United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
J. LIMBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Brown (“Plaintiff”) requests judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
Administration (“Defendant”) denying her
applications for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). ECF Dkt. #1. In her brief on the merits,
Plaintiff asserts that the administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) committed error that directly prejudiced
Plaintiff because the ALJ failed to: (1) properly weigh the
opinions of her treating psychiatric-mental health nurse
practitioner and the State agency physicians; and (2)
properly analyze Plaintiff's condition in light of
listing 12.03. ECF Dkt. #15. For the following reasons, the
Court AFFIRMS the decision of the ALJ and DISMISSES
Plaintiff's case in its entirety WITH PREJUDICE.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed applications for DIB and SSI on November 7, 2014,
alleging disability beginning October 22, 2014 due to panic
attacks and diabetes. ECF Dkt. #10 (“Tr.”) at
112, 114, 126, 139-41, 304, 311. The Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denied her application at
the initial level and upon reconsideration. Id. at
175, 184, 195, 200. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
ALJ, and the ALJ held a hearing on February 9, 2017, where
Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified.
Id. at 66-67, 207, 210. A vocational expert
(“VE”) also testified. Id. at 66-67.
Subsequently, the initial ALJ became unavailable and did not
issue a decision, and another hearing was held with a
different ALJ on October 3, 2017. ECF Dkt. #15 at 1-2; ECF
Dkt. #18 at 1 n.1; Tr. at 35-36, 263. Plaintiff and a
different VE testified at the subsequent hearing. Tr. at
February 1, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Plaintiff's applications for DIB and SSI. Tr. at 12-28.
Plaintiff requested that the Appeals Council review the
ALJ's decision and the Appeals Council denied her request
for review on March 7, 2018. Id. at 1-6, 302-03.
28, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of
the ALJ's decision. ECF Dkt. #1. She filed a merits brief
on December 6, 2018 and Defendant filed a merits brief on
March 25, 2019. ECF Dkt. #15; ECF Dkt. #18.
RELEVANT PORTIONS OF ALJ'S DECISION
February 1, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. at 12-28. The ALJ found that
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act (“SSA”) through September 30, 2016.
Id. at 18. He further found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 22,
2014, the alleged onset date. Id. Continuing, the
ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
coronary artery disease, status post stent placement,
hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, affective disorder,
and anxiety disorder. Id. He further found that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one
of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Id. After considering the record, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work with the
following limitations: limited to climbing ramps and stairs
frequently and never climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
must avoid concentrated exposure to extremes of cold and
heat; must avoid all exposure to hazards, such as industrial
machinery and unprotected heights; has the capacity to
sustain concentration and persistence to complete simple
tasks in an environment that does not require rapid pace, to
relate adequately on a superficial and occasional basis, and
to perform work in a setting without close over the shoulder
supervision. Id. at 20.
then stated that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past
relevant work, was a younger individual on the alleged
disability onset date, had a limited education, and could
communicate in English. Id. at 27. Next, the ALJ
indicated that the transferability of jobs skill was not
material to the determination of disability because her past
relevant work was unskilled. Id. Considering
Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, the
ALJ determined that jobs existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that Plaintiff could perform.
Id. For these reasons, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
had not been under a disability, as defined in the SSA, from
October 22, 2014 through the date of his decision.
Id. at 28.
STEPS TO EVALUATE ENTITLEMENT TO SOCIAL SECURITY
must proceed through the required sequential steps for
evaluating entitlement to Social Security benefits. These
1. An individual who is working and engaging in substantial
gainful activity will not be found to be
“disabled” regardless of medical findings (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b) (1992));
2. An individual who does not have a “severe
impairment” will not be found to be
“disabled” (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c)
and 416.920(c) (1992));
3. If an individual is not working and is suffering from a
severe impairment which meets the duration requirement,
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1509 and 416.909 (1992),
and which meets or is equivalent to a listed impairment in 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, a finding of disabled will
be made without consideration of vocational factors (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d) and 416.920(d) (1992));
4. If an individual is capable of performing the kind of work
he or she has done in the past, a finding of “not
disabled” must be made (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(e) and 416.920(e) (1992));
5. If an individual's impairment is so severe as to
preclude the performance of the kind of work he or she has
done in the past, other factors including age, education,
past work experience and residual functional capacity must be
considered to determine if other work can be performed (20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f) and 416.920(f) (1992)).
Hogg v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 328, 332 (6th Cir. 1992).
The claimant has the burden to go forward with the evidence
in the first four steps and the Commissioner has the burden
in the fifth step. Moon v. Sullivan, ...