Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Southern District of Ohio at Dayton.
No. 3:15-cv-00166—Sharon L. Ovington, Magistrate Judge.
Argued: June 5, 2018
Decided and Filed: June 27, 2018
Before: BOGGS, SILER, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.
SUTTON, Circuit Judge. In 2010, Sharon Earley applied for disability benefits. In 2012,
an administrative law judge rejected the application on the ground that Earley did not have a
covered disability. She applied again for a new period of time. The same administrative law
judge denied her benefits, in part because he thought that one of our cases, Drummond v.
Commissioner of Social Security, 126 F.3d 837 (6th Cir. 1997), required him to give preclusive
effect to the work-capacity finding he had made during the first proceeding absent “new and
material evidence documenting a significant change in the claimant’s condition.” A.R. 30. The
district court reversed, concluding that the “principles of res judicata” announced in Drummond
apply only when they favor an individual applicant, not the government, in a subsequent
proceeding. That was wrong. The key principles protected by Drummond—consistency
between proceedings and finality with respect to resolved applications—apply to individuals and
the government. At the same time, they do not prevent the agency from giving a fresh look to a
new application containing new evidence or satisfying a new regulatory threshold that covers a
new period of alleged disability while being mindful of past rulings and the record in prior
proceedings. We reverse and remand the case to the agency for reconsideration of Earley’s