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Miller v. Colvin

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

March 25, 2015

SHIRLEY JANE MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 12) AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 11)

HON. AVERN COHN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a social security case. Plaintiff Shirley Jane Miller (Plaintiff) appeals from the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying her application for Social Security disability benefits.

The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 11, 12) The motions were referred to a Magistrate Judge (MJ) for a report and recommendation (R&R). The MJ recommends that the Court deny Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and grant the Commissioner’s motion.

Now before the Court is Plaintiff’s Objection to the R&R. (Doc. 14) For the following reasons, the Court will adopt the R&R as the findings and conclusions of the Court. The Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 12) is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 11) is DENIED.[1]

II. BACKGROUND

The R&R sets forth the facts, many of which are repeated here. Plaintiff applied for disability benefits in January 2011, alleging that she was disabled and unable to work since October 31, 2007, due to chronic back pain, arthritis in her spine, and depression. (Tr. at 401) The Social Security Administration (SSA) denied Plaintiff’s claim and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

A. The ALJ’s Decision

After considering evidence presented at the hearing and in the record, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work, provided that Plaintiff is precluded from climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; can only occasionally climb ramps or stairs, balance, stoop, crouch, kneel, or crawl; and should avoid use of moving machinery and all exposure to unprotected heights. In addition, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff should be limited to 1- or 2-step simple routine and repetitive tasks, and should work in a low-stress, isolated job with only occasional supervision. (Tr. at 30)

The ALJ relied on the opinion of vocational expert Stephanee A. Leech who testified that given all of the factors, “[Plaintiff] would be able to perform the requirements of representative occupations such as bench assembler.” (Tr. at 36) In reaching his decision, the ALJ considered Plaintiff’s own testimony, weighed the medical assessments, and evaluated Plaintiff’s credibility.

B. The MJ’s Decision

Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ’s decision. The Appeals Council (AC) declined to review Plaintiff’s case, finding no reason to disturb the findings of the ALJ. Plaintiff filed the instant action for judicial review of the denial of benefits. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment (Docs 11, 12), which were referred to the MJ. The R&R rejected Plaintiff’s assertions and found that there was substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ’s decision.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Once the Appeals Council concludes there is no reason to alter the ALJ’s decision and denies a claimant’s request for review, the decision of the ALJ becomes the final administrative decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1484(b)(2). This Court reviews the Commissioner’s final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Judicial review under the statute is limited: the Court “must affirm the Commissioner’s conclusions absent a determination that the Commissioner has failed to apply the correct legal standard or has made findings of fact unsupported ...


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