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Warren v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 26, 2019

JASON N. WARREN, Plaintiff,

          Dlott, J.



         Plaintiff Jason N. Warren filed this Social Security appeal to challenge Defendant's finding that he is not disabled for the purposes of his eligibility to receive Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Proceeding through counsel, Plaintiff presents six claims of error, all of which the Defendant disputes. For the 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 record.

         I. Summary of Administrative Record

         On September 14, 2015, Plaintiff applied for diability insurance benefits, alleging disability beginning April 5, 201.1 (Tr. 87, 104, 167-73). Plaintiff's application was denied initially on November 6, 2015 and upon reconsideration on January 22, 2016. (Tr. 105-08, 127-29). Plaintiff then filed a written request for a hearing on February 16, 2016 before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On November 29, 2017 (Tr. 32-74), ALJ William Diggs held a hearing at which Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. Robert Breslin, an impartial vocational expert, also appeared at the hearing.

         In a Decision dated January 29, 2018, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Tr. 9-29). Plaintiff filed a timely request for a review before the Appeals Council of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. On April 23, 2018, the Appeals Council advised Plaintiff's counsel of Plaintiff's right to submit additional evidence that is new, material, and relates to the period on or before the date of the hearing decision. (Tr. 7-8). In response, Plaintiff submitted a May 10, 2018 statement from plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Chang. (Tr. 31). In a Decision dated June 29, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's claim and found that the May 10, 2018, letter did not show a reasonable probability that would change the outcome of the decision and therefore was not considered. (Tr. 1-6). Thereafter Plaintiff commenced this action.

         Plaintiff was 36 years old on the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 39). He was homeshooled from 4th to 12th grade, obtained a high school diploma, and an associate's degree from Cincinnati State Techinal College in PC Support and Administration. (Tr. 40). After graduating, he was hired at Frost, Brown, Todd as computer support and help desk technician. (Tr. 40-41). His past relevant work also includes appliance deliverer/installer.

         Based upon the record and testimony presented at the hearing, the ALJ found that through the day last insured, the Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “fibromyalgia; disorders of the spine; bilateral knee arthritis; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); obesity; anxiety disorder; and effective disorder”. 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 through the day last insured, Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with the following limitations:

[T]he claimant must periodically alternate sitting and standing to relieve pain and discomfort. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs but can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. He can frequently balance. He can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl. He must avoid all exposure to unprotected heights. He can perform some multi-step tasks in a setting with flexible pace and production quotas.

(Tr. 17).

         Based 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 his past relevant work. Nonetheless, there were jobs that existed in significant number in the national economy, through the date last insured, that he could have performed, including such jobs as document preparer, addressor, and assembler. (Tr. 24). Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff, through the date last insured, was not under disability, as defined in the Social Security Regulations, and is not entitled to DIB. Id.

         The 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) failing to consider Plaintiff's limitations caused by pain and other symptoms; 2) failing to assess all of the manifestion of Plaintiff's fibromyalgia; 3) failing to consider the impact of Plaintiff's morbid obesity; 4) improperly found Plaintiff's description of his RFC not credible; 5) substituting his own opinion for the experts' findings regarding anxiety and depression and cognitive limitations; and 6) finding that the additional evidence would not have changed the outcome.[1] Upon close analysis, I conclude that none of the asserted errors require reversal or remand.

         II. Analysis

         A. Judicial ...

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