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Irwin v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

September 3, 2019

DONALD IRWIN, Plaintiff,

          George C. Smith Judge.



         Plaintiff, Donald Irwin, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). For the reasons set forth below, it is RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Statement of Errors (Doc. 10) be OVERRULED, and that judgment be entered in favor of Defendant.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his application for DIB on December 14, 2015, alleging that he was disabled beginning January 9, 2015. (Doc. 7, Tr. 221-24). After his application was denied initially and on reconsideration, the Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”) held a hearing on May 11, 2018. (Tr. 36-67). On June 13, 2018, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. (Tr. 16-27). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6).

         Plaintiff filed the instant case seeking a review of the Commissioner's decision on December 10, 2018 (Doc. 1), and the Commissioner filed the administrative record on March 1, 2019 (Doc. 7). Plaintiff filed his Statement of Errors (Doc. 10), and Defendant filed an Opposition (Doc. 12), and no reply was filed. Thus, this matter is now ripe for consideration.

         Below, the ALJ found that Plaintiff meets the insured status through December 31, 2020, and had not engaged in substantial gainful employment since January 9, 2015, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 18). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus; peripheral neuropathy; rheumatoid arthritis; mild osteoarthritis of the fingers, bilaterally; degenerative disc disease; autoimmune blistering disorder (pemphigus foliaceus); asthma; bladder impairment; venous insufficiency and obesity. (Id.). The ALJ, however, found that none of Plaintiff's impairments, either singly or in combination, met or medically equaled a listed impairment. (Tr. 19).

[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except occasional foot controls, bilaterally; frequent balancing and stooping; occasional crawling, crouching, kneeling and climbing ramps and stairs, but no ladders, ropes or scaffolds; frequent handling and fingering with the upper extremities; frequent exposure to extreme heat and cold, wetness, humidity and irritants such as fumes, odors, dust and gases; avoid use of moving or hazardous or heavy machinery and exposure to unprotected heights; and work allowed off-task seven percent of the day.

(Tr. 20).


         The Court's review “is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards.” Winn v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 615 Fed.Appx. 315, 320 (6th Cir. 2015); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “[S]ubstantial evidence is defined as ‘more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'” Rogers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)). The Commissioner's findings of fact must also be based upon the record as a whole. Harris v. Heckler, 756 F.2d 431, 435 (6th Cir. 1985). To this end, the Court must “take into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from [the] weight” of the Commissioner's decision. Rhodes v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 2:13-cv-1147, 2015 WL 4881574, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 17, 2015).


         Plaintiff has raised one assignment of error to the Court: That the Commissioner “failed to properly address [his] documented venous insufficiency to determine the impact of that impairment on his ability to perform work activities.” (Doc. 10). Because that failure was “outcome-determinative, ” Plaintiff argues, this case should be remanded. (Id.) In support of his claim, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ improperly evaluated the opinions of Ellen Offut, MD, and Jeffrey Haggenjos, DO, who was Plaintiff's treating physician. More generally, Plaintiff appears to argue that because his venous insufficiency was determined to be “severe, ” greater limitations in the RFC were required so substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision.

         A. Dr. ...

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