United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
J. LIMBERT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Menachem Kushnerski (“Plaintiff”) requests
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security Administration (“Defendant”)
denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). ECF Dkt. #1. In his brief on the merits,
Plaintiff's sole assertion of error is that the ALJ erred
by failing to afford great weight to the opinion of his
treating psychiatrist, Dr. Goldman. ECF Dkt. #14. For the
following reasons, the Court REVERSES the decision of the ALJ
and REMANDS Plaintiff's case to the ALJ for reevaluation
and analysis of Dr. Goldman's opinion.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed an application for DIB on March 10, 2015, alleging
disability beginning June 14, 2008 due to “depression,
neurotic back pain, sharp back pain, paralyze,
osteorheumatism, chronic fatigue, memory problem, insomnia,
dizziness, weakness, anxiety, discomfort in the head.”
ECF Dkt. #11 (“Tr.”) at 155, 214. The Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denied his
application initially and upon reconsideration. Id.
at 78, 93-112. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ,
and the ALJ held a hearing on April 26, 2017, where Plaintiff
was represented by counsel and testified. Id. at
39-53, 113. A vocational expert (“VE”) also
testified. Id. at 53-59.
September 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision denying
Plaintiff's application for DIB. Tr. at 15-26. Plaintiff
requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision and the Appeals Council denied his request for
review on April 10, 2018. Id. at 1-9.
31, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking review of
the ALJ's decision. ECF Dkt. #1. He filed a merits brief
on October 12, 2018 and Defendant filed a merits brief on
December 13, 2018. ECF Dkt. #s 14, 16.
RELEVANT PORTIONS OF ALJ'S DECISION
September 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision first noting
that at the ALJ hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged
disability onset date to January 1, 2014. Tr. at 15. He found
that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2018 and he had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since his amended onset date. Id.
at 17. The ALJ further found that since that date, Plaintiff
had the severe impairments of: degenerative disc disease;
myofascial pain dysfunction disorder; chronic pain syndrome;
major depressive disorder; schizophrenia; and generalized
anxiety disorder (“GAD”). Id. at 18. He
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. at 18-19. After
considering the record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the
RFC to perform light work with the following limitations: he
can never climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds; he can
frequently climb ramps and stairs, and kneel and crouch; he
can occasionally stoop and crawl; no work at unprotected
heights; occasional work in extreme and vibration; he can
perform simple tasks, but not at a production rate pace; he
can frequently interact with supervisors and co-workers, but
can only occasionally interact with the public; and he can
tolerate routine workplace changes. Id. at 20.
upon Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, the
RFC, and the VE's testimony, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff could not return to his past relevant work as an
artist/calligrapher or assistant rabbi, but he could perform
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy,
such as a warehouse checker, merchandise marker, or an
electronics worker. Tr. at 25-26. In conclusion, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2014,
through the date of the decision. Id. at 26.
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 ...