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Searer v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

August 30, 2019

Jeffery D. Searer, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JACK ZOUHARY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jeffery Searer seeks judicial review of an adverse social security decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This case was referred to Magistrate Judge Thomas Parker for a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) under Local Civil Rule 72.2(b)(2). Judge Parker recommends this Court affirm the Commissioner's decision denying Searer's claim for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) (Doc. 18 at 19).

         This matter is now before this Court on Searer's Objection to the R&R (Doc. 19) and the Commissioner's Response (Doc. 20). This Court has reviewed the Magistrate Judge's findings de novo in accordance with Hill v. Duriron Co., 656 F.2d 1208 (6th Cir. 1981) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) & (C). For the reasons below, this Court adopts the R&R and denies the claim for benefits.

         Background

         The R&R accurately recites the relevant factual and procedural background, which this Court adopts (Doc. 18 at 1-10). Briefly, Searer, who was 44-years-old at the time of alleged onset, previously worked as a welder and machine operator and has a GED (Tr. 24-25, 268, 288). He claims DIB based on “back problems, spinal stenosis, neck pain causing headaches, numbness in right arm, heart problems [stemming from a heart attack], anxiety attacks, and knee pain” (Tr. 304, 318).

         Standard of Review

         In reviewing a denial of DIB, this Court “must affirm the Commissioner's conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standards or has made findings of fact unsupported by substantial evidence in the record.” Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). Judicial review is limited to “whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and whether the findings of the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence.” Blakley v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 581 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2009). The Commissioner's findings “as to any fact if supported by substantial evidence shall be conclusive.” McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)).

         Discussion

         Searer argues the ALJ failed to properly address whether his impairments met or equaled Listing 1.04C (Doc. 19 at 2). Judge Parker determined the ALJ's failure to expressly address Listing 1.04C was harmless because the ALJ implicitly determined Searer did not meet the requirements of Listing 1.04C and Searer failed to produce sufficient evidence that his impairments met or equaled the Listing (Doc. 18 at 18).

         Under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), the ALJ must complete a five-step process to determine whether a person is disabled. At step three, the ALJ must “consider the medical severity of [the applicant's] impairment(s). If [the applicant has] an impairment(s) that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of this subpart and meets the duration requirement, [the ALJ] will find that [the applicant] disabled.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). The claimant bears the burden of showing that the impairment or combination of impairments meets all criteria set forth by the listing. Evans v. Sec'y of H.H.S., 820 F.2d 161, 164 (6th Cir. 1987). The claimant may also qualify by showing that the impairment or combination of impairments is the “medical equivalent” of the listing. Id. This means the impairment is “at least equal in severity and duration to the criteria of any listed impairment.” Reynolds v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 424 Fed.Appx. 411, 414 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 416.926(a); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1526(a)).

         Listing 1.04C

         Searer argues he produced sufficient evidence to show he met or equaled medical impairment Listing 1.04C for lumbar spinal stenosis (Doc. 19 at 2). To meet Listing 1.04C, a claimant must show the impairment results in “compromise of a nerve root . . . or the spinal cord, ” along with: (1) “lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in pseudoclaudication;” (2) “established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging;” (3) “manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness;” that (4) “result[s] in inability to ambulate effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b.” 20 C.F.R. § Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 1.04C.

         Section 1.00B2b defines the fourth requirement -- the inability to ambulate effectively -- as “an extreme limitation of the ability to walk.” 20 C.F.R. § Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 1.00B2b(1). To be able to ambulate effectively, an individual must be able to “sustain[] a reasonable walking pace over a sufficient distance to be able to carry out activities of daily living” and must be able to travel to and from work or school without assistance. Id. ยง 1.00B2b(2). Section 1.00B2b(2) sets forth a non-exhaustive list of ...


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