Barney v. Commissioner of Social Security
DECISION AND ENTRY: (1) AFFIRMING THE ALJS NON-DISABILITY FINDING AS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE; AND (2) TERMINATING THIS CASE ON THE DOCKET- Accordingly, the Court AFFIRMS the ALJs non-disability finding as supported by substantial evidence, and TERMINATES this case on the Courts docket.IT IS SO ORDERED.. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman on 9/25/17. (kma)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WESTERN DIVISION AT DAYTON
Case No. 3:16-cv-396
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman
DECISION AND ENTRY: (1) AFFIRMING THE ALJ’S NON-DISABILITY FINDING
AS SUPPORTED BY SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE; AND (2) TERMINATING THIS
CASE ON THE DOCKET
This Social Security disability benefits appeal is before the undersigned for disposition
based upon the parties’ consent. Doc. 8. At issue is whether the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) erred in finding Plaintiff not “disabled” and therefore unentitled to Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”). This case is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Statement of Errors (doc.
9), the Commissioner’s memorandum in opposition (doc. 10), Plaintiff’s reply (doc. 12), the
administrative record (doc. 6),1 and the record as a whole.
Plaintiff filed for SSI on January 14, 2014. PageID 209-14. He claims disability as a
result of a number of alleged impairments including, inter alia, obesity, diabetes, and borderline
intellectual functioning. PageID 68.
Hereafter, citations to the electronically-filed administrative record will refer only to the
After an initial denial of his application, Plaintiff received a hearing before ALJ Mark
Hockensmith on October 26, 2015. PageID 84-116. The ALJ issued a written decision on
December 2, 2015 finding Plaintiff not disabled. PageID 66-78. Specifically, the ALJ found at
Step Five that, based upon Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a reduced
range of medium work, “there are jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that
[Plaintiff] can perform[.]” PageID 77. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for
review. PageID 45-48. The case is now before the Court on Plaintiff’s timely appeal. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.1484(c) and (d).
Evidence of Record
The evidence of record is adequately summarized in the ALJ’s decision (PageID 66-78),
Plaintiff’s Statement of Errors (doc. 9), the Commissioner’s memorandum in opposition (doc.
10), and Plaintiff’s reply (doc. 11). The undersigned incorporates all of the foregoing and sets
forth the facts relevant to this appeal herein.
Standard of Review
The Court’s inquiry on a Social Security appeal is to determine (1) whether the ALJ’s
non-disability finding is supported by substantial evidence, and (2) whether the ALJ employed
the correct legal criteria. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Bowen v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 478 F.3d 742, 74546 (6th Cir. 2007). In performing this review, the Court must consider the record as a whole.
Hephner v. Mathews, 574 F.2d 359, 362 (6th Cir. 1978).
Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). When
substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s denial of benefits, that finding must be affirmed, even if
substantial evidence also exists in the record upon which the ALJ could have found Plaintiff
disabled. Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001). Thus, the ALJ has a “‘zone of
choice’ within which he [or she] can act without the fear of court interference.” Id. at 773.
The second judicial inquiry -- reviewing the correctness of the ALJ’s legal analysis -may result in reversal even if the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial evidence in the
record. Rabbers v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 582 F.3d 647, 651 (6th Cir. 2009). “[A] decision of the
Commissioner will not be upheld where the [Social Security Administration] fails to follow its
own regulations and where that error prejudices a claimant on the merits or deprives the claimant
of a substantial right.” Bowen, 478 F.3d at 746.
To be eligible for disability benefits, a claimant must be under a “disability” as defined
by the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). Narrowed to its statutory meaning, a
“disability” includes physical and/or mental impairments that are both “medically determinable”
and severe enough to prevent a claimant from (1) performing his or her past job and (2) engaging
in “substantial gainful activity” that is available in the regional or national economies. Id.
Administrative regulations require a five-step sequential evaluation for disability
determinations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4). Although a dispositive finding at any step ends the
ALJ’s review, see Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007), the complete sequential
review poses five questions:
Has the claimant engaged in substantial gainful activity?
Does the claimant suffer from one or more severe impairments?
Do the claimant’s severe impairments, alone or in combination, meet or
equal the criteria of an impairment set forth in the Commissioner’s Listing
of Impairments (the “Listings”), 20 C.F.R. Subpart P, Appendix 1?
Considering the claimant’s RFC, can he or she perform his or her past
Assuming the claimant can no longer perform his or her past relevant
work -- and also considering the claimant’s age, education, past work
experience, and RFC -- do significant numbers of other jobs exist in the
national economy which the claimant can perform?
20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4); see also Miller v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 181 F. Supp.2d 816, 818 (S.D.
Ohio 2001). A claimant bears the ultimate burden of establishing disability under the Social
Security Act’s definition. Key v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 109 F.3d 270, 274 (6th Cir. 1997).
In his Statement of Errors, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by: (1) failing to properly
evaluate his morbid obesity under Social Security Ruling 02-01p; (2) failing to provide
substantial evidence in support of his decision at Step Five; and (3) failing to articulate a
sustainable credibility finding. Doc. 9 at PageID 458-65.
Having carefully reviewed the administrative record and the parties’ briefs, and also
having carefully considered the ALJ’s analysis leading to the non-disability finding here at issue,
the Court finds the ALJ carefully and reasonably developed and reviewed the record;
appropriately considered the medical evidence at issue including the morbid obesity evaluation;
properly weighed opinion evidence based upon reasons supported by substantial evidence;
reasonably assessed Plaintiff’s credibility; accurately determined Plaintiff’s RFC; reasonably
applied applicable Social Security Rulings; and appropriately concluded that Plaintiff can
perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy.
Accordingly, the Court AFFIRMS the ALJ’s non-disability finding as supported by
substantial evidence, and TERMINATES this case on the Court’s docket.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
September 25, 2017
s/ Michael J. Newman
Michael J. Newman
United States Magistrate Judge
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