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Martin v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 20, 2015


For Gay Martin, Plaintiff: Frederick J. Daley, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Daley Disability Law, P.C., Chicago, IL.

For Commissioner of Social Security, named as Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Rebecca H. Estelle, Sixtina Fernandez, Social Security Administration (NY), New York, NY; Ryan D. Cobb, U.S. Attorney (Grand Rapids), The Law Bldg., Grand Rapids, MI; Susan Reiss, Social Security Administration OGC, Office of the General Counsel, New York, NY.


Phillip J. Green, United States Magistrate Judge.

This is a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's claim for disability insurance benefits (DIB). On December 23, 2010, plaintiff protectively filed her application for DIB benefits.[1] She initially alleged a November 6, 2006, onset of disability. (Page ID 142-45).[2] She later amended her claim to allege a May 24, 2007, onset of disability. (Page ID 51, 153). Her disability insured status expired on June 30, 2009. Thus, it was plaintiff's burden on her claim for DIB benefits to submit evidence demonstrating that she was disabled on or before June 30, 2009. See Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1182 (6th Cir. 1990).

Plaintiff's claim for DIB benefits was denied on initial review. On February 29, 2012, she received a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), at which she was represented by counsel. (Page ID 65-85). On March 6, 2012, the ALJ issued his decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled. (Page ID 51-61). On July 29, 2013, the Appeals Council denied review (Page ID 32-34), and the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

On November 15, 2013, plaintiff filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying her claims for benefits.[3] She asks the court to overturn the Commissioner's decision on the following grounds:

1. The ALJ made an erroneous credibility determination.
2. The ALJ failed to make an accurate RFC assessment.
3. The ALJ " Erroneously Found Work at Step Four [of the sequential analysis]." [4]

(Statement of Errors, Plf. Brief at 4, Dkt. 15, Page ID 410). I recommend that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed.

Standard of Review

When reviewing the grant or denial of social security benefits, this court is to determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the Commissioner correctly applied the law. See Elam ex rel. Golay v. Commissioner, 348 F.3d 124, 125 (6th Cir. 2003); Buxton v. Halter, 246 F.3d 762, 772 (6th Cir. 2001). Substantial evidence is defined as " 'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Heston v. Commissioner, 245 F.3d 528, 534 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971)); see Rogers v. Commissioner, 486 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2007). The scope of the court's review is limited. Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772. The court does not review the evidence de novo, resolve conflicts in evidence, or make credibility determinations. See Ulman v. Commissioner, 693 F.3d 709, 713 (6th Cir. 2012); Walters v. Commissioner, 127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997). " The findings of the [Commissioner] as to any fact if supported by substantial evidence shall be conclusive . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see McClanahan v. Commissioner, 474 F.3d 830, 833 (6th Cir. 2006). " The findings of the Commissioner are not subject to reversal merely because there exists in the record substantial evidence to support a different conclusion. . . . This is so because there is a 'zone of choice' within which the Commissioner can act without fear of court interference." Buxton, 246 F.3d at 772-73. " If supported by substantial evidence, the [Commissioner's] determination must stand regardless of whether the reviewing court would resolve the issues of fact in dispute differently." Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347 (6th Cir. 1993); see Gayheart v. Commissioner, 710 F.3d 365, 374 (6th Cir. 2013) (" A reviewing court will affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is based on substantial evidence, even if substantial evidence would have supported the opposite conclusion."). " [T]he Commissioner's decision cannot be overturned if substantial evidence, or even a preponderance of the evidence supports the claimant's position, so long as substantial evidence also supports the conclusion reached by the ALJ." Jones v. Commissioner, 336 F.3d 469, 477 (6th Cir. 2003); see Kyle v. Commissioner, 609 F.3d 847, 854 (6th Cir. 2010).


The ALJ found that plaintiff met the disability insured requirement of the Social Security Act from May 24, 2007, through June 30, 2009, but not thereafter. (Page ID 53). Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity on or after May 24, 2007.[5] (Page ID 53). Plaintiff had the following severe impairments as of her date last disability insured: anxiety, breathing problems, depression, spinal stenosis, and cervical fusion. (Page ID 53). Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments which met or equaled the requirements of the ...

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