United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
REUBEN M. QUINTON, Jr., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant,
J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a social security action brought under 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) to review a final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying Plaintiff's claim for
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. Section 405(g) limits the Court to a
review of the administrative record, and provides that if the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, it shall be conclusive. The Commissioner has found
that Plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
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.
was forty-four years of age on the date of the Administrative
Law Judge's (ALJ) decision. (PageID.55, 127.) He earned a
GED and previously worked as a roofer, siding installer, and
pump helper. (PageID.118, 245.) Plaintiff applied for
benefits on August 6, 2013, alleging that he had been
disabled since November 4, 2010, due to chronic severe back
pain, issues stemming from a back injury and spinal fusion,
deterioration of his vertebrae, depression, and medication
side effects of anxiety, dizziness, and
blackouts. (PageID.127, 201-214.) Plaintiff's
application was denied on October 4, 2013, and Plaintiff
subsequently requested a hearing before an ALJ.
(PageID.154-160.) On October 1, 2014, Plaintiff appeared with
his counsel before ALJ William Reamon for an administrative
hearing at which time both Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(VE) testified. (PageID.76-125.) On the same day, Plaintiff
amended his alleged onset to his application date.
(PageID.225.) In a written decision dated October 30, 2014,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled.
(PageID.55-75.) Thereafter, on February 3, 2016, the Appeals
Council declined to review the ALJ's decision.
(PageID.44-48.) 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.
§ 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. § 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.
has the burden of proving the existence and severity of
limitations caused by his impairments and that he 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.
Reamon determined Plaintiff's claim failed at step five.
At step one the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since August 6, 2013, the date
of application. (PageID.60.) At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: (1)
anxiety disorder; (2) post L4-5 lumbar fusion; (3) back and
left lower extremity pain; (4) chronic asthma; and (5) left
upper extremity tendon repair with index and middle finger
range of motion and strength diminution. (PageID.60-61.) At
step three, 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 found in 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. (PageID.62-63.) At step
four, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC based on
all the impairments to perform:
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(a) except no
climbing of ladders, ropes and scaffolds; can occasionally
climb ramps and stairs; can have no exposure to dangerous
moving machinery or unprotected heights; can occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl; must avoid
concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, poor
ventilation; can handle and finger with the left upper
extremity no more than frequently; can understand, remember
and carry out simple instructions and can occasionally
interact with the general public, co-workers and supervisors.
(PageID.63.) Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of his
past relevant work. (PageID.68-69.) 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 his limitations. See Richardson, 735
F.2d at 964. The VE testified that Plaintiff could perform
work as an office clerk (3, 000 regional and 105, 000
national positions), order clerk (2, 000 regional and 70, 000
national positions), and machine tender (2, 000 regional and
70, 000 national positions). (PageID.121-122.) 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 economy. (PageID.70.)
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from August
6, 2013, through October 30, 2014, ...