United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
L. MALONEY United States 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 Jill Allen seeks review of the
Commissioner's decision denying her claim for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social
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). This standard affords an administrative
decision maker wide latitude, and indicates that a decision
supported by substantial evidence will not be reversed simply
because the evidence could have supported a contrary
decision. See Bogle, 998 F.2d at 347;
Mullen, 800 F.2d at 545.
was forty-nine years of age on the date of the ALJ's
decision. (PageID.32, 50.) She has a high school education
and was previously employed as a church secretary.
(PageID.50, 65.) Plaintiff applied for benefits on July 12,
2013, alleging that she had been disabled since November 30,
2012, due to arthritis in her hip and lower back, thoracic
outlet syndrome, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia.
(PageID.70, 135-137.) Plaintiff's application was denied
on August 21, 2013, after which time she requested a hearing
before an ALJ. (PageID.83-87.) On July 1, 2014, Plaintiff
appeared with counsel before ALJ Thomas Walters for an
administrative hearing at which time both Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE) testified. (PageID.46-68.) On August
13, 2014, the ALJ issued his decision finding Plaintiff was
not disabled. (PageID.32-44.) On December 23, 2015, the
Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision,
making it the Commissioner's final decision in the
matter. (PageID.22-27.) 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). 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). 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.
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.
Walters 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 her alleged disability onset date. (PageID.37.) At step
two, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: (1) degenerative disc disease; (2) obesity; (3)
fibromyalgia; (4) neuropathy; and (5) left shoulder disorder.
(PageID.37.) 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.38.) At the fourth step, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff retained the RFC based on all the
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with
the following limitations: the claimant can lift or carry a
maximum of 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently.
In an eight hour workday, the claimant can walk or stand for
six hours and sit for six hours. She can do no overhead work.
The claimant can occasionally bend, turn, crouch, stoop,
climb, crawl and kneel. She can not walk greater than 100
feet. The claimant can not work around moving machinery or
unprotected heights. She can only do unskilled work with
simple repetitive instructions due to pain and side effects
(PageID.38.) Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her
past relevant work. (PageID.40.) At the fifth step, the ALJ
questioned the 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 other work
as cashier (80, 000 jobs), officer helper (50, 000 jobs) and
price marker (40, 000 jobs). (PageID.65-66.) Based on this
record, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of making a
successful adjustment to ample work that exists in the
national economy. (PageID.41.)
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from
November 30, 2012, ...