United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
DARLA M. BUCKLAND, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Litkovitz United States Magistrate Judge.
Darla M. Buckland 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 applications for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income ("SSI"). This matter
is before the Court on plaintiffs statement of errors (Doc.
11), the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 12),
and plaintiffs reply memorandum. (Doc. 15).
filed her applications for DIB and SSI in March 2015,
alleging disability since January 31, 2011 due to major
depression, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble focusing,
concussion injury/head trauma, attention deficit disorder
("ADD"), arthritis, ankle, foot, and leg problems,
right wrist problems, and sleep problems. These applications
were denied initially and upon reconsideration. Plaintiff,
through counsel, requested and was afforded a hearing before
administrative law judge ("ALJ") Mark Hockensmith
on May 30, 2017. Plaintiff and a vocational expert
("VE") appeared and testified at the ALJ hearing.
On November 14, 2017, ALJ Hockensmith issued a decision
denying plaintiffs DIB and SSI applications. Plaintiffs
request for review by the Appeals Council was denied, making
the decision of ALJ Hockensmith the final decision of the
Legal Framework for Disability Determinations
qualify for disability benefits, 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. §§ 423(d)(1)(A) (DIB),
1382c(a)(3)(A) (SSI). 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. §§ 423(d)(2),
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 impairments) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
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.
Rabbers v. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d 647,
652 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(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).
The Administrative Law Judge's Findings
applied for DIB and SSI in January 2008. These applications
were denied initially and upon reconsideration. A hearing was
held in August 2010 before ALJ Amelia Lombardo. On December
15, 2010, plaintiffs applications were denied by ALJ
Lombardo. (Tr. 64-75). Plaintiff again filed applications for
benefits on February 21, 2011 and May 19, 2011. (Tr. 15). On
January 19, 2013, ALJ Mary Withum issued a decision finding
that plaintiff was not disabled.
applied for DIB and SSI again in February 2013, and her
applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff asked for a hearing before an ALJ, but she and her
attorney later asked that the case be dismissed without a
hearing and acknowledged that the April 29, 2013
reconsideration determination would remain in effect. (Tr.
rendering his decision on plaintiffs SSI and DIB applications
filed in March 2015, ALJ Hockensmith recognized that he was
bound under the principles of administrative res judicata to
preclude consideration of the issue of disability before
April 29, 2013. Thus, ALJ Hockensmith determined that the
period under consideration began on April 30, 2013, the day
after the reconsideration determination. ALJ Hockensmith also
determined that plaintiff produced "new and material
evidence documenting a significant change" in her
condition since ALJ Withunr s decision. Thus, ALJ Hockensmith
determined that ALJ Withum's ...