(s) that meets or equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant is disabled.
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled.
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.

Robbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d 647, 652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v), 416.920 (b)-(g)). The claimant has the burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th Cir. 2004). Once the claimant establishes a prima facie case by showing an inability to perform the relevant previous employment, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform other substantial gainful employment and that such employment exists in the national economy. Rubbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v. Apfel, 168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).

         B. The Administrative Law Judge's Findings

         The ALJ applied the sequential evaluation process and made the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

1. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 23, 2014, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq).
2. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments: Major joint dysfunction; reconstructive surgery of a weight-bearing joint; borderline intellectual functioning; learning disorder; affective disorder; and abnormal curvature of the spine (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The [plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the [ALJ] finds that the [plaintiff] has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except for the following restrictions: She can frequently push/pull with the left lower extremity. She can occasionally climb ramps and stairs but can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance, stoop and crouch but can never kneel or crawl. She can perform simple, routine tasks. She cannot perform at a production-rate pace. She can make simple, work-related decisions. She can handle occasional changes in a routine work setting.
5. The [plaintiff] has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The [plaintiff] was bom [in] ... 1962 and was 51 years old, which is defined as an individual closely approaching advanced age, on the date the ...

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