United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. QUIST DISTRICT JUDGE
a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner). Plaintiff Frances Kenworthy seeks review of
the Commissioner's decision denying her claim for
disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security
income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security
scope of judicial review in a social security case is limited
to determining whether the Commissioner applied the proper
legal standards in making her decision and whether there
exists in the record substantial evidence supporting that
decision. See Brainard v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 889 F.2d 679, 681 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court may
not conduct a de novo review of the case, resolve
evidentiary conflicts, or decide questions of credibility.
See Garner v. Heckler, 745 F.2d 383, 387 (6th Cir.
1984). It is the Commissioner who is charged with finding the
facts relevant to an application for disability benefits, and
her findings are conclusive provided they are supported by
substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
evidence is more than a scintilla, but less than a
preponderance. See Cohen v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 964 F.2d 524, 528 (6th Cir. 1992)
(citations omitted). It is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. See Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
401 (1971); Bogle v. Sullivan, 998 F.2d 342, 347
(6th Cir. 1993). In determining the substantiality of the
evidence, the Court must consider the evidence on the record
as a whole and take into account whatever evidence in the
record fairly detracts from its weight. See Richardson v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 735 F.2d 962,
963 (6th Cir. 1984). The substantial evidence standard
presupposes the existence of a zone within which the decision
maker can properly rule either way, without judicial
interference. See Mullen v. Bowen, 800 F.2d 535, 545
(6th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). This standard affords to
the administrative decision maker considerable latitude, and
indicates that a decision supported by substantial evidence
will not be reversed simply because the evidence would have
supported a contrary decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d
at 347; Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
the second time Plaintiff's applications for benefits
have reached this level of review. By way of background,
Plaintiff filed for benefits on July 29, 2009. (PageID.88-89,
884-896.) She had previously graduated from college and had
been employed as both an office and sales clerk, but claimed
that she had become disabled due to shoulder problems and
bipolar dis. (PageID.340, 375, 996.) Plaintiff's
applications were denied on December 10, 2009, after which
time she requested review by an ALJ. (PageID.92-99.) On
December 2, 2011, ALJ Jessica Inouye rendered a written
decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.
(PageID.38-50.) On June 10, 2013, the Appeals Council
declined to review the ALJ's decision, making it the
Commissioner's final decision in the matter.
(PageID.22-28.) Plaintiff appealed to this district, and on
September, 18, 2014, Judge Neff adopted Magistrate Judge
Carmody's Report and Recommendation that reversed and
remanded the Commissioner's decision for failure to
provide good reasons for assigning less than controlling
weight to the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician.
See Kenworthy v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
1:13-cv-875 (W.D. Mich. Sept. 18, 2014). Consistent with
Judge Neff's order, the Appeals Council remanded the case
to ALJ Carol Guyton. (PageID.484-490.) On March 17, 2015, ALJ
Guyton issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled.
(PageID.300-328.) Plaintiff subsequently initiated this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
social security regulations articulate a five-step sequential
process for evaluating disability. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a-f), 416.920(a-f). If the
Commissioner can make a dispositive finding at any point in
the review, no further finding is required. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The regulations
also provide that if a claimant suffers from a nonexertional
impairment as well as an exertional impairment, both are
considered in determining the claimant's residual
functional capacity (RFC). See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545, 416.945.
has the burden of proving the existence and severity of
limitations caused by her impairments and that she is
precluded from performing past relevant work through step
four. Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d
469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003). At step five, it is the
Commissioner's burden “to identify a significant
number of jobs in the economy that accommodate the
claimant's residual functional capacity (determined at
step four) and vocational profile.” Id.
remand, ALJ Guyton determined Plaintiff's claim failed at
the fifth step of the evaluation. At step one, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 29, 2009, her alleged onset date.
(PageID.306.) At step two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had
the following severe impairments: (1) bipolar disorder; (2)
generalized anxiety disorder; (3) borderline personality
disorder traits; and (4) history of substance addiction
disorder. (PageID.306.) At the third step, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled the requirements of the
Listing of Impairments. (PageID.309-311.) At the fourth step,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the RFC based on all
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
her ability to reach overhead, push, and pull with the right
upper extremity is reduced to occasionally; she should avoid
concentrated exposure to unprotected heights, moving
machinery, vibration, and extreme temperatures; and she is
unable to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds and can
occasionally crawl. She has the following nonexertional
limitations: the claimant is limited to nonproduction-paced,
simple, routine, and repetitive work (simple routine tasks
involving no more than simple short instructions and simple
work-related decisions with few workplace changes.) She
should not work in close proximity to co-workers; should have
no more than occasional contact with others; should not
engage in jobs requiring tandem tasks; and can have
occasional contact with the public and occasional
supervision. She should be allowed to make notes to aid
(PageID.311-312.) Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her
past relevant work. (PageID.320-321.) At the fifth step, the
ALJ questioned a vocational expert (VE) to determine whether
a significant number of jobs exist in the economy that
Plaintiff could perform given her limitations. See
Richardson, 735 F.2d at 964. The VE testified that
Plaintiff could perform the following work: folder (52, 000
national jobs), garment sorter (55, 000 national jobs), and
sorter of agricultural products (53, 000 national jobs).
(PageID.103-105.) Based on this record, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was capable of making a successful adjustment to
work that exists in significant numbers in the national
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled at any
point from her alleged onset date through ...