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Diggs v. Colvin

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

March 16, 2017

Jena A. Diggs, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          ELIZABETH A. STAFFORD U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [17]; OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTION [18]; GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [15]; AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [14]

          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jena Diggs seeks judicial review of the decision of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denying her application for disability benefits. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 14] on July 8, 2016. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [15] on July 20, 2016. On January 30, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation [17] recommending that the Court grant Defendant's motion and deny Plaintiff's motion. Timely objections and a response to the objections were filed in this matter. [18, 19].

         For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation [17]. Plaintiff's Objection to the Report and Recommendation [18] is OVERRULED. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [15] is GRANTED. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment [14] is DENIED.

         Factual Background

         The R&R summarized the record as follows:

         I. Background

         A. Diggs's Background and Claimed Disabilities

         Born February 22, 1966, Diggs was 47 years old when she submitted her applications for disability benefits on October 24, 2013. [ECF No. 11-3, Tr. 87]. She has a high school education, and has past relevant work as an office manager and dental assistant; she held these positions while working in a dental office from October 2000 to October 2013. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 58-60; ECF No. 11-6, Tr. 231]. Diggs alleges that she is disabled by cardiomyopathy, Graves' disease, kidney failure, emotional problems, learning problems, thyroid problems, and arthritis in spine and hands, with an onset date of October 1, 2013.1 [ECF No. 11-3, Tr. 87]. During testimony, Diggs also alleged episodes of memory loss and mental confusion. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 64; ECF No. 14, PageID 527].

         After a hearing on June 16, 2015, which included the testimony of Diggs and a vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ found that Diggs was not disabled. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 40-8, 53-86]. The Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. [Id., Tr. 1-4]. Diggs timely filed for judicial review. [ECF No. 1].

         B. The ALJ's Application of the Disability Framework Analysis

         DIB and SSI are available for those who have a “disability.” See Colvin v. Barnhart, 475 F.3d 727, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). A “disability” is the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A).

         The Commissioner determines whether an applicant is disabled by analyzing five sequential steps. First, if the applicant is “doing substantial gainful activity, ” he or she will be found not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). Second, if the claimant has not had a severe impairment or a combination of such impairments for a continuous period of at least 12 months, no disability will be found. Id. Third, if the claimant's severe impairments meet or equal the criteria of an impairment set forth in the Commissioner's Listing of Impairments, the claimant will be found disabled. Id. If the fourth step is reached, the Commissioner considers its assessment of the claimant's residual functional capacity, and will find the claimant not disabled if he or she can still do past relevant work. Id. At the final step, the Commissioner reviews the claimant's RFC, age, education and work experiences, and determines whether the claimant could adjust to other work. Id. The claimant bears the burden of proof throughout the first four steps, but the burden shifts to the Commissioner if the fifth step is reached. Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

         Applying this framework, the ALJ concluded that Diggs was not disabled. At step one, he found that Diggs had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. [ECF No. 11-2, Tr. 42]. At step two, he found that Diggs had the severe impairments of “cardiomyopathy, Graves' disease, hypertension, kidney disease, and right foot fracture.” [Id.]. At step three, the ALJ concluded that none of her ...


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