United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
STEPHANIE K. BOWMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Naomi Ruth Sturgill seeks judicial review of the agency's
final decision that she is not disabled, and therefore not
entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and
Widow's Insurance Benefits. Proceeding through counsel,
Plaintiff presents four claims of error, all of which
Defendant disputes. For the reasons explained below, I
conclude that the ALJ's finding of non-disability should
be REVERSED and REMANDED for an immediate award of benefits
because it is not supported by substantial evidence in the
Summary of Administrative Record
Plaintiff's second application for SSI Benefits. In the
first application, the ALJ issued a fully favorable decision
in March 2006. However, her benefits ceased in June 2009
when her spousal income exceeded the limitations allowed by
the SSI program (Tr. 246, 566). Plaintiff's spouse died
on December 29, 2014.
February 4, 2015, Plaintiff filed a new application for
Supplemental Security Income benefits and Widow's
Benefits. (Tr. 221-231). The Social Security Administration
denied Plaintiff's claims initially and upon
reconsideration. (Tr. 138-155). Plaintiff then requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). (Tr.
157-159). On July 27, 2017, ALJ Thomas McNichols held a
hearing in which he heard testimony from Plaintiff,
vocational expert, Eric Pruitt, and Plaintiff's case
manager, Angela Duncan. On July 13, 2018, the ALJ denied
Plaintiff's application. (Tr. 7-27). Plaintiff filed a
request for review with the Social Security Administration
Appeals Council on April 16, 2018. (Tr. 214-220). On July 13,
2018, the Appeals Council denied further review. (Tr. 1-6).
Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the denial of her
application for benefits.
was 54 years old on the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr.
33). She has a 10thgrade education and no past
relevant work. (Tr. 216). Plaintiff testified that she is
able to read newspapers, but unable to understand what she
reads. (Tr. 34). Plaintiff also testified that her husband
passed away and she lives in a house with her two brothers.
upon the record and testimony presented at the hearing, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “a seizure disorder; sensorineural hearing
loss; residual effects status-post right wrist fracture;
asthma; anxiety; and depression. (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. The ALJ determined
that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following non-exertional limitations:
(1) no climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; (2) no work
around hazards, such as unprotected heights or dangerous
machinery; (3) no driving of automotive equipment; (4)
limited to performing jobs in which she would be exposed to
no more than moderate level background noise, such as that
found in a department store or grocery store; (5) no jobs
requiring telephone communication; (6) no concentrated
exposure to temperature extremes or respiratory irritants;
(7) limited to unskilled, simple, and repetitive tasks; (8)
occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors; (9) no
public contact; (10) no fast-paced production work or jobs
that involve strict production quotas; and (11) limited to
jobs that involve very little, if any, change in the job
duties or work routine from one day to the next.
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 there are
jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that she can perform, including such jobs as a
machine feeder, polisher/buffer, and a conveyor feeder (Tr.
20). 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 argues that the ALJ erred by: 1) finding claimant
did not meet/equal Listing 12.06b, 2) weighing the opinion
evidence of record, 3) not adopting the prior ALJ decision,
and 4) affording little weight to the witness testimony of
Angela Duncan, claimant's case manager. The undersigned
finds Plaintiff's first and third assignments of error to
be dispositive, thereby requiring remand.