Hambly v. Commissioner of Social Security
Memorandum of Opinion and Order: This matter is before the Court upon the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Parker (Doc. 14 ) recommending that the decision of the Commissioner be vacated and the case b e remanded for further consideration. This Court, having found defendant's objections without merit, hereby accepts the Magistrate Judge's R&R. In accordance with that recommendation, this matter is vacated and remanded for further consideration. Judge Patricia A. Gaughan on 2/6/24. (LC,S)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
Joshua Frank Hambly,
Commissioner of Social Security,
CASE NO. 1:23 CV 501
JUDGE PATRICIA A. GAUGHAN
Memorandum of Opinion and Order
This matter is before the Court upon the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of
Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Parker (Doc. 14) recommending that the decision of the
Commissioner be vacated and the case be remanded for further consideration. Defendant has
filed objections. For the following reasons, the R&R is ACCEPTED and this matter is
REMANDED to the Commissioner.
Standard of Review
When objections are made to a Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation, the
district court reviews the case de novo. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) provides in
The district judge to whom the case is assigned shall make a de
novo determination upon the record, or after additional evidence,
of any portion of the magistrate judge’s disposition to which
specific written objection has been made in accordance with this
rule. The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the
recommended decision, receive further evidence, or recommit the
matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.
Only those facts necessary for the resolution of defendant’s objections are set forth
The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied plaintiff’s applications for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) after a hearing. The
Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff thereafter filed this Complaint to obtain judicial review
requesting a finding that he is entitled to DIB and SSI, or a reversal and remand for the purpose
of calculating benefits or for further administrative proceedings.
In his request for judicial review, plaintiff argued that the ALJ failed to properly consider
his educational records and otherwise failed to properly evaluate the opinions of three medical
Dr. Rivera, Ms. Johnson, and Dr. Delcour. The Magistrate Judge thoroughly discussed
each argument and found no error with the exception of the opinion of Dr. Delcour, a state
agency psychological consultant. The Magistrate Judge concluded that the ALJ failed to follow
the proper legal standards and failed to sufficiently articulate why she declined to incorporate
into her residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination certain limitations opined by Dr.
Delcour. Accordingly, it was recommended that the ALJ’s decision be remanded for further
consideration on this specific issue, and that all other aspects of the ALJ’s analysis be affirmed.
Defendant filed objections as to this single basis for remand, and plaintiff responded. For the
following reasons, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge’s reasoning and accepts his
The ALJ’s RFC determination limited plaintiff to light work except for the following
Occasionally lift and carry 20 pounds and frequently lift and carry
10 pounds; can stand and walk 6 hours of an 8-hour workday; can sit for 6 hours of
an 8-hour workday; unlimited push and pull other than shown for lift and/or carry;
can perform simple routine tasks (unskilled work) with no fast pace or high
production quotas; with occasional interaction with others; and occasional
superficial interaction (meaning of a short duration for a specific purpose) with the
general public; can perform work with occasional change; can perform low stress
work meaning no arbitration, negotiation, confrontation, responsibility for the
safety of others or supervisory responsibility.
In analyzing Dr. Delcour’s medical opinion, the ALJ stated:
The undersigned is generally persuaded by the prior administrative medical
findings of the State agency psychological consultant, who opined the claimant was
capable of performing simple, routine tasks without fast pace and could have
superficial, occasional interactions with the public. This opinion is
generally consistent with the claimant’s daily activities, including interacting
appropriately with family members and medical providers, as well as his work
history, which included performing unskilled and semiskilled tasks without
problems remembering or understanding those simple, routine tasks. The claimant
has benefitted from routine, conservative treatment for his mental symptoms and
has consistently reported relief of his anger outbursts since beginning medication.
The Magistrate Judge determined that although the ALJ found the opinion to be
“generally persuasive,” she did not explain how or why she did not include several limitations
opined by Dr. Delcour into her RFC findings, namely, (1) plaintiff should be limited to simple
routine tasks (SRTs) that do not require extended periods of attention and concentration, (2)
plaintiff should avoid settings where close over the shoulder supervision is required but is
capable of an average level of supervision, and (3) plaintiff was moderately limited in his ability
to maintain socially appropriate behavior and to adhere to basic standards of neatness and
The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that the RFC determination did not include
these limitations, and the ALJ did not provide an explanation. The Magistrate Judge reasonably
concluded that it was unclear whether the ALJ discounted the limitations without an explanation,
or thought she had adopted limitations in the RFC that accommodated the omitted limitations.
And, although an ALJ need not adopt a state agency psychologist’s opinions verbatim, the ALJ
must still articulate how she considered the medical findings and why parts of an expert’s
opinion which conflict with the RFC findings were not adopted.
The Magistrate Judge pointed out that the ALJ determined that plaintiff was limited to
“occasional interaction with others; and occasional superficial interaction (meaning of a short
duration for a specific purpose) with the general public[.]” Thus, while Dr. Delcour had opined
that plaintiff should not be subjected to over the shoulder supervision, the RFC provided only a
limitation in the frequency or quantity of plaintiff’s interaction with others in general. Because
the ALJ provided no explanation for her omission, remand is required. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520c(a); 416.920c(a); Davis v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 2021 WL 6053925 (N.D. Ohio Nov.
24, 2021) (citing SSR 96-8p, 1996 SSR LEXIS 5 at *7 (July 2, 1996)); Thomas C. v. Comm’r of
the SSA, 2023WL 6295814 (S.D. Ohio Sep. 27, 2023).
Additionally, the Magistrate Judge noted that Dr. Delcour opined that plaintiff had
moderate limitations in his ability to maintain socially appropriate behavior and to adhere to
basic standards of neatness and cleanliness. But the ALJ did not mention this. Nor did the ALJ
discuss Dr. Delcour’s opinion that plaintiff had a moderate limitation in his ability to respond
appropriately to criticism from supervisors. As such, it cannot be determined whether or how the
ALJ accounted for these limitations when formulating the RFC, and what portions of the doctor’s
opinion the ALJ adopted or rejected.
The Court does not agree with defendant that Dr.Delcour’s statement that plaintiff was
capable of an average level of supervision is the equivalent of not having any limitation with
respect to supervisory contact. Dr.Delcour, in her RFC findings, distinguishes between over the
shoulder supervision and an average level of supervision. The Court also disagrees with
defendant that the third limitation is either vague or did not need to be included in the RFC
The Magistrate Judge rightly determined that he could not properly assess whether the
RFC accounted for the medical opinion’s mental limitations and, at a minimum, the ALJ failed to
build a logical bridge between the evidence and the limitations adopted in the RFC. Defendant’s
attempt to explain the possible reasons for the ALJ’s findings will not suffice to prevent remand.
For these reasons, the Court accepts the Report and Recommendation which is
incorporated herein by reference.
This Court, having found defendant’s objections without merit, hereby accepts the
Magistrate Judge’s R&R. In accordance with that recommendation, this matter is vacated and
remanded for further consideration.
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