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Larie v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 6, 2015

BRUCE A. LARIE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [1]

CHARLES E. BINDER, Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

This Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket 17) be denied, that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 19) be granted, and the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

II. REPORT

A. Introduction and Procedural History

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), E.D. Mich. LR 72.1(b)(3), and by Notice of Reference, this case was referred to this magistrate judge for the purpose of reviewing the Commissioner's decision denying Plaintiff's claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits (DIB). The matter is currently before this Court on cross-motions for summary judgment.[2] (Docs. 17, 19.)

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for a period of disability and DIB on July 19, 2010, alleging that he became unable to work on February 15, 2008. (Transcript, Doc. 13 at 145.) Plaintiff later amended his alleged onset date to April 4, 2008.[3] (Tr. 76, 205.) Plaintiff's initial applications were denied. (Tr. 78-93, 94) On August 8, 2011, Plaintiff appeared at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Craig R. Petersen, who considered the Plaintiff's claims de novo . (Tr. 30, 35.) In a decision dated August 18, 2011, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time from the alleged onset date through June 30, 2010, the date last insured. (Tr. 30.) Plaintiff requested Appeals Council review of this decision. (Tr. 18-19.)

The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner, see Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 378 F.3d 541, 543-44 (6th Cir. 2004), on February 5, 2014, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-4.) On March 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's unfavorable decision.

B. Standard of Review

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's final decisions. Judicial review of the Commissioner's decisions is limited to determining whether her findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether she employed the proper legal standards. See Walters v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). Substantial evidence is "more than a scintilla... 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 Health and Human Servs. , 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994)); see also Richardson v. Perales , 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)(quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB , 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)); Walters , 127 F.3d at 528. It is not the function of this Court to try cases de novo , resolve conflicts in the evidence or decide questions of credibility. See Brainard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs. , 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989); Garner v. Heckler , 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir. 1984).

In determining the existence of substantial evidence, the court must examine the administrative record as a whole. See Kirk v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs. , 667 F.2d 524, 536 (6th Cir. 1981), cert. denied , 461 U.S. 957 (1983). If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it must be affirmed, even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently, Kinsella v. Schweiker , 708 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir. 1983), and even if substantial evidence also supports another conclusion. See Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999). "The substantial evidence standard presupposes that there is a zone of choice' within which the Commissioner may proceed without interference from the courts." Felisky v. Bowen , 35 F.3d 1027, 1035 (6th Cir. 1994)(citing Mullen v. Bowen , 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986)(en banc)(citations omitted)).

"Both the court of appeals and the district court may look to any evidence in the record, regardless of whether it has been cited by the Appeals Council." Heston v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 245 F.3d 528, 535 (6th Cir. 2001). There is no requirement, however, that either the ALJ or the reviewing court discuss every piece of evidence in the administrative record. Kornecky v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 167 Fed.Appx. 496, 508 (6th Cir. 2006)("[a]n ALJ can consider all the evidence without directly addressing in his written decision every piece of evidence submitted by a party")(citations omitted); Van Der Maas v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. , 198 Fed.Appx. 521, 526 (6th Cir. 2006).

C. Governing Law

Disability for purposes of DIB is defined as the:

[I]nability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). Plaintiff's Social Security disability determination is to be made through the application of a five-step sequential analysis:

Step One: If the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Two: If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments that "significantly limits... physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, " benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Three: If the claimant is not performing substantial gainful activity, has a severe impairment that is expected to last for at least twelve months, and the severe impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the regulations, the claimant is conclusively presumed to be disabled regardless of age, education or work experience.
Step Four: If the claimant is able to perform his or her past relevant work, benefits are denied without further analysis.
Step Five: Even if the claimant is unable to perform his or her past relevant work, if other work exists in the national economy that plaintiff can perform, in view of his or her age, ...

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