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Washington v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 6, 2017

Katharine Vernell Washington, Plaintiff,
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Patricia T. Morris U.S. Magistrate Judge.


          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Katherine Vernell Washington seeks judicial review of the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denying her application for disability benefits. Plaintiff filed an Amended Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 19] on April 11, 2016. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [23] on June 30, 2016. On December 21, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation [24] recommending that the Court grant Defendant's motion and deny Plaintiff's. Plaintiff filed an Objection to the Report and Recommendation [25] on January 4, 2017. Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's Objections [26] on January 18, 2017.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation [24]. Plaintiff's Objection to the Report and Recommendation [25] is OVERRULED. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [23] is GRANTED. Plaintiff's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment [19] is DENIED.

         Factual Background

         The R&R summarized the record as follows:

         A. Introduction and Procedural History

On November 13, 2012, Washington filed an application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of May 1, 2010. (Tr. 137-43). The Commissioner denied her claim. (Tr. 53-61). Washington then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which occurred on June 20, 2014 before ALJ Kathleen Eiler. (Tr. 25-43). At the hearing, Washington-represented by her attorney, Ms. Ross-testified, alongside Vocational Expert (“VE”) Cheryl Ross. (Id.). The ALJ's written decision, issued July 25, 2014, found Washington not disabled. (Tr. 10-20). On September 16, 2015, the Appeals Council denied review, (Tr. 1-4), and Washington filed for judicial review of that final decision on November 20, 2015. (Dkt. 1).

         B. ALJ Findings

Following the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found Washington not disabled under the Act. (Tr. 10-20). At Step One, the ALJ found that Washington had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of May 1, 2010. (Tr. 12). At Step Two, the ALJ concluded that the following impairments qualified as severe: “affective disorder, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder . . . .” (Id.). The ALJ also decided, however, that none of these met or medically equaled a listed impairment at Step Three. (Tr. 12-14). Thereafter, the ALJ found that Washington had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)[2] to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels with the following additional nonexertional limitations:
[S]he can perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks with minimal changes in a routine work setting and no production rate pace work. She can occasionally interact with supervisors, but is limited to minimal, superficial interaction with co-workers and the public.
(Tr. 14). At Step Four, the ALJ found that Washington could perform “her past relevant work as a machine loader.” (Tr. 19). Proceeding to Step Five, the ALJ alternatively determined that “there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform.” (Tr. 19).

         C. Administrative Record

         1. Medical Evidence

The Court has reviewed Washington's medical record. In lieu of summarizing [the] medical history here, the Court will make references and provide citations to the record as necessary in its discussion of the parties' arguments.

         2. Application Reports and Administrative Hearing

         i. Function Report

On December 29, 2012, Washington filled out a Function Report. (Tr. 188-95). She indicated that she rents a room and lives with family. (Tr. 188). Describing her condition, she wrote that “I have problem[s] concentrating and thinking and get very aggressive very easy, ” has “panic attack[s]” and “suicidal ideas” sometimes, and “locks myself up in the bathroom.” (Id.). In a typical day, Washington said that she gets up, drinks coffee and watches television, goes shopping if one of her sisters passes by, and then goes to bed. (Tr. 189). Before her condition ensued, she “used to work and be around people, ” which she said she cannot do now. (Id.). She could not sleep without her medicine. (Id.). In detailing issues with personal care, she indicated that while capable of dressing, bathing, caring for her hair, and using the toilet, she often cannot muster the motivation to do so. (Id.). Her roommate would help her remember to take her medication and to groom. (Tr. 190). She did not cook as much as she used to because “thinking and concentrating take too much time.” (Id.). Even so, she would spend about “forty minutes three days a week” doing other chores, such as “wash[ing] dishes and sweep[ing] [the] floor.” (Id.).
Twice a week, Washington would use transportation to travel around. (Tr. 191). She would not leave alone, however, because sometimes “I have panic attacks, ” and she did not drive “because I don't pay attention and thinking is hard sometimes.” (Id.). When she went shopping, it would take two hours for her to buy clothes, shoes, groceries, and the like. (Id.). Because she had no income, she did not pay bills, count change, handle a savings account, or use a checkbook. (Id.).
Washington “love[s] to read books” in her free time, for about two hours a day. (Tr. 192). However, since the onset of her condition, her desire to read would “come[] and go.” (Id.). Though she did not spend time with others-because “I don't get along with my family and ex-friends they always talk trash to me, ” (Tr. 193)-she would regularly go to church and to the clinic for several hours. (Id.). She did not get along with authority figures because “they aggravate me.” (Tr. 194). She had never, however, been fired from a job due to social problems. (Id.).
As to her abilities, Washington checked difficulty with talking, memory, completing tasks, concentration, understanding, following instructions, and getting along with others. (Tr. 193). She noted that she could only walk two blocks before needing to rest for twenty minutes. (Id.). In addition, she wrote that her capacity to follow written and spoken instructions varied from being “ok” to requiring extra time or repetition in order to understand. (Id.). A third party Function Report, submitted by Washington's friend Anthony Slater, provides more details as to her life and condition. (Tr. 172-79). He noted that sometimes “I have to remind her to take [a] shower and change clo[th]e[s].” (Tr. 173). He touched on Washington's lack of income, ...

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