United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
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 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 forty years of age on the date of the Administrative Law
Judge's (ALJ) decision. (PageID.26, 52.) He has a high
school education and previously worked as a snow remover, car
detailer, and automobile porter. (PageID.55, 73.) Plaintiff
applied for benefits on September 27, 2013, alleging that he
had been disabled since September 20, 2013, due to a bad
back, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. (PageID.107, 169-175.)
Plaintiff's application was denied on November 5, 2013,
and Plaintiff subsequently requested a hearing before an ALJ.
(PageID.120-123, 126-127.) On October 9, 2014, Plaintiff
appeared with his counsel before ALJ Paul W. Jones for an
administrative hearing at which time Plaintiff, his wife, and
a vocational expert (VE) all testified. (PageID.44-105.) In a
written decision dated November 14, 2014, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled. (PageID.26-42.) Thereafter,
on February 22, 2016, the Appeals Council declined to review
the ALJ's decision. (PageID.16-21.) 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 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.
Jones determined Plaintiff's claim failed at step four.
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since September 20, 2013, the
alleged disability onset date. (PageID.31.) At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: (1)degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine;(2)Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD); and (3)a
generalized anxiety disorder. (PageID.31-32.) 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.32-33.) At step four, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC based on all the
impairments to perform:
medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c). He can lift up
to 50 pounds occasionally, and lift/carry up to 25 pounds
frequently; only occasionally climb ramps or stairs; never
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally stoop; and
frequently balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He is limited
to simple, routine, repetitive tasks with only occasional
changes in the work setting.
(PageID.33.) Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ posed
the above RFC in a hypothetical question to the
In response to the ALJ's questioning, the VE testified
that Plaintiff was capable of returning to his past relevant
work. (PageID.81.) Relying on this testimony, the ALJ
concluded that Plaintiff's claim failed at step four, as
his past relevant work did not require the performance of
work-related activities precluded by his RFC. (PageID.37.)
Having made his determination at step four, the ALJ was not
required to proceed to step five, however, the ALJ also
included an alternative step five finding that Plaintiff was
able to perform work in other jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. Again relying on VE
testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff was able to perform work
as a dishwasher (80, 000 positions), inspector (100, 000
positions), and machine operator (60, 000 positions).
(PageID.38, 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
September 20, 2013, through November 14, 2014, the date of
The ALJ's Decision is Not ...