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 by the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(Commissioner) denying Plaintiff's claim for disability
insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II 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 fifty-three years of age on the date of the ALJ's
decision. (PageID.33, 105.) She previously obtained a GED and
had been employed as a certified nurse aide and as a stocker.
(PageID.57, 63.) Plaintiff applied for benefits on July 10,
2013, alleging that she had been disabled since January 31,
2013, due to several impairments. (PageID.105-106, 166-171.)
This application was denied on August 14, 2013, after which
time Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ.
(PageID.116-119, 122-124.) On August 8, 2014, Plaintiff
appeared with her representative before ALJ James Prothro for
an administrative hearing at which time both Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (VE) testified. (PageID.52-89.) On October
10, 2014, the ALJ issued his written decision, concluding
that Plaintiff was not disabled. (PageID.33-51.) On February
16, 2016, the Appeals Council declined to review the
ALJ's decision, making it the Commissioner's final
decision in the matter. (PageID.26-29.) Plaintiff
subsequently initiated this action under 42 U.S.C. §
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.
determined Plaintiff's claim failed at step five. At step
one the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged disability
onset date. (PageID.38.) At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of: (1)
history of osteoarthritis of the shoulders and knees; (2)
degenerative disc disease status-post cervical spine
discectomy and fusion with second surgery because of
pseudoarthrosis; (3) right knee torn meniscus; and (4)
depression. (PageID.38.) 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.39-41.) At step four, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC based on all the impairments to
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except for
occasional climbing and balancing, and she is limited to
simple work and not able to do any fast paced work.
(PageID.41.) Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her
past relevant work. (PageID.45-46.) 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
work in the following representative jobs: assembler of small
parts (6, 000 Michigan positions), inspector (7, 000 Michigan
positions), and bench assembler (8, 000 Michigan positions).
(PageID.82.) 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 from
January 31, 2013, through October 10, 2014, ...