United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEPHANIE K. BOWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Crystal Biglow filed this Social Security appeal in order to
challenge the Defendant's findings that she is not
disabled. Without counsel, Plaintiff presents a handwritten
list of corrections, but identifies no reversible errors. 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
Summary of Administrative Record
April 14, 2015, Plaintiff filed an application disability
insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (Tr.
24). In both applications, Plaintiff alleges disability
beginning January 15, 2009. Plaintiff's claims were
denied initially on October 8, 2015. Thereafter, Plaintiff
filed a written request for a hearing in front of an
administrative law judge (ALJ) on December 21, 2015. (Tr.
24). Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing held on
October 10, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. Carl W. Hartung, an
impartial vocational expert, testified at the hearing as
well. Plaintiff was informed of her right to representation,
but chose to appear and testify without an attorney or other
representative. Plaintiff's husband, Larry Biglow, was
also present and testified on Plaintiff's behalf. On
February 1, 2018, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's subsequent request
for review. Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the denial
of her application for benefits.
was 39 years old when she submitted the applications. (Tr.
34). Plaintiff has a high school education, graduated from a
trade school, and has only unskilled past relevant work. (Tr.
34, 53). Plaintiff testified that she lives in a trailer with
her husband and is responsible for caring for a dog and four
cats. (Tr. 50).
upon the record and testimony presented at the hearing, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine with Grade 1 spondylolisthesis; degenerative disc
disease of the cervical spine; lupus; morbid obesity;
osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees; trochanteric bursitis
of the left hip; and bilateral foot spurs.” (Tr. 27).
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. The
ALJ determined that Plaintiff retains the following residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work
with the following limitations:
[T]he claimant can stand and walk 4-hours in an 8-hour
workday; can occasionally use foot controls with the
bilateral lower extremities; occasionally climb ramps and
stairs; never climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds;
occasionally balance; occasionally stoop; occasionally kneel;
occasionally crouch; never crawl; have only occasional
exposure to extreme cold; and never work at unprotected
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 her past relevant work. Nonetheless, there
are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that she can perform, including such jobs as
addresser, document preparer, and table worker/spotter.
Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is not under
disability, as defined in the Social Security Regulations,
and is not entitled to DIB. Id.
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, proceeding pro se, has submitted a handwritten
list of complaints. Construed liberally, the undersigned
finds that Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ erred by: (1)
improperly formulating her physical RFC; (2) improperly
evaluating her mental impairments, and 3) failing to find her
complaints of pain credible. Upon close analysis, I conclude
that none of the asserted errors require reversal or remand.
Judicial Standard of Review
eligible for SSI or DIB a claimant must be under a
“disability” within the definition of the Social
Security Act. See 42 U.S.C. §§423(a), (d),
1382c(a). The definition of the term “disability”
is essentially the same for both DIB and SSI. See Bowen
v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 469-70 (1986).
Narrowed to its statutory meaning, a “disability”
includes only physical or mental impairments that are both
“medically determinable” and severe enough to
prevent the applicant from (1) performing his or her past job
and (2) engaging in “substantial gainful
activity” that is available in the regional or national
economies. See Bowen, 476 U.S. at 469-70 (1986).
court is asked to review the Commissioner's denial of
benefits, the court's first inquiry is to determine
whether the ALJ's non-disability finding is supported by
substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). 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)
(additional citation and internal quotation omitted). In
conducting this review, the court should consider the record
as a whole. Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359, 362
(6th Cir. 1978). If substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's denial of benefits, then that finding must be
affirmed, even if substantial evidence also exists in the
record to support a finding of disability. Felisky v.
Bowen, 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994). As the Sixth
Circuit has explained:
The Secretary's findings are not subject to reversal
merely because substantial evidence exists in the record to
support a different conclusion . . . . The substantial
evidence standard presupposes that there is a ‘zone of
choice' within which the Secretary may proceed without
interference from the courts. If the Secretary's decision
is supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court must
Id. (citations omitted).
considering an application for disability benefits, the
Social Security Agency is guided by the following sequential
benefits analysis: at Step 1, the Commissioner asks if the
claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; at
Step 2, the Commissioner determines if one or more of the
claimant's impairments are “severe;” at Step
3, the Commissioner analyzes whether the claimant's
impairments, singly or in combination, meet or equal a
Listing in the Listing of Impairments; at Step 4, the
Commissioner determines whether or not the claimant can still
perform his or her past relevant work; and finally, at Step
5, if it is established that claimant can no longer perform
his or her past relevant work, the burden of proof shifts to
the agency to determine whether a significant number of other
jobs which the claimant can perform exist in the national
economy. See Combs v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec., 459
F.3d 640, 643 (6th Cir. 2006); 20 C.F.R.
plaintiff bears the ultimate burden to prove by sufficient
evidence that he or she is entitled to disability benefits.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a). Thus, a plaintiff seeking
benefits must present sufficient evidence to show that,
during the relevant time period, he or she suffered
impairment, or combination of impairments, expected to last
at least twelve months, that left him or her unable to
perform any job in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §
The ALJ's decision is supported by ...