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Harper v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

January 26, 2015

FELICIA A. HARPER, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant

For Felicia A. Harper, Plaintiff: Frederick J. Daley, Jr., Daley Disability Law, P.C., Chicago, IL.

For Commissioner of Social Security, named as Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Michelle L. Christ, Social Security Administration (NY), New York, NY; Ryan D. Cobb, U.S. Attorney (Grand Rapids), Grand Rapids, MI.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

Honorable Robert Holmes Bell, United States Magistrate Judge.

This is a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. § § 405(g), 1383(c)(3) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying plaintiff's claims for disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. On August 26, 2010, plaintiff filed her applications for DIB and SSI benefits. She initially alleged a June 1, 2009, onset of disability. (Page ID 201-06). She later amended her claims to allege a June 1, 2006, onset of disability.[1] (Page ID 51, 70-71). Plaintiff's disability insured status expired on December 31, 2010. Thus, it was plaintiff's burden on her DIB claim to submit evidence demonstrating that she was disabled on or before December 31, 2010. See Moon v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1175, 1182 (6th Cir. 1990).

Plaintiff's claims were denied on initial review. (Page ID 139-57). On March 21, 2012, she received a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). (Page ID 67-112). On May 23, 2012, the ALJ issued her decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled. (Op., Page ID 51-62). On June 12, 2013, the Appeals Council denied review (Page ID 39-41), and the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision.

Plaintiff filed a complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision denying her claims for DIB and SSI benefits.[2] She asks the court to overturn the Commissioner's decision on the following grounds:

1. " The ALJ made an erroneous Step 5 determination and failed to make an accurate Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) finding."
2. " The ALJ failed to properly weigh the reports and opinions of Plaintiff's treating doctors."

(Plf. Brief at 3, 6, docket # 13, Page ID 628, 631). 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).

Discussion

The ALJ found that plaintiff met the disability insured requirement of the Social Security Act from June 1, 2006, through December 31, 2010, but not thereafter. (Op. at 3, Page ID 53). Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity on or after June 1, 2006. (Id.). Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: depression, anxiety, and borderline intellectual functioning. (Id.). Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments which met or equaled the requirements of the listing of impairments. (Id. at 4, Page ID 54). The ALJ found that plaintiff retained the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: she has no exertional or postural limitations, but must avoid concentrated exposure to unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery; retains the ability to do rote tasks; can follow simple, verbal instructions; is limited to less than frequent contact with co-workers and the ...

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