United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
KENT United States Magistrate 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) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) under Titles II and 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 thirty-one years of age on the date of the Administrative
Law Judge's (ALJ) decision. (PageID.51, 110, 120.) She
completed her formal education after the eleventh grade and
was previously employed as a nurse's assistant.
(PageID.103, 213.) Plaintiff applied for benefits on February
25, 2013, alleging that she had been disabled since November
1, 2011, due to severe lower back problems and mild GAD
(generalized anxiety disorder.) (PageID.110, 120, 182-194.)
Plaintiff's applications were denied on May 9, 2013, and
Plaintiff subsequently requested a hearing before an ALJ.
(PageID.133-141.) On April 10, 2014, Plaintiff appeared with
her counsel before ALJ Richard Gartner for an administrative
hearing at which time both Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(VE) testified. (PageID.69-108.) In a written decision dated
June 6, 2014, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not
disabled. (PageID.51-68.) Thereafter, on September 4, 2015,
the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's
decision. (PageID.25-28.) 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), 416.920 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), 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. §§ 404.1545. 416.945.
has the burden of proving the existence and severity of
limitations caused by her impairments and that she is
precluded from performing her 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.
Gartner determined Plaintiff's claim failed at step five.
At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since November 1, 2011, the
alleged disability onset date. (PageID.56.) At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from a severe impairment of
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. (PageID.56.)
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.57.) At step four,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the RFC based on all
the impairments to perform:
sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except: limited to occasional postural maneuvers
such as balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling,
and climbing ramps and stairs; occasional overhead work; must
avoid climbing ladders, ropes or scaffold; must be afforded
the option to sit and stand during the workday for five to
ten minutes every hour or so or more with the permission of
the employer; limited to occasional pushing and pulling with
the lower left and right extremities to include the operation
of foot pedals; and limited to occupations, which do not
require exposure to dangerous machinery and unprotected
(PageID.58.) Continuing with the fourth step, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her
past relevant work. (PageID.61.) 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 expert testified that Plaintiff could perform other
work as an accounting clerk (65, 000 jobs), information clerk
(80, 000 jobs), and office clerk (90, 000 jobs).
(PageID.103-105.) 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
November 1, 2011, the alleged onset date, through June 6,
2014, the date of decision. (PageID.62-63.)