United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
A. Sargus, Jr. Chief Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHELSEY M. VASCURA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lisa Jean Shaulis (“Plaintiff”), brings this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
social security disability insurance benefits. This matter is
before the Court on Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (ECF
No. 9), the Commissioner's Memorandum in Opposition (ECF
No. 12), Plaintiff's Reply Memorandum (ECF No. 13), and
the administrative record (ECF No. 8). For the reasons that
follow, it is RECOMMENDED that
Plaintiff's Statement of Errors be
OVERRULED and that the Commissioner's
decision be AFFIRMED.
filed her application for Title II Social Security Benefits
on June 23, 2014, alleging that she had been disabled since
February 8, 2013. (R. 530, 537.) On May 4, 2017, following
administrative denials of Plaintiff's application
initially and on reconsideration, a video hearing was held
before Administrative Law Judge Peter J. Boylan (the
“ALJ”). (Id. at 344-67.) Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, appeared and testified. Vocational
expert Karen Schneider (the “VE”) also appeared
and testified at the hearing. On May 19, 2017, the ALJ issued
a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act. (Id. at 14-25.)
On August 24, 2018, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review and adopted the ALJ's
decision as the Commissioner's final decision. (R. 4-8.)
Plaintiff then timely commenced the instant action. (ECF No.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
19, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff
was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act. (R. 14-25.) At step one of the sequential evaluation
process,  the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantially gainful activity since February 1,
2014, Plaintiff's alleged disability onset
date. (Id. at 17.) The ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the severe impairments of major joint
dysfunction, multiple arthropathies, chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease, migraines, affective disorder, anxiety
disorder, and personality disorder. (Id.) He further
found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one
of the listed impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id. at 17-18.) Specifically,
the ALJ considered and rejected Listings 1.02 (major
dysfunction of a joint), 1.04 (disorders of the spine), 3.02
(chronic respiratory disorders), 3.03 (asthma), 12.04
(depressive disorders), 12.06 (anxiety disorders), and 12.08
(personality disorders). (Id.) The ALJ did not,
despite Plaintiff's counsel's express request at the
hearing, mention Listing 1.06 (fracture of the femur, tibia,
pelvis, or one or more of the tarsal bones) in his decision.
four of the sequential process, the ALJ set forth
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) as follows:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in
20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except the claimant can
never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally climb
ramps or stairs; occasionally stoop, crouch, crawl, or kneel;
and frequently balance. The claimant must avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, humidity, fumes,
odors, dusts, gases, and poor ventilation. The claimant
requires the use of a cane in one hand to walk, but has the
ability to use the free hand for work. The claimant is
limited to occasional overhead reaching with the left upper
extremity being non-dominant. The claimant is limited to
simple, routine tasks, but is not able to perform at a
production rate pace. The claimant is limited to simple, work
related decisions. The claimant is limited to frequent
interaction with supervisors, as well as occasional
interactions with coworkers and the public. The claimant is
limited to tolerating occasional changes in a routine work
(Id. at 18-19.) The ALJ then relied on the hearing
testimony of the VE to conclude that Plaintiff is capable of
making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy. He therefore
concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social
Security Act during the relevant period. (R. 24.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing a case under the Social Security Act, the Court
“must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it
‘is supported by substantial evidence and was made
pursuant to proper legal standards.'” Rabbers
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir.
2009) (quoting Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007)); see also 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (“[t]he findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”).
Under this standard, “substantial evidence is defined
as ‘more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a
preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Rogers, 486 F.3d at 241
(quoting Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Hum.
Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)).
the substantial evidence standard is deferential, it is not
trivial. The Court must “‘take into account
whatever in the record fairly detracts from [the]
weight'” of the Commissioner's decision.
TNS, Inc. v. NLRB, 296 F.3d 384, 395 (6th Cir. 2002)
(quoting Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S.
474, 487 (1951)).
“if substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
decision, this Court defers to that finding ‘even if
there is substantial evidence in the record that would have
supported an opposite conclusion.'” Blakley v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 406 (quoting
Key v. Callahan, 109 F.3d 270, 273 (6th Cir. 1997)).
Finally, even if the ALJ's decision meets the substantial
evidence standard, “a decision of the Commissioner will
not be upheld where the SSA 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 v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 478
F.3d 742, 746 (6th Cir. 2007).
raises two issues in his Statement of Errors (ECF No. 9): (1)
the ALJ failed to properly evaluate whether Plaintiff's
non-union fracture of the navicular bone meets or medically
equals Listing 1.06; and (2) the ALJ failed to explain and
resolve a conflict between the vocational expert's
testimony and ...