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Swift v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

February 4, 2015

MARGI SWIFT Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt. 8, 9)

MICHAEL HLUCHANIUK, Magistrate Judge.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Proceedings in this Court

On October 25, 2013, plaintiff filed the instant suit seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's unfavorable decision disallowing benefits. (Dkt. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1(b)(3), this matter was referred to the undersigned for the purpose of reviewing the Commissioner's decision denying plaintiff's claim for disability insurance and period of disability benefits. (Dkt. 3). This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. (Dkt. 8, 9).

B. Administrative Proceedings

Plaintiff filed the instant claims on August 14, 2010, alleging disability beginning May 13, 2010. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 43). Plaintiff's claims were initially disapproved by the Commissioner on April 12, 2011. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 43). Plaintiff requested a hearing and on May 3, 2012, plaintiff appeared, with counsel, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") William E. Sampson, who considered the case de novo. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 43-52). In a decision dated May 14, 2012, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. Id. Plaintiff requested a review of this decision, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council, on August 27, 2013, denied plaintiff's request for review. (Dkt. 7, Pg ID 27-29); Wilson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 543-44 (6th Cir. 2004).

For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be DENIED, that defendant's motion for summary judgment be GRANTED, and that the findings of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. ALJ Findings

Plaintiff was born in 1960 and was 49 years of age on the alleged disability onset date. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 50). Plaintiff had past relevant work as a machine operator. Id. The ALJ applied the five-step disability analysis to plaintiff's claim and found at step one that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 45). At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff's spondylotic degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, bilateral shoulder disorder, and obesity were "severe" within the meaning of the second sequential step. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 45). At step three, the ALJ found no evidence that plaintiff's combination of impairments met or equaled one of the listings in the regulations. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 46).

The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work with the following limitations:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) in that the claimant can stand and/or walk for about six (6) hours and can sit for about six (6) hours during an eight-hour workday, except: the claimant is limited to lifting no more than ten (10) pounds; the claimant can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps or stairs, but must never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; and the claimant is limited to no more than occasional overhead reaching.

(Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 46-47). At Step Four, the ALJ found that plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 50). However, the ALJ determined that, considering plaintiff's age, education, experience, and RFC, there were jobs that exist in sufficient numbers that plaintiff can perform and therefore, plaintiff had not been under a disability from the alleged onset date through the date of the decision. (Dkt. 6-2, Pg ID 52).

B. Plaintiff's Claims of Error

Plaintiff's brief begins by pointing to the ALJ's conclusion that she could not perform any of her past relevant work. Plaintiff then moves on to the Commissioner's obligation to prove that she was capable of other work, given that she could not perform her past relevant work. Plaintiff contends that the Commissioner failed to satisfy this burden of proof because the hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert and on which the ALJ relied did not accurately describe plaintiff's limitations in all relevant respects. Next, plaintiff recites the standard applicable to the assessment of a treating physician opinion. Plaintiff asserts that it is documented that she has spondylotic degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; bilateral shoulder disorder; and obesity and despite these findings, the ALJ found claimant is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 19). While the ALJ noted ...


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