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Januszyk v. Commissioner of Social Security

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

June 16, 2015



CHARLES E. BINDER, Magistrate Judge.


IT IS RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment should be DENIED, and that of Defendant GRANTED, as there is substantial evidence on the record that claimant retained the residual functional capacity for a limited range of light work.


A. Introduction and Procedural History

Plaintiff filed applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on August 31, 2009[1], alleging that she had been disabled and unable to work since May 27, 2009, at age 48, due to severe back pain, fibromyalgia, vertigo, Meniere's syndrome and depression. Benefits were denied initially by the Social Security Administration (SSA). A requested de novo hearing was held on August 28, 2012, before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Christopher Ambrose. The ALJ subsequently found that the claimant was not entitled to disability benefits because she retained the ability to perform a restricted range of light work activity. The Appeals Council declined to review that decision and Plaintiff commenced the instant action for judicial review of the denial of benefits. The parties have filed Motions for Summary Judgment and the issue for review is whether Defendant's denial of benefits was supported by substantial evidence on the record.

Plaintiff was 52 years old at the time of the remanded administrative hearing. She had graduated from high school, and had been employed as an assembler and machine operator during the relevant past (TR 381). These jobs were considered to be unskilled, and demanded light to medium exertion (TR 381). Claimant alleged that she was disabled since May 2009, as a result of severe back pain that prevented her from sitting, standing or walking for extended periods (TR 358, 368). Due to difficulty with sleeping, Plaintiff alleged that she was fatigued throughout the day and needed to take frequent naps (TR 369). Other impairments which prevented claimant from returning to work included migraine headaches, vertigo, depression and paranoia (TR 350-354, 370-372). As a result of these difficulties, Plaintiff testified that she spent the majority of the day lying down (TR 352). While claimant was able to perform some household chores, she needed frequent rest periods due to chronic fatigue (TR 374).

A Vocational Expert, Carrie Anderson, testified that there would not be any jobs for claimant to perform if her testimony were fully accepted[2] (TR 383). If she were capable of light work, however, there were numerous unskilled storage leasing agent, courier clerk and parking lot attendant jobs that she could still perform with minimal vocational adjustment. These positions allowed a sit-stand option at will, and did not require repetitive bending/twisting of the neck or waist. She would not be exposed to dangerous machinery or unprotected heights (TR 382-383).

B. ALJ's Findings

The Law Judge found that Plaintiff was impaired as a result of arthritic spurring of the cervical and lumbar spine, scoliosis, vertigo, fibromyalgia, depression and Meniere's syndrome, but that these conditions were not severe enough to meet or equal the Listing of Impairments. The ALJ recognized that the claimant's impairments precluded her from performing jobs that did not allow a sit-stand option at will, or that required frequent repetitive bending and twisting of the neck. She could not be exposed to dangerous machinery or unprotected heights. Nevertheless, he found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform a significant number of light jobs, within those limitations, as identified by the Vocational Expert (TR 320-329).

C. Standard of Review

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g), this court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's decisions. Judicial review of those decisions is limited to determining whether her findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether she employed the proper legal standards. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). 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. See Kirk v. Secretary, 667 F.2d 524, 535 (6th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 957 (1983). This court does not try the case de novo, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or decide questions of credibility. See Brainard v. Secretary, 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. Kirk, 667 F.2d at 536. If the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it must be affirmed even if substantial evidence also supports the opposite conclusion, Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545 (6th Cir. 1986) (en banc), Casey v. Secretary, 987 F.2d 1230 (6th Cir. 1993), and even if the reviewing court would decide the matter differently, Kinsella v. Schweiker, 708 F.2d 1058, 1059 (6th Cir. 1983).

Plaintiff maintains that substantial evidence does not exist on the record that she remains capable of performing a limited range of light work activity. She also argues that the ALJ improperly evaluated her credibility, and did not take into consideration all of her functional limitations. Defendant counters that the claimant retained the residual functional capacity for a reduced range of light work because the ...

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